Despite the fact that it was the same night as a Presidential Debate, many students, professors and staff members gathered in Gasson Hall earlier this week to hear a lecture from Katherine Boo, the renowned journalist currently working as a staff writer for The New Yorker.
Throughout her 25 years in journalism, Boo has written for many other papers, including The Washington Post, and became a Pulitzer Prize winner, amongst many other accomplishments. Boo gives a voice to the marginalized of our world and she has worked hard to accomplish that objective, traveling the world to be with her subjects— from the Gulf of Mexico to India.
Boo explained that her general approach to journalism is not to directly ask people about their livelihood while gathering research, but rather to observe the decisions they make throughout their lives because those choices will ultimately reflect their values. This gives Boo the opportunity for her readers to connect with, not just pity, the impoverished. Most importantly, through her 25 years of work she realized that “being without power, people like this see journalists as the slim hope that they have” for any sort of justice.
This particular lecture, as part of the Lowell Humanities Lecture Series in conjunction with the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, was focused on her most recent publication: Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The award-winning book was the product of following impoverished families for seven years through the slums of Mumbai, one of the most economically divided cities in the world.
Boo described Behind the Beautiful Forevers as, “one of the hardest pieces of journalism I’ve ever done”. While she discussed the difficulties faced in the slums, a projector behind her played a slideshow of pictures taken by her and other families in the slums. Boo explained that throughout this endeavor she was not trying to find the most interesting stories or the most virtuous people — she wanted to find families that would exemplify the main problems that needed to be addressed.