The Moral Courage of Tina Brown

By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Tina Brown is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, and founder of Women in the World, the premier global platform for women leaders and changemakers with summits in New York, Toronto, London and Dubai. She was formerly editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and founder of the digital news site The Daily Beast. Brown is the author of the best-selling biography of the Princess of Wales, The Diana Chronicles as well as The Vanity Fair Diaries which was chosen as one of the best books of 2017 by Time, Amazon, and The Economist, among others.

But according to Ms. Brown, her greatest accomplishment is her daughter, Izzy Evans. Ms. Evans graduated from Harvard in 2014 and now works at VICE Media on the nightly news show for VICE and HBO, focusing on interview outreach and development.   

Ms. Brown and Ms. Evans will be leading the Auburn Lives of Commitment Symposium Talkback on April 26, 2018.  This conversation will be livestreamed, and all are welcome.   

Tina Brown responded to questions in preparation for the Lives of Commitment Symposium.

Q- Through Women in the World, you have been involved with women’s rights for a long time. What, if anything, feels particularly pressing about this moment in 2018?

I think that we’re at a tipping point and we should seize it. It’s been a seismic year for women. But the brutish revelations from the #MeToo movement and the assault on decency from the Oval Office have shown us misogyny is not giving up without a fight.

Q- What is the role of the journalist and how does moral courage function in storytelling?

Journalism should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We’ve seen incredible work this year, particularly by Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker, and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, who shared the Pulitzer for their work on the Harvey Weinstein revelations. There are few stories I can think of that has brought such meaningful social change so quickly. The women who came forward showed enormous moral courage.

Some people wrongly think these women gained celebrity status by coming forward. But as we showed on the stage at the Women in the World summit, the aftermath of going public can be devastating. The actress Asia Argento has been trashed and trolled and humiliated in her native Italy.

 We’ve also seen remarkable journalism globally. At this year’s summit, we featured many courageous journalists who speak truth to power and, in doing do, risk not only their reputation but, often, their lives.

These are women like Yevgenia Albats from Russia and Tamara Chergoleishvili from Georgia, both of whom have put themselves in peril by reporting on President Putin, and Patricia Evangelista who reports about the extrajudicial killings by President Duterte and his militias in the Philippines. Turkey’s Ece Temelkuran was forced into exile because of the crackdown on journalists from President Erdogan. All of these journalists are heroes to me.

Q- Your daughter is a journalist and will be co-facilitating the symposium with you. What is a piece of advice you have given her that other young women might benefit from?

I’ve always told my daughter to never let people down. A commitment cannot be canceled with a text. Your word is your bond and standing up for what you believe in can never be wrong.

Q- Can you name one time when you were faced with a difficult choice, what was at stake and how did you summon the strength and clarity to make the right decision?

When I was editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair in the 1980’s, the biggest story of our time was one that no one wanted to talk about: the decimation of the gay community from AIDS.  At the time, the stigma over AIDS was so great, it was never mentioned in obituaries. So I had to ask myself: was it possible to write about the contributions of some very brilliant people who died from AIDS without mentioning their names? Was it possible to awaken the public to the depth of this disaster without naming the individuals who were enduring it? The answer, for me, was no. I believed the contributions of these brilliant men should be recognized; their lives and deaths were worthy of register. So, we reached out to their families and partners, most of whom had vowed to keep their loved ones privacy and never reveal their cause of death. Most, after a great deal of heart-searching, agreed. We then ran two photo spreads of all the people in arts and culture we had lost to AIDS. There were some readers who were angry and said we had violated the privacy of the dead. But gradually, because of our story and others like it, it became intolerable that so much suffering had been suppressed by shame. To this day,  I’m proud that we contributed to helping diminish the stigma of AIDS.

Ms. Brown and Ms. Evans will be leading the Auburn Lives of Commitment Symposium Talkback on April 26, 2018.  This conversation will be livestreamed, and all are welcome.   

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President at Auburn Seminary and Editor of Voices 

Follow Auburn on Twitter. Facebook, and Instagram.
Recommended Posts