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Jan Hopkins speaks of experience at CNN, Citibank
Jan Hopkins, former CNN reporter and Case graduate, came to campus last week as a speaker in the Susie Gharib Distinguished Lectureship in Journalism series. Hers was the first of five lectures in the series that will take place on various weekdays at noon throughout the spring semester.
The 2004 lecture series follows the theme “Conversations with America’s Premier Journalists and Writers” and was made possible by a gift from Susie Gharib and her husband Fred Nazem. Gharib is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate (1972) of Case who, as co-anchor of “Nightly Business Report” on PBS television, is herself a premier journalist. These lectures are a key component in Case’s advanced journalism classes.
Hopkins’s visit has been long awaited. In fact, she was originally scheduled to speak here last March, but had to cancel her visit because CNN had a lock-down due to the war in Iraq and she had to remain in the newsroom.
The lecture was held on Monday, Jan. 26, in Clark 206, with several dozen faculty, staff, students, and members of the community in attendance. Hopkins’s talk, entitled “Journalism and Beyond: My Story of a Life in Journalism” touched on a number of issues related to broadcast and business journalism, but was also largely autobiographical, focusing on a theme of change, both in her life and in the world around her.
Jan Hopkins grew up in Warren, Ohio, and while enrolled at Hiram College she traveled to Scotland for her junior year abroad, and later went with a group from the American Friends Service Committee to a work camp in Slovakia. She was in Prague when invading tanks rolled in. Although she kept a journal of her experiences, which was later archived, she didn’t think of herself as a reporter at the time.
Hopkins says her experiences abroad led her to become practical, choosing to get married and settle down to teaching 8th- and 9th-grade history. While teaching, she discovered that her interest lay more in the current events aspect of the class than in teaching, so she decided to pursue a master’s degree in American Studies and Communication here at Case. It was here that she met Bill Baker, who offered her an internship on a late-night interview talk show where she screened phone calls and worked with Alan Douglas, the host, who she describes as “one of the best.”
This taste of broadcast journalism whetted her appetite for more, and she started her career working at a number of local radio stations and later in television. It was while she was working in Cincinnati, reporting on the closing of the steel mills there, that she came to the attention of CBS reporters who were covering the same story. Hopkins decided to specialize in business journalism, completed a one-year fellowship at Columbia Business School, and began working for CBS. She later moved to ABC, and finally CNN.
As a CNN business reporter, Hopkins has covered a number of interesting stories, including the stock market crash on Oct. 19, 1987. Her team spent the entire day covering the story live from the stock exchange. Throughout the day, she was highly conscious of the idea that “If I was panicked, people would panic, and it would make things worse.” Hopkins was still in New York, covering business news for CNN, when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center took place. She said, “People still came to work every day. That group was really heroic.”
Eventually, after 30 years in journalism, Hopkins decided it was time for a change. When she was offered a job as managing director of client communications for Citibank Private Bank in New York, Hopkins accepted the offer and has not regretted it.
“Newsrooms are very exciting. Deadlines are very exciting,” Hopkins said, but she realized that while the news would change, her job as a reporter wouldn’t - “I’d done everything,” she said. “I definitely made a big change.”
Hopkins’s lecture was well received by the audience members, many of whom had questions and comments for her afterwards.
The next lecture in the Susie Gharib Distinguished Lectureship series will be given by Susan Orlean on Wednesday, Feb. 18 in Clark Hall 206. Orlean is a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, a contributor to the “Talk of the Town” column, and author of a number of books including Red Sox and Blue Fish, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief. Her lecture will be on “Making it Matter: Writing with and about Passion.”
The remaining talks include “So Much for Media, So Little Information” by Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation, on Wednesday, March 3 at noon in the Guilford Dining Room; “Covering the World: Life as a Foreign Correspondent” by Pulitzer Prize winners Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan on Monday, March 15, at noon in Clark 206; and “Covering Washington and the World: The Life of a Correspondent in a Small Bureau in D.C.” by Jerry Zremski from the Buffalo News, on Monday, April 5, at noon in Clark 206. More information about each of the lectures is available online at www.cwru.edu/artsci/ghariblectures.
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