A Black Voice in the White House
Veteran Journalist April Ryan’s inspiring career and service to Black America
By: Lauren Dillard
April Ryan is an award-winning journalist known for asking tough questions, and has been a White House Correspondent for over 20 years. Her long political history has earned her significant positions as a CNN political analyst and a best-selling author. I admire April Ryan for asking the critical questions that people around the nation want to know answers to from our presidents. As a Black woman from Baltimore, Ryan has worked in the trenches of the White House and built a journalism empire that continues to serve Black America. Her contributions to politics inspire me as a Black journalist to ask critical questions to gain answers for my community.
25 Years and 5 Presidents
Ryan was a White House Correspondent for over two decades and has asked former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden. She is known for asking questions concerning urban issues to presidents. She has also interviewed different First Ladies and politicians. Ryan has been to many White House press briefings representing American Urban Radio Networks, CNN and now The Grio, a Black American news outlet. She is one of three White House Correspondent Association (WHCA) members to serve on the board. She and other colleagues have expressed the lack of diversity in the association, which hurts political news and does not reflect all voices across America.
Sit Down. I Didn’t Call You
November 2018 caused a lot of controversy for Ryan. During a press conference, she tried asking former President Donald Trump a question about voter suppression. He told her to sit down several times in a very disrespectful tone. The crisis brought attention to how people speak to Black journalists as opposed to white journalists. President Trump and his former press secretaries Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer had a notorious history of disrespecting Ryan during briefings. They even went as far as blacklisting her from briefings and events.
“I ask questions for answers and truth,” says Ryan during an interview with Trevor Noah in 2018. She told Noah that she asks every president tough questions.
Under Fire “There is a huge difference,” says Ryan, “this president looks at us as the enemy.” Her book, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front lines of the Trump White House,” was a best-selling book. In this biography, Ryan writes about her battle of covering news during a presidency that disrespected journalism. One rule in journalism is don’t be the story, but Ryan took us through her journey reporting through the Trump presidency for this book. She highlights the different work environments she endured during other presidencies and notes how the Trump era put a target on her back. Ryan became a victim of death threats and had to hire a bodyguard. She was on a list of possible pipe bomb situation that she says Sarah Sanders stirred up in the suspect, and reasons that Sanders should be the one to pay for it.
Through all the chaotic and dangerous situations she has been through, she still perseveres. April Ryan has never shied away from asking controversial questions to the last four presidents. She has been a voice in the White House for many Black people throughout her two decades of work. “I want young journalists to be uniquely themselves,” says Ryan as she is honored during an Urban One event. Her boldness and confidence is unmatched and influential to all journalists. I am eager to see her line of questioning for future presidents on different issues.
About the Author: Lauren Dillard is a journalism student at the University of North Texas, located in Denton, Texas. Lauren’s journalism focus is on public relations, and she expects to graduate in December 2021.
This material was written for and provided by AGENZ PR, a student-led PR firm specializing in matters of diversity, inclusion, and the Gen Z perspective. AGENZ teams are comprised of PR students from the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism, all of whom are dedicated to providing clients with insightful and digitally innovative work products to enhance business practices. Students learn and excel by getting hands-on, professional experience in the public relations industry.