Alumni Journalists Kick Off Anniversary Lecture Series

As part of the school’s celebration of Roxbury Latin’s 375th anniversary, a special series of Halls will feature RL alumni, “Men of RL,” who represent diverse personal and professional paths—all examples of excellence, leadership, or service, intended to inspire students and help them gain a window into what’s possible. The series began on September 19 with a panel of three accomplished journalists: Chris Beam ‘02, Jamie Kirchick ‘02, and Scott Sayare ‘04. All three alumni nurtured their burgeoning writing and reporting interests while at RL by contributing to The Tripod, a publication also celebrating a big anniversary: 130 years since the publication of its first issue.

Fittingly—as he advised all three grads during their RL years spent working on The Tripod— long-time advisor of the school paper and Assistant Headmaster Mike Pojman moderated the panel. He guided the conversation through topics of fake news, media bias, and the role of the internet in the ever-changing journalistic landscape. The conversation was lively, revealing shared hopes and fears for the future of journalism and respectful disagreements between friends and former classmates. Within the 45 minutes, Chris expressed his fear that the self-censorship he witnessed in China will be an increasing practice in the United States as journalists fear losing precious political contacts; Jamie reminded us that “fake news” is not a new concept, recalling when Jefferson hired the journalist James Thomson Callendar to call Adams a hermaphrodite in the news; and Scott asserted that any journalist who is absolutely certain about a viewpoint is to be questioned. Together, the group lamented that with social media dictating the consumption of news, many journalists are more concerned with being the first to report a story than getting a story right.

Chris Beam ‘02 has written for The New Yorker, The New Republic, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine. For five years he worked in Washington, D.C. as a political reporter for Slate Magazine, before moving to Beijing on a Luce Scholarship to write about China’s rise. Jamie Kirchick ‘02 is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C and a widely published journalist. He spent time in Prague with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as their writer-at-large and has published a book titled The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age. Jamie is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year award. Scott Sayare ‘04 served for several years as part of the Paris branch of the New York Times and now writes as a freelance journalist for publications such as The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Republic, GQ, and The Guardian Long Road.

At the conclusion of Hall all three alumni met with members of The Tripod in the Refectory where they continued the conversation and dug further into these important topics and ideas.