Wallace Terry ’59
Wallace Terry calls himself a minister of the typewriter. A journalist who is also an ordained minister, he believes his calling is to write about the need for justice and peace in the world.
Terry, a former reporter at Time and the Washington Post, is best known for his eyewitness accounts of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. At Time, where he became deputy bureau chief in Saigon, Terry was the first black war correspondent in the mainstream media and the only person to detail the experiences of black soldiers.
He continued this work in the 1984 Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans, which was a best-seller and Pulitzer Prize nominee. “Bloods achieved what I’ve always tried to achieve as a journalist,” Terry says. “[It showed] that the black experience is first and foremost a universal experience.”
While covering the struggle for civil rights, Terry gained the confidence of President Johnson, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr., who is his son’s godfather. Malcolm X was virtually unknown when Terry went undercover to write an insider’s account of the Nation of Islam. And white Americans had never even heard the term black power when Terry first reported on the idea’s appearance in 1962.
During his career as a beat reporter for newspapers and magazines, Terry’s ground-breaking journalism enabled many white Americans to look more sympathetically on the lives of blacks. Today Terry is continuing this work by helping Castle Rock Entertainment produce a movie based on Bloods. He is also writing a sequel to the book, titled Heroic Hearts: How the Dream of Martin Luther King Came True on the Battlefields of Vietnam.
“These men learned that an enemy bullet does not discriminate,” Terry says of Vietnam veterans of all races and ethnicities. “I call this the best-kept secret of the war and a legacy that was worth fighting and dying for.”
Mara Liasson ’77
As National Public Radio’s White House correspondent, Mara Liasson has a voice that’s familiar to commuters all over the country. Her reports from Washington, D.C., and from the presidential campaign trail are heard regularly on the award-winning NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition. On weekends she switches to television, sitting in as a panelist on Fox News Sunday.
In addition to traveling over most of the world while covering President Clinton, Liasson covered Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential run and such major Washington-based stories as the Clarence Thomas hearings. She also spent three weeks in Amman, Jordan, reporting on the aftermath of the Gulf War. This year she has covered her third presidential election.
One of Liasson’s biggest scoops came during a scheduled interview with Clinton on January 21, 1998. On the morning of the interview allegations surfaced that Clinton had been trying to persuade former White House intern Monica Lewinsky to lie about their alleged affair. The president told Liasson, “There wasn’t improper relations, I didn’t ask anybody to lie, and I intend to cooperate.” The words were picked up by television, radio, and newspaper reporters across the world.
Lyn Crost ’38
As a World War II correspondent on the front lines, lyn Crost was the first reporter to call attention to the Japanese-American soldiers fighting and dying for the United States while their families languished in American internment camps. Fifty years later she published Honor by Fire, the first comprehensive history of the Japanese-American soldiers in World War II. Crost was determined that their bravery would not soon be forgotten.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin sent Crost to Europe in 1944 to report on the units made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the internment camps. Crost, one of the war’s few female reporters, followed the units into Italy, France, and Germany. In a 1997 letter to Crost’s widower, regiment member Daniel Inouye, a U.S. Senator from Hawaii, remembered how Crost’s news coverage gave comfort and pride to the soldiers’ families. “Much of the fame that is now enjoyed by these units can be traced directly to her front-line coverage,” he said. “She was one of us.”
In 1987, while Crost was at Congressional hearings on whether to grant reparations to Japanese Americans whose families were placed in internment camps during the war, she heard someone say that the American Japanese would never have fought in the Pacific against “their own people.” “I knew they had fought in the Pacific,” she told the Washington Post in 1995, “with incredible bravery and resourcefulness—contributing immeasurably to our victory over Japan. But that story hadn’t been told. So I realized I had to tell it.”
After completing Honor by Fire, for which she interviewed hundreds of Japanese-American veterans, Crost helped the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History assemble an exhibit on the experiences of Japanese Americans during the war. Her correspondent’s uniform, Hermes typewriter, portrait, and war dispatches are today part of the permanent exhibit. Crost died in 1997 of a brain tumor, still fighting the good fight.
Ralph Begleiter ’71
For nearly two decades millions of people across the globe tuned in to CNN to hear an American journalist—Ralph Begleiter—report on the events that would alter their lives. Until the early 1990s Begleiter’s broadcasts provided the only independent, uncensored news available to viewers in many parts of the world.
“I found myself,” Begleiter says, “often in a situation of people all around the world knowing not only who I was—which is fun but not particularly important—but knowing what I was talking about and what I had said last time on the air. You realize that it matters. It’s not just a game you’re playing as a journalist.”
Begleiter told the Russians the Cold War was over. He was the first to report to the Saudis that the Gulf War was looming. He even broke the news to Yasir Arafat’s aides that the United States was about to open a dialogue with Palestinian leaders. In 1990 he became the first and only Western news correspondent to accompany Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze aboard a Soviet aircraft on an official diplomatic mission. Begleiter’s ninety-minute interview was the first of its kind before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“What it meant,” Begleiter says, “was that the Soviet Union [was] now prepared to countenance the idea of an American news correspondent traveling with the Soviet foreign minister.”
As CNN’s world affairs correspondent from 1981 to 1999, Begleiter wrote and produced thousands of news reports and special programs that aired worldwide. He conceived and hosted Global View, a weekly interview program seen on CNN International, and coanchored International Hour, which aired daily during prime time. He also developed and hosted Cold War Postscript, a twenty-four-part weekly series about the connections between the history of the Cold War and today’s global affairs.
Begleiter joined CNN a year after the network was founded. “I was among the skeptics who did not think all-news television would succeed,” he says. “Obviously I was very badly wrong.” He is now the Distinguished Journalist in Residence at the University of Delaware.
Irving R. Levine ’44
Blame Brown for the only time in Irving R. Levine’s career that the great television journalist was caught without his trademark bow tie. As the 1994 Commencement grand marshal, Levine appeared with a necktie in public for the first time in his life: “I needed help in tying it,” he said.
One of the true pioneers of broadcast news, Levine covered various airlifts, invasions, and international summits, but he will always be remembered as the first television-network correspondent to cover the economy full-time. He created the post of chief economics reporter at NBC in 1971, and when he reached mandatory retirement age in 1995, the network retired the title along with him.
While covering both the recessions of the 1970s and the booming economy of the 1980s, Levine became a master of explaining complex economic issues in terms that lay people could understand. “It sounds self-serving,” Levine said upon leaving NBC, “but I’ve always made a great effort to stay away from the jargon and use terminology that viewers can understand.”
In 1995 Levine received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He has written four books, including Main Street, USSR, which had the distinction of being both a nonfiction best-seller and a university textbook. Four years ago, Levine became dean of the college at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.