A Plus' Game Changer Of The Year

April Ryan's Whirlwind Year Isn't Breaking Her Focus From What Really Matters

Part 2 of A Plus's Game Changer of the Year series.

Few people know the White House press room as well as April Ryan.

As an African-American woman, Ryan has been in a unique position as the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks since 1997. But the dogged reporter earns recognition here for more than just experience: she's an arbiter of truth who constantly asks important questions about race and the effect legislation will have on people of color that other White House correspondents don't spend as much time on.

"If I don't ask, who will?" Ryan said in an interview with A Plus. "And that's the big question. I don't have an obligation, but it's about news. There are stories that touch every person, and a lot of people don't hear from the President of the United States about what affects them."

This year alone, Ryan has joined CNN as a political analyst, won the She Persisted Award at the 2017 Women's Media Awards, and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. 

Ryan with Gloria Steinem and her She Persisted award.

Several notable exchanges between Ryan and with members of the White House this year garnered national attention. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked that members of the press corps say what they were thankful for before asking a question, seen by some critics as an attempt to belittle the media's work, Ryan didn't hesitate. She said she was thankful for life, her kids, 20 years on the job at the White House and "thankful to be able to question you every single day." She also stood out as one of the few reporters who wouldn't let John Kelly slide after he made controversial remarks about the cause of the Civil War

There were other, uglier moments too. When former press secretary Sean Spicer scolded Ryan for shaking her head during a press conference, the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork began trending. President Donald Trump infamously asked Ryan if members of the Congressional Black Caucus were "friends" of hers when she pressed him about whether he had reached out to them. 

But Ryan said she hates being "part of the story," and insists she is not there to be an enemy of the White House. Instead, she explained, her job is to ask questions and get the story. 

"My job is to be in there and ask questions and that's all," she said. "At the end of the day, I do want to be able to have what used to be a friendly adversarial relationship with the press office so we can get some kind of answers on things. I'll get my answers inside or outside the White House, trust me. I'll break stories with or without them."

Ryan and civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte posing with her book, At Mama's Knee, which examines race and identity in America through the lens of motherhood.

This year, A Plus is honoring 2017's wave of women as our Game Changer of the Year. Asked about the "rise" of women in the national political and cultural conversations this year, Ryan pushed back on the idea that this is something new.

"We've been here, it's just that people are more open and understand that sometimes we're not heard now," she said. This is supposed to be the year of the woman, then Donald Trump won, and it wasn't. But it did turn out to be the year of the woman and people are gravitating towards that. It's the year of the woman in a much different way — it's the year of the woman to expose the truth, I believe. We are exposing the truth."

Cover image via Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com.

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