Esteemed journalist and City alumnus deliver the first lecture hosted by the Finsbury Institute.

By Eve Lacroix (Senior Communications Officer), Published (Updated )

City, University of London welcomed Professor Gary Younge to deliver the inaugural Rosemary Hollis Memorial lecture.

Professor Younge is a City alumnus – having studied a PG Dip in Newspaper Journalism at City – and an esteemed journalist who has held the roles of Editor-at-large and US correspondent for The Guardian. A Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester, he is also an Alfred Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute.

He gave a moving talk about his illustrious career as a journalist, and the ways in which his race and class informed his journalism, to an audience of 130 students, academics, journalists and the wider public.

The three men stand and smile to camera. Behind them are rows of red seats in an amphitheatre lecture hall.
Left to right: Professor Inderjeet Parmar, Professor Gary Younge, Professor Charles Lees

The lecture was hosted by the Finsbury Institute, a new City centre aimed at translating research into policy, which will launch in spring 2024 to become a university-based thinktank.

The event was the first in a series which commemorates the late Professor Rosemary Hollis, a Professor of Middle East Policy Studies and much-missed colleague in what is now known as the School of Policy & Global Affairs.

Professor Hollis believed in bringing together people from very different viewpoints so that they could learn from each other. It is this ethos that City hopes to instil into the Finsbury Institute.

An audience member asks a question. He holds a microhpone and is surrounded by multiple rows of people sitting on red seats in an amphitheatre.
An audience member asks a question to Prof Gary Younge

“I danced on other people’s dreams:” Professor Gary Younge’s career in focus

As a journalist, Professor Younge speaks truth to power and human rights is his subject matter.

With a body of work that spans from print to broadcast media to six books, he has covered everything from the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa to Black Lives Matter in the USA to Brexit in the UK.

He recounted the childhood memory of dancing with his mother to the song “Young, Gifted and Black” by Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths in his family’s living room in Stevenage. To get to where he is today, he credits those who came before him and pushed the needle forward.

He entered journalism with contempt for dominant narrative of his childhood. As a child of the only Black and single-parent family in his neighbourhood, he often faced discrimination.

Even as a child, he saw the full spectrum of the good, the bad and the vulnerable within people. The same children that desecrated his front door were those that came over to play on his family’s swing set in the garden or called upon his mother – a nurse – in an emergency.

Professor Younge called out the lack of diversity in journalism – both in the ownership of news organisations, and in the make-up of the newsroom – with most high-powered British journalists coming from an Oxbridge background.

“I do not believe in objectivity. When we look at something, we all stand somewhere,” he said. “The vantage point is different for everybody.”

He believes good journalism requires research, empathy and courage. He said:

Journalism and politics have a symbiotic relationship.

Journalism is not about speaking truth to power – as Noam Chomsky once pointed out, 'The powerful already know the truth; it is about speaking truth about power.'

Showing people the truth is not enough; you must defend the truth.

You can point things out, but people also need to be receptive to the truth. As humans, we can choose to be spectators, or we can choose to be active citizens.

An image of two women in conversation, behind them and out of focus is a crowd of people also in conversation, some holding wine glasses in their hands.
The audience networks after the event

About the Rosemary Hollis Memorial Lecture series

Professor Hollis believed in bringing together people from very different viewpoints so that they could learn from each other. It is this ethos that City hopes to instil into the Finsbury Institute.

At City, Professor Hollis served as the Director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme, which awarded scholarships for exceptional Palestinian and Israeli students and provided a cross-conflict dialogue.

Discussing the event, Professor Inderjeet Parmar, the School’s Associate Dean of Research, who moderated the event said:

I admire how Gary maintains such an empathetic and compassionate view.

His talk today embodies the spirit of Rosemary Hollis which we would like to instil into the Finsbury Institute.

Professor Hollis taught and researched at City between 2008 until her retirement in 2018. She bridged the gap between the thinktank world and academia, having joined City from the thinktank Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) where she served as the Director of Research.

Her research, books, articles, lectures, seminars and high-profile media analysis covered the UK withdrawal from “east of Suez”, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Gulf war of 1991, the Iraq war of 2003, UK and EU foreign and defence policy, as well as focused studies on Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf states and Jordan.


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