It is not often that lecturers at St. John’s University have experience in journalism. It’s even more rare that an experienced journalist is also an established author, has extensive knowledge in dealing with politicians in Washington, and is a champion of the poor.
New York Times journalist Jason Deparle is that and more, as he demonstrated to be the perfect combination of understanding, sympathy, charity, and professionalism.
“I think journalists clearly have an obligation to be fair…to be factually accurate, but beyond that to be fair in the spirit of what you’re writing, to think about competing arguments, to weigh them.”
That, as DeParle agreed, is exactly what politicians and journalists struggle to find: a middle ground where understanding outweighs ideological bias.
Besides his ability to understand both sides of the coin on welfare, DeParle’s willingness to live among the impoverished, whether it be in Milwaukee or India, is what makes him the understanding, compassionate journalist he is today.
“Everybody, on welfare, is an expert,” DeParle said. “Everybody has an opinion on welfare. I’ve found that in the world of poverty experts, there is one large camp that could see nothing but success.”
And while DeParle believes that the political right has made mistakes in assessing welfare, he agrees that the left is in the wrong in demonizing the right.
“The left…really made a mistake in putting a great amount of energy into trying to prove that this was a terrible, mean-spirited thing, and I think that kept both sides from seeing what was really the fullness of what was unfolding.”
What a breath of fresh air in today’s malevolent political climate.
Besides stressing the importance of remaining aware of competing arguments, and highlighting the significance of personal experience, DeParle spoke of the individuality of the poor, and how important it is to remember that people, not statistics, are what is involved when talking about poverty.
“I think poor people are more interesting than our theories about them,” DeParle said.
Understanding, experience, compassion. Sounds like the perfect lecturer for a Vincentian University.
If only the politicians in Washington, the American media, and our University community could be more like Jason DeParle.