After 25 years working as a White House correspondent, April Ryan has seen it all.
Before he became president, Barack Obama invited Ryan as a guest of his for a Congressional Black Caucus dinner. She covered Obama’s two terms as president and wrote about more history when Kamala Harris became the first Black vice president and Ketanji Brown Jackson earned confirmation as the first African American female on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ryan also joined a host of other journalists and minority women to draw the ire of former President Donald Trump, who infamously railed at the decorated journalist in 2018, calling her a loser.
“After what I’ve seen, no,” Ryan said when asked whether anything surprises her anymore. “I hope I don’t have to be surprised anymore. I’ve seen 25 years of ebb and flow, and at the end of the day, it’s about people and reporting for people.”
Ryan noted that she once worked for a ‘boutique’ news organization, and now she’s achieved near unparalleled success at the <theGrio>, where she opened up the news department and the White House Bureau.
On April 30, Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group and <theGrio> honored Ryan for 25 years of distinguished and passionate service as a White House correspondent during a star-studded bash, ‘A Seat at the Table: A Celebration of Black Media.’
The bash took place at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and immediately followed the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) Dinner at the Washington Hilton.
Ryan, a Baltimore native, and Morgan State University graduate, serves on the board of the WHCA, only the third African American in the organization’s more than 100-year history to hold such a position.
“It’s been 25 years, so what an honor,” Ryan said. She added that the secret to her longevity is simply keeping her head down and doing the work.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the story,” Ryan said. “Along the way, people found out about me, but if you’re true to the story and telling all sides, that’s where my longevity has been.”
With fake news, misinformation, and social media wreaking havoc on traditional journalism, Ryan maintains that she’s praying for a middle ground.
“There’s always been opinion, but now the line is obscured more than ever, and there’s misinformation,” she said. “People are in need of facts. They don’t need lies and entertainment. They need facts. We’re in perilous times where the gas prices are higher than they’ve ever been. We’re looking at stores, and they can’t keep stuff on the shelves.
“We’re dealing with a pandemic, and we’re watching one conflict on television when there are several around the world.
“The World Food Organization says it can’t meet the demand for food. We are in a crisis. It’s a pandemic, and people are wearing masks, and then they’re not wearing masks. We need facts, and I don’t have the stomach for entertainment when the stakes are so high.”
An honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta, Ryan has earned numerous journalism awards, including the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Last year, Ryan earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Social Justice Impact.
Backing up her often-professed love of her hometown, Ryan has served as a mentor to aspiring journalists, and she’s assisted the development of up-and-coming broadcasters.
She’s authored The Presidency in Black and White; At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White; and Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.
“I watched history, and now I’m scribing the first woman of color who identifies as Black as vice president,” Ryan said. “Now, I see someone who identifies closely to Thurgood Marshall, this amazing Black woman who is authentic in herself with her braids, beautiful brown hue, and voice that comes out of the wisdom of our ancestors and our culture and history.”
Ryan said she’s also honored that the WHCA will honor Ethel Payne and Alice Dunagan, two Black Press alumni who blazed trails as White House reporters.
“I stand on their shoulders. So many of us stand on their shoulders,” Ryan said. “They are brave women, and I thank them because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the room.”
Ryan counts daughters Ryan and Grace as her life’s “greatest work.”
“I’m a Baltimorean. I grew up, and I’m still here,” Ryan said. “I can’t leave, my family is here, and I know that there’s this vibe here.”
She said Baltimore is primed for a comeback, much like the recent rise of Detroit, which had for decades been mired in problems that stemmed from local government mismanagement and other woes.
“Baltimore is a real community, and I’m an HBCU baby who grew up on the campus of Morgan State, where my mother worked until she died,” Ryan said. “My heart is here, and I want to see Baltimore come back like Detroit. I see Morgan State’s renaissance, and it’s like a Phoenix—one of the most beautiful schools in the country, and it’s in the heart of Baltimore City. Like Maya Angelou said and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson repeated, ‘and still I rise.’”