Dr. Brian Murphy
“Everything in my life has been an accident,” says Dr. Brian Murphy, an international investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, hockey player and chair of the department of communications studies at NU.
Growing up in Montreal, Murphy developed an aptitude for hockey. The sport got him into college after having to repeat his final year of high school because of his poor grades. “I was offered a hockey sports scholarship, of all things. So, I continued playing and was scouted for some minor league teams,” he says. However, he ended up leaving the sport to pursue a degree in history.
“Two weeks after graduation, I went to Europe and just stayed there for eight years,” he says.
Initially and briefly pursuing a second degree in history at the University of Edinburgh, he took a job designing the school’s newspaper and working for Gordon Brown, who became the Prime Minister of England in 2007.
After a few years of being “passed around the world of European journalism,” as he puts it, Murphy was offered a job writing for a radio station in the tiny South African country of Lesotho, which was in the middle of the Apartheid War.
The civil war was “turning the country of South Africa upside down; people were terrified to even go near the place. Looking back on it, I didn’t even have life insurance. I just got on a plane and went there,” he says.
One morning in Lesotho, Murphy awoke to a young teenage boy, a war refugee, breaking in to look for shelter and food. The break-in inspired Murphy to write stories of war refugees for international newspapers and magazines for two years.
“I got back to Europe and I was notorious; I got hired immediately … by one of the largest magazine publishing companies,” he said. He wrote in Europe for “The African,” which is equivalent to “Time” or “Newsweek” and is distributed by plane to avoid censorship restrictions in Africa.
From there, Murphy was offered a job with Internet Press Service, an international investigative journalism company based in Rome.
“They offered me a job and I jumped at it, to have a chance to work with these international hoodlums, it was great,” he said while explaining a disparity between the company’s high standards for journalism and mysterious business practices.
Murphy was sent to Ottawa to represent the company at the Parliamentary Press Gallery, where he was able to use his hockey skills to ice skate to work on the world’s longest outdoor ice skating rink. It conveniently ran between his home and work.
After three years in Canada, Murphy started an operation in Zimbabwe to replace a group of journalists who had become political refugees after their office in Botswana was shot up and destroyed by the South African military.
“I’ve been through everything you could possibly go through as a war correspondent,” he says. He spent nearly a decade reporting on the war.
In 1990, Murphy’s book, “World Wired Up,” was published. It spoke of the potential of the newly developed Internet to be a tool for social justice, was published. This led to his co-founding of PeaceNet in San Francisco after leaving Africa in 1995. PeaceNet was the first national, Internet-based news website for non-profit and charity organizations.
Desiring a change of pace after six years with PeaceNet, Murphy went to the University of Massachusetts to get a ph.D. There, he fell into the position as the director of research for the Media Education Foundation. He eventually wrote and directed films such as “Rich Media, Poor Democracy.”
While simultaneously working full time for the MEF and earning his ph.D., Murphy began teaching three days a week at NU. How? He commuted every week from Massachusetts to Niagara from 1999 to 2003, when he finally settled in to NU full time.
Murphy isn’t shy about sharing stories in the classroom.
“I’m real,” he said. “I’ve done everything I want to do … I’m dedicated to doing this job but in terms of my own personal requirements of achievement, I’m just having fun; that’s it. And when I can get the students to have fun, too, that’s one of the best things.”