K-College Commencement Speaker Ray Suarez on Journalism and Education

Jun 13, 2014

Kalamazoo College graduation file photo
Credit Kalamazoo College

Ray Suarez had a long career in public radio and television before he left for Al Jazeera America last year. 

He hosted NPR's Talk of the Nation and the monthly program America Abroad. For 14 years he was one of the hosts of the PBS News Hour. He is s now the host of Al Jazeera America's "Inside Story." 

Suarez told WMUK's Gordon Evans that "if you like real news, you'll like Al Jazeera America." He says the network does in depth reporting without a political agenda. He says the network offers more international coverage than other cable news networks. But Suarez says bureaus are operating in American cities, including Detroit and New Orleans.

Ray Suarez
Credit Al Jazeera America


Inside Story recently did a report on the debt incurred by college students. When asked what he says to Kalamazoo College students who are looking at paying off their loans, Suarez says education is more than training for a job. "Kalamazoo College is not a trade school." He says students need to think about what their college education gives them beyond training for a career. 

"a democracy needs information like a body needs oxygen"

If one of those students is thinking about a career in journalism, Suarez says, half-jokingly, "have a really good Plan B." He says there are fewer people making a living as journalists in the United States now than there were in 2000. Suarez says that's despite the increase in outlets and ways to transmit information. He says it's still important work, "a democracy needs information like a body needs oxygen." But Suarez says whether you can make a living over the long-term in journalism is an open question. 

In the extended web version of the interview, Suarez discusses the preconceptions that the name Al Jazeera conveys to the viewers. He says the network is looking to become a full-fledged competitor to CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. 

Suarez is the author of three books, the most recent on the history of Latinos in the United States. He talks about those projects, and another he'd like to write on modern South Africa.