Lou Cannon honors Devroy at Forum

Aaron Vehling

Choosing a career can sometimes be difficult, something that Lou Cannon can attest to.

Cannon, who spoke at the Ann Devroy Memorial Forum Thursday night in Zorn Arena, described how he once had to choose between an entry-level journalism job and the higher-paying occupation of laundry truck driver. He chose the journalism job and ended up making quite a name for himself.

Cannon spent 26 years working as a reporter for the Washington Post, but is best known for his books on Ronald Reagan. Mike Dorsher, assistant professor of communication and journalism, said in his introduction that Cannon is the pre-eminent biographer of Reagan.

Cannon began his speech with a tribute to Devroy, dedicating his speech to her.

Devroy graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1970 and went on to spend nine years working at the Washington Post. Eight of those years she spent working as the Post’s top White House reporter, covering four presidential administrations. She died from cancer in 1997.

“Facts are
precious and opinions are cheap.”

Lou Cannon
former Washington Post reporter

During his speech, Cannon said his real claim to fame was getting Devroy on staff at the Washington Post. Cannon went on to speak about Devroy’s fearless approach to journalism and her dedication to fair play toward her competition on other newspaper staffs.

“She was a star on our team, and that’s where she remains in our hearts,” Cannon said.

Cannon’s stories of Devroy inspired some students to consider how they would like their future careers to be. Freshman Megan Rilling said if she ever chose to become a reporter, she would hope to follow in Devroy’s footsteps because Devroy achieved her success through admirable methods.

Cannon then turned the topic of the forum to reporters and why writers write. He stressed that facts are the most important thing for reporters to focus on.

“Facts are precious and opinions are cheap,” he said.

As students began asking questions of Cannon, he continued to stress that a focus on facts and the elimination of biases and opinions in reporting would elevate a person’s writing.

The only pause of the evening came when senior Liz Meyer asked Cannon what his biggest challenge had been during his career.

After a few moments’ thought, Cannon said that breaking down previously reported stereotypes of the officers in the trial of Rodney King was the hardest thing he had to do.

To avoid this type of biased reporting, writers should make an ethical decision in their coverage, he said.

“Remember that people you report about are human beings and should be treated fairly,” Cannon said.

Cannon concluded his speech by saying that people should get involved in things that they feel strongly about.

“It held my interest and was the best forum I attended this year,” freshman Abby Hafner said of the forum. “It made me think about how I could help change the way people look at reporters.”

Senior Kelly McBride was awarded the Ann Devroy Fellowship at the forum, and the Spectator staff scholarship winners were announced.