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Maureen Bunyan

Television news anchor Maureen Bunyan was born in 1945 on the island of Aruba to Arthur and Wilhelmina Bunyan. Her parents had moved from Guyana to Aruba in the 1930s, looking for better work opportunities. The family immigrated to the United States when Bunyan was just eleven years old, after her father accepted a job with a company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Arthur Bunyan always stressed the importance of education to his children and at one point all members of the family were enrolled in local schools, each studying for an undergraduate degree. Bunyan herself received her B.A. degree in English and education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Still in college, she worked as a free-lance writer for the Milwaukee Journal.

Bunyan went on to attend the Columbia University School of Journalism in 1970. After school, she worked in broadcasting with Boston’s WGBH-TV and later New York’s WCBS-TV. In 1973, Bunyan became the lead news anchor and reporter at WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV), the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. After working on the Eyewitness News Team, she became a co-anchor with Gordon Peterson and remained in this position until she resigned in 1995. Bunyan returned to school to receive her M.A. degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 1980. As a lead news anchor, Bunyan covered major local, national, and international stories, traveling to Central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Bunyan established a reputation as a clear-thinking, clear-spoken, fair-minded and dependable newsperson. From 1997-1999, Bunyan served as the chief correspondent for PBS’ Religions and Ethics Newsweekly.

In 1999, Bunyan joined WJLA-TV ABC 7 News in Washington D.C. as a primary anchor. Five years later, she was reunited with co-anchor Gordon Peterson for the 6:00pm EST news. During her career, Bunyan also served as a frequent substitute host for Talk of the Nation on National Public Radio and The Derek McGinty Show on WAMU Radio. Bunyan was one of the founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists in 1975, as well as the International Women’s Media Foundation in 1990. She has won a number of awards including Journalist of the Year in 1992, the Immigrant Achievement Award from the American Immigration Law Foundation in 2002, as well as receiving a number of local Emmys for her captivating work.

Maureen Bunyan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 29, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.230

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/29/2012

Last Name

Bunyan

Maker Category
Schools

Harvard Graduate School of Education

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Maureen

HM ID

BUN03

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Patagonia, Chile

Favorite Quote

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

2/27/1945

Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

Aruba

Favorite Food

Nuts (Cashew)

Short Description

Television news anchor Maureen Bunyan (1945 - ) worked with WUSA-TV and WJLA-TV ABC News in Washington D.C. She is a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists, as well as the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Employment

WJLA TV

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

WUSA TV (WTOP TV)

WCBS TV

Milwaukee Journal

WGBH TV

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maureen Bunyan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maureen Bunyan lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maureen Bunyan describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maureen Bunyan describes the socio-economic history of Guiana and her family's civic participation

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maureen Bunyan describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maureen Bunyan describes the racial diversity of Guiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maureen Bunyan describes her father's growing up in Guiana, his interrupted education, and her family's move to Aruba and then to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maureen Bunyan talks about his father's education in Wisconsin

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maureen Bunyan describes how her parents met in Guiana

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her parents' personalities, their influence on her, her mother's death, and her family's life in Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her sisters and her family's life in Aruba

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maureen Bunyan describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maureen Bunyan describes the cultural diversity of Aruba, where she was born and spent her early childhood years

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her family's move from Aruba to the United States in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maureen Bunyan describes her family's adjustment to life in the United Stated in the 1950s, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maureen Bunyan describes her family's adjustment to life in the United Stated in the 1950s, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her father as her role model

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maureen Bunyan describes her family's life in Aruba

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maureen Bunyan describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Aruba

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maureen Bunyan talks about attending school and church in Aruba, and her father purchasing one of the earliest imported cars in the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maureen Bunyan contrasts her experience in school in Aruba with her experience in Wisconsin, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maureen Bunyan contrasts her experience in school in Aruba with her education in Wisconsin, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her family's move to the U.S. in 1956, and having to adjust to the differences in climate and culture

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maureen Bunyan talks about the supportive community in Muskego, Wisconsin during the time of her mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her involvement in her school newspaper and her introduction to public speaking

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her mother's struggle with breast cancer, and her family's financial hardship

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her family's emotional distress during her mother's struggle with breast cancer and upon her death

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maureen Bunyan talks about being prone to depression, and managing it with exercise and music

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her father's spiritual quest following her mother's death, and his joining the Baha'i faith

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maureen Bunyan describes the Baha'i faith and her own views on faith

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maureen Bunyan describes her experience with discrimination at Eau Claire State College

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her stay with a German family in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the small number of minority students at Eau Claire College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maureen Bunyan talks about dropping out of Eau Claire State College, moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maureen Bunyan talks about running away from home in 1964, and traveling to Europe

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maureen Bunyan describes her experience in Germany and returning home after spending several months in Europe in 1964

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her exposure to the Civil Rights Movement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the mid-1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maureen Bunyan talks about the open housing movement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and her interest in journalism

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her internship and freelance assignments at the 'Milwaukee Journal'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maureen Bunyan talks about black reporters in Milwaukee in the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maureen Bunyan reflects upon the socio-political scene in America in the late 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maureen Bunyan reflects upon her role as a journalist during the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maureen Bunyan talks about attending the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism's Summer Program for Minorities and Women in 1970

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maureen Bunyan talks about her experience at WITI television station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

