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Linda Greenhouse at Harvard University


Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who covered the United States Supreme Court for three decades defined herself as a citizen rather than just a journalist and explained the boundaries between the roles during a lecture tonight at Harvard University.

The Greenhouse lecture “Just a Journalist: Reflections on journalism, life, and the spaces between” contains three sections - “Boundaries,” “Stories,” “Changes.” All lectures are hosted by the graduate program in American Studies at Harvard University.

Greenhouse shared her anecdotes on reckless speeches where she delivered messages with her personal opinions on certain controversially political issues in public.

In spring 2008, Greenhouse was asked to speak at a dinner for Hugh Carey, the 51st Governor of New York. She wanted to speak “as a citizen” instead of a journalist and in the speech she referred Governor Carey as “the finest public server.”

In June 2006, the year that George W. Bush in the mid way through his second term, Greenhouse delivered a speech where she reminisced about the 1960s idealism that defined her generation.

In front of hundreds of audience, she shared her anecdote of crying at a Simon and Garfunkel concert as she made the connection to the unfulfilled promises of her own generation and the current political condition, which she referred as “a bridge over trouble water.”

After the speech, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik published an article “Critics Question Reporter's Airing of Personal Views” in which he wrote about Greenhouse criticizing Bush’s administration publicly.

Greenhouse mentioned several controversial issues including law-free zones and sustained assault on “women's reproductive freedom.” Folkenflik in the article wrote “Greenhouse was taking a stand on some of the most contentious issues faced by the court this year.”

At the end of the lecture, Greenhouse also gave example of how reckless speeches appeared among public figures besides journalists. Michael Gordon, as she mentioned, expressed his pure personal opinions on Charlie Rose Show about U.S. military buildup.

Greenhouse pointed out that each example she gave represented “the uncertainty of the role of journalism on our public landscape” and she urged the audience to also “explore the ambiguous and shifting boundaries that separate the one role from the other in the increasingly fragile but still important world of mainstream journalism.”

In the Q&A section, Greenhouse explained that the impartiality nature in journalism is a slow evolution and the media’s necessity to serve a broader audience also contributes to the sensitivity of objectivity in this field.

After Greenhouse’s heartfelt lecture, the audience stood up and applaud.

“She has some really interesting insights of the way objectivity is deployed within journalism,” said Mary Mcmeil, 23, a student from Harvard University. “I definitely think that [her idea of ] being a person not just a journalist was really insightful”

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