Legendary White House Correspondent April Ryan hit a significant milestone on Jan. 13. The author and CNN political analyst celebrated 25 years as a White House correspondent, covering a number of historical events and five presidential administrations.
“That is not something you see every day!” Ryan tweeted about the big achievement. “Thanking God and all of you for the support over these amazing years of reporting the news from the White House! 25 YEARS at the White House and 36 YEARS in media!” she added.
“Congratulations on your anniversary, @AprilDRyan! I’ve appreciated you and your reporting since the time I was President — tough but fair and totally on the level. Here’s to many more years of good work.”
Ryan gushed about Clinton’s sweet comment noting that her first presidential reporting experience was during his administration.
“What I learned from you was matters of race are always on the table for all Presidents no matter the party or political view! THANK YOU SIR!” she replied.
The tough political analyst has undoubtedly never been afraid to ask some of America’s most pressing questions. As the White House Correspondent, her role has allowed her to uncover several political topics ranging from race and social justice issues to economic disparities impacting Black and Brown communities. The steadfast journalist’s passion for digging deep into the issues that matter has ruffled a few feathers in the past, particularly during the Trump administration. Despite a number of contentious exchanges with White House officials, Ryan has risen victorious. Let’s take a look at the star’s notable career and how she gets the job done.
From Radio DJ To White House Correspondent
Ryan, the Washington D.C Bureau Chief at theGrio, graduated from Morgan State University with her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism. The journalist cut her professional teeth at various radio stations across the north and southeast, including Baltimore’s WXYV (V-103), where she worked as a news reporter and manager.
“When I started out, I was a DJ (on the radio — I was not a mixologist at parties),” Ryan told The Cut in 2018. “That did not inspire me, so I started producing a news segment in college. Then I worked for a station in Baltimore that was once owned by James Brown, and the owner I worked under was the late Dorothy Brunson. She was the first black woman to own a TV station — a trailblazer in broadcast.”
For a Black woman from Baltimore, a city notorious for its crime-ridden streets and corrupt politics, Ryan’s story gave hope to other aspiring journalists of color looking to bridge the gap between the issues in their community and the policies being implemented at the executive mansion.
While speaking to theGrio earlier this week about her decades-long career in reporting, the NAACP Image Award recipient said: “I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where some would say the word failure is built into our very existence.” Who knew that the star would impact the world of journalism with her groundbreaking coverage and honest commentary on the issues affecting Americans of color.
In 1997, Ryan got her big break as a White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network (AURN) under the Clinton administration after the station’s president of programming and operations noticed her hard work ethic. “Her consistency and longevity speak volumes. I am not surprised at her success,” AURN’s president Jerry Lopes told theGrio. “She was always a hard worker and go-getter.”
Her Colorful Career
Ryan has done the unthinkable as a White House press corps member, from traveling to Africa with Presidents Obama and Clinton to teaching Al Gore how to do the electric slide aboard Air Force Two. Ryan was one of the first reporters to set foot in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. Her hefty track record earned her a spot on the White House Correspondents Association, where she is one of only three African Americans to serve on the association’s board. According to her website, she’s also an esteemed member of the National Press Club. The 54-year-old was recognized as the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award Winner. She was also nominated in 2021 with the NAACP Image Award for Social Justice Impact.
Ryan’s staunch reporting transcends to her work as a political analyst on CNN, where she often delivers the scoop to Americans about the inner workings of the White House.
While speaking with The Cut, Ryan stressed the importance of having diverse voices in the newsroom.
“I remember many years ago, George W. Bush said we need more minorities in there because you don’t hear a lot of the issues unless it’s coming from a person of a certain background,” she explained. “When you’re not at the table, you often don’t hear stories that are in your community. There are all these problems that have been percolating for a long time, and mainstream news organizations only deal with them when there’s a crescendo moment — the Trayvons, the Flints, the Katrinas. There are so many facets of America, and a lot of the American story is untold.”
The Tough Questions
Ryan has met her fair share of challenges, especially when trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of some of America’s most pressing issues. During White House briefings, Trump and his cabinet members often slammed Ryan. Like in 2018, when she sparred with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer after asking him about rumors of Russian collusion during Trump’s campaign for President.
Trump slammed into the press member after she refused to let her question on voter suppression go unanswered. He later called her a “loser” and “nasty” following the incident and threatened to revoke her press pass.
During an interview with The New York Times in 2018, April admitted that she felt as though she was targeted during press briefings.
“But I have to shake that off because I have to go in and do my job,” she continued. “I cover the White House. I cover all issues, particularly those that affect black and brown Americans. Now, what if they didn’t call on me? A certain segment of America would not get the answers to some of their pressing questions. If I don’t ask, who will?”
Ryan told the publication that one of the most shocking moments in her career was asking former President Trump if he was racist.
“It’s a sad day when you have to ask a sitting president that,” she added. “There has been a series of comments or lack of action, from calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” to how he dealt with Charlottesville to his comments on Norway versus Haiti, Africa, El Salvador, black and brown nations. It’s not been one thing. It’s been a pattern. So I asked. He did not answer, which I thought was a wasted moment. He could have put it to rest right then and there and said, “No, I’m not a racist.” But it took him days to say that.”
Ryan, a winner of the African American Literary Show Award for Best Non-Fiction, has written several books detailing the ups and downs of her expansive career in addition to racial issues.
In her first book, “The Presidency in Black and White,” Ryan examined race in America through her experience as a White House reporter. Ryan used her unique framework to unveil how issues of race impact Americans outside of the White House. In December 2016, the star published her second book, “Mothers and Race in Black and White,” where she recalled the words of wisdom that mothers all around the world have given their children. The book featured candid interviews with notable matriarchs, including Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, Hillary Clinton, and actress Cindy Williams.
Ryan made a number of shocking confessions about her time as a White House press correspondent under Trump’s administration in 2018’s “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.” Ryan took readers inside the confusion and chaos of the former administration to understand how she and other reporters adjusted to the new normal. In one part of the book, Ryan wrote about a troubling exchange with a Black conservative White House Correspondent, who claimed that the only reason she got called on during press briefings was that she was Black.
According to Essence, Ryan admitted in “Under Fire” the incident didn’t sit right. “To this day, those words don’t sit well with me, “she said. “At that time, I had had enough! ‘Yes!’ I said to her. ‘You ain’t sh*t!’ In front of everyone, asking her, ‘Who [do] you think you are? You’re Black too, in case you didn’t know it!'”
Elsewhere in the book, she revealed that she often remembers her mother’s words of wisdom during her most challenging moments. “Maybe people thought I would be weaker, that I would give in, but that’s not how I was raised,” Ryan writes in chapter nine of the book. My mother always said, “never give up.” In this case, I take her words as “never give in.”
Her Daughters Are Her Biggest Inspiration
April says her greatest achievement is raising her two daughters, Ryan and Grace – “who are phenomenal young women,” according to her personal website.
Ryan told The Undefeated in 2017 that her children are her biggest inspiration.
“I love it when they come home happy. That’s inspirational — the fact that they look to me as inspiration. I always say the words ‘aspire to inspire.'” When it comes to talking about issues affecting Black Americans, the prominent news reporter said that she doesn’t shy away from speaking on the facts with her children.
“I’m a mother and I talk to presidents about matters of race and urban America. But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to my children, particularly when it’s right in our backyard hitting us hard,” she added, noting that she began talking more in-depth with her daughters after the death of Tamir Rice. “I felt like I was at a crossroads with it trying to figure out what to do, how to do.”