By Veena McCoole
Global broadcast journalism veteran and longtime producer Kyle Gibson kicked off the first Yale Women Innovators Series of the new academic year. Gibson produced ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel and has received several Emmys for her work around the world.
During her talk, Gibson discussed the changing landscape of diversified media news outlets, her passion for bringing “darker stories” into mainstream consciousness, and the value of undertaking apprenticeships and finding mentors at every stage of your career.
When Gibson began working at a news network, she said the focus was not on ratings but on effectively reporting important stories. “What’s happened to journalism is an absolute disgrace,” she told the assembled women of the decreasing integrity of news networks and their shift to providing more “news-entertainment” than news. She worries that there is a lack of important narratives and well-reported issues reaching the wider public.
Gibson also has a self-declared passion for covering the “darker side of things,” seeking to illuminate issues beyond the first world. She was one of the last standing reporters to cover the horrific Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, under the guise of a bride on her honeymoon. She was on the street reporting with nothing but a walkie talkie when Chinese troops opened fire on thousands of civilians, an experience that haunts her to this day.
She also described her experience working at the inaugural World Science Festival alongside Oliver Sacks, where she found joy in bringing high-level science to the public in a creative way—blending a lecture on how music impacts the brain with a live concert from the Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir. “There are ways to keep the conversation intellectual while still exciting people,” she said.
Today, she and Tina Brown (former editor of Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and founder of the Daily Beast) have been working on the annual “Women in the World” summit they cofounded seven years ago, featuring a mix of inspiring unknown women and celebrities like Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie-Pitt to illuminate stories about hard topics like female genital mutilation, rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking. The summit garners 7 billion media impressions and is partially owned by the New York Times. Gibson stresses that although the event is not advocacy journalism it is important to her that the 3,000 people in attendance come away learning something profoundly new and meaningful and are moved to action.
In her talk, Gibson also emphasized the importance and the “privilege” of being an apprentice, working your way up and “knowing what you don’t know.” She noted that, in her own time as an apprentice, she gained experience that led her to have good reporting instincts.
“The joy and privilege of being an apprentice I cannot state. It’s being devalued at the moment, because we’re in an economy that doesn’t want to pay for it. Don’t give power away, but inspire it in others. Pour coffee, listen and observe. That continues to inform my life.”
The Yale Women Innovators Series is held every Tuesday morning at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (254 Elm St., 3rd Floor). It is open to Yale women students, alumni, faculty and staff interested in entrepreneurship and innovation at any level.