6$6

DATitle
Maureen Bunyan describes her family's adjustment to life in the United Stated in the 1950s, pt. 2
Maureen Bunyan reflects upon her role as a journalist during the 1960s
Transcript
So I grew up being very accustomed to people stopping and looking at me (laughs) and asking questions too and so as a young girl I think I must have been 12, 11 or 12 I remember asking my father [Arthur Hughborn Mendes Bunyan], "Why do people stop and look at us and why do they ask us where we're from and how we got here?" And my father said, "Well we're different than they are and they're a little bit shocked to see us because we're different." And I told my father, "I think it is very rude of people to stop and stare and ask us where we came from and ask us things like did we wear shoes in the Caribbean." And they didn't know of course where Guiana was. They didn't know where Aruba was. So two things happened; one was at that time in American popular culture Harry Belafonte was becoming an icon and his calypso music. So my father would tell people when they asked where we were from. My father would say, "You know Harry Belafonte?" "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah." "That's where we're from." Now we weren't from Jamaica which (laughs) was Harry Belafonte's home. So for years and years people use to think we were from Jamaica because we would say we're from where Harry Belafonte is from. And then my father told me and my sisters [Kathleen and Pamela Bunyan] you have to stop expecting people to figure you out. You have to help them figure you out. So when they ask you where you're from, you tell them and before they ask you where you're from and who you are, you tell them. And so I grew up with, as a young woman, with a map of the United States and South America and the Caribbean. My father made me take the map everywhere, and I had to recite a little statement when people would ask, "Oh, who are you?" I'd open the map, "My name is Maureen Bunyan. I was born on the island of Aruba but my family is from Guiana. Aruba is a small island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. It is a Dutch island, although people speak Dutch they also speak Spanish. They speak a dialect called Papiamento but my family speaks English because my parents are from Guiana. Guiana, I'd point to the map, is a small (laughs) country on the northeast coast of South America and though it's part of South America, it's not part of Latin America because Guiana is a British colony. So people speak English and blah, blah, blah and Wisconsin is up here. So I think that my parents [Wilhelmina Hill and Arthur Hughborn Mendes Bunyan] and I and my sisters gave a whole geography lesson to hundreds of people in southeastern Wisconsin. And--$$You know I was going to say that with a map I, I--$$Oh yeah.$$--there was a study once that showed that most American high school seniors could not identify Florida which actually sticks out--$$Yeah.$$--on the map.$$Yeah.$$And I would imagine that a lot of people in Wisconsin, high school students didn't--$$In the 1950s (laughs).$$In Wisconsin [unclear].$$(laughs) You're right, you're right. And I also learned that it was my responsibility to present myself to people and not to anticipate what people think of me but to explain and to show people who I was. And I think that has helped me over the years because in, in traveling and certainly in my work in, in journalism and in broadcasting and public speaking, I'm, I'm a conservative person physically. I'm a conservative person intellectually but I believe that you have, in order to communicate with other people who have to show them and tell them who you are. You can't expect them to read your mind, and that was a big gift from my father to me. And I think it also helped me to be more assertive and to be more self-confident.$Can you remember the, I guess, one of the early times when you consciously knew that being in the position of being a journalist, you could actually feed a story the way you wanted to or you could tell people what you wanted them to know about a certain issue?$$Yes, first, working, being in Milwaukee [Wisconsin] and being aware of the Civil Rights Movement there, but also watching to the TV networks' coverage of the Vietnam War, not so much the Civil Rights Movement because the Civil Rights Movement was covered, of course. Dan Rather and a lot of reporters were in the South covering the Civil Rights Movement. But I was, I was very aware of the power of the images of people and what, the way in which the broadcast media especially, but newspapers too, were able to explain to America what was happening. One of my, my best mentor at the 'Milwaukee Journal' was a reporter named Frank Aukofer. Frank--his name is A-U-K-O-F-E-R. Frank was a white reporter, and he covered the Civil Rights Movement in Milwaukee as well as in the South. And he used to tell me about going--he went to Selma [Alabama] and all these places. And he would tell me about these things. And he told me about how he had to work, as a white reporter, to understand what was happening to black Americans. So, and I'm still friends with him (laughter). He lives here--as a matter of fact, he was, lived in Washington [District of Columbia] for a long time. And so I realized, I said you have to, it takes effort to understand what's happening to other people, takes effort to find out what's happening to yourself, but great effort and energy to be a journalist and to be able to observe and put yourself also in the shoes of the people you're observing 'cause you have to do both. You can't just stand back and say, oh, they did this, they did that. And especially, when you're reporting on volatile social issues, whether it's a war, you know, a civil war, a cultural movement, and this took a lot of energy, a lot of insight, and a lot of work. But it's--the result and the satisfaction were so important because you were having, you're making a big contribution to your society, to your culture. And I thought that was a very important thing to be able to do. And then watching also the Vietnam War coverage and seeing, you know, the horrible things that were going on, that we were doing and then hearing my friends, my black friends in Milwaukee who had come back from Vietnam, and, you know, the whole thing we were all going through. Mohammed Ali said he wasn't gonna go (laughter) to fight to kill, you know, brown people who hadn't done anything wrong to him, and all that was part of what was going on in this country. So there was--we, it was really a moment of awakening for many, many people on all sides of the racial barriers in our country. And the thing too that helped me a lot was, I got to travel, I made some small trips to Selma and I went to Tuscaloosa [Alabama] and some of these other places in, I think it was '66 [1966], '67 [1967] when the drive to get people to register to vote was going on. So I also learned how important it was, how important it was to participate in the civic life of this country, and I thought this was important to report too. So I was both observing and taking part in this thing at the same time. But in the late '60s [1960s] is when I really thought, to be a good journalist is something to be admired and to work for because not only are you a craftsperson, but you can effect change in your own society. And that's when I really got hooked on journalism.