Matt Frei is a television news journalist and writer, who worked as the Washington, DC correspondent for Channel 4 News. If that isn’t enough, you can occasionally find him on your TV as presenter of the evening news as Channel 4’s Europe editor. Like all our honorary graduates, he’s a busy man.
What piece of advice would you give to students?
I feel such a hypocrite giving advice to students because when everyone gave me advice when I was your age, I never listened to it and I should have done. So I feel slightly hypocritical giving advice now. But what I would say is be patient. Don’t judge yourself too harshly, because other people donít judge you as harshly as you do yourself. Open your mind to everything. Just try as much as you can, from ballroom dancing to salsa, to Mongolian cuisine to writing, to playing music to writing music, do whatever you can. Because this is a great chance to do it, before you get stuck in with jobs and family, this is an amazing time.
There’s been a discussion about free speech on campus and whether students are restricting themselves, locking themselves away from challenging ideas. What do you think about that?
That’s very interesting, we’ve talked about that quite a bit on tele and on radio actually. If you can’t say what you think without fear of recrimination at this age you’re never going to be able to say it. One has to be careful, you don’t want to be offensive and how you define that is interesting in itself. But you should be able to speak your mind without fear or favour, at this age especially. You don’t want to tread on people’s sensibilities, you don’t want to be gratuitously insulting. But there is a fine line there and you have to learn that.
How do you find that line?
By talking to people, by listening to people, by being aware of your surroundings. Just being aware, self-aware, and aware of others. That’s how you find that line and the minute you feel like you always have to veer on this side of the line you know something’s off. You get a gut instinct for it when you think – “ok this is wrong I need to speak out about this.”
But also, the good thing about that, and I think we are more careful now than when I was a student, is that you also have to be much cleverer about your argument. It was easier in my day just to blurt stuff out, things that were absolute nonsense, and people either took you seriously or they didn’t. Now you have to be cleverer about it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldnít be making the argument.