For Costa Rica’s United Nations ambassador and former editor of the daily La Nación, Eduardo Ulibarri, the major challenges facing journalism are not new forms of media but rather changing social values.
The course of technology is more a matter of human ingenuity than technological determinism, he said, during his May 13 keynote speech for the University of Missouri School of Journalism commencement ceremony, in the U.S.
A recipient of a master’s degree from the school in 1976, Ulibarri went on to encourage graduates to cultivate their intellectual curiosity in all things.
“Foster understanding, curiosity and an intelligent engagement with yours and other people’s life; with politics, economics, science, the environment, arts, fun and, of course, technology,” he said.
Ulibarri is no stranger to fostering intellectual curiosity in a repressive environment. A Cuban by birth, he fled his native country at the age of 14 to start a new life in Costa Rica. Less than two decades later, he had established himself as one of the country’s leading journalists.
He served four years as chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press of the Inter American Press Association and played a crucial role in reforming Costa Rican free press laws.
Ulibarri was named Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations in January 2010, a position he said his career as a journalist prepared him for.
“So today I talk to you from the crossroads of journalism and diplomacy,” he said.
He said journalism and diplomacy are professional exercises that require one to select relevant issues, clarify reality, and make analytical judgments in a convincing and preferably well-documented fashion.
Ulibarri ended his speech with a few words of encouragement for the 503 graduates about to enter a turbulent industry.
“On a more personal note, the challenges we are facing will require from us to work hard and make good without sacrificing our own private lives and the sheer fun of our profession,” he said. “I assure you that they can be compatible.”