Thayer Global Speaker Series: Lyall discusses Ukraine War one year in
CBS News Producer Erin Lyall ‘97 paid a second virtual visit to her alma mater this week as part of the Thayer Global Speaker Series. Conversing with Upper School students, she discussed her role covering the war in Ukraine as the conflict enters its second year.
Lyall’s first discussion with Thayer was in February of 2022 when Russia had just invaded Ukraine. At that time the award-winning news producer joined students virtually from Kharkiv, Ukraine, as the Russian shelling began.
This time, Lyall spoke from her desk in London while students asked questions from the CFA’s Hale Theater. In this follow-up engagement, Lyall could offer insight as to how things have developed in Ukraine over the past year. Members of the larger Thayer community were also able to join the webinar.
“We’re so excited and grateful to have you here,” said Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 as he welcomed Lyall, who has been CBS’s lead producer in Ukraine for the past nine years. He lauded Lyall’s courage and dedication as she reports from the front lines during the global crisis.
Lyall actively downplayed talk of courage. “I’m brave only in that I keep going back,” she said. “When something happens, I don’t feel brave; I feel very scared.” In a similar vein, earlier in the talk the Kingston native expressed gratitude at being able to talk with Thayer students once again. She jokingly called last year’s webinar “a virtual therapy session” in that it helped to calm her during a very tense and unpredictable situation.
Nearly a dozen students asked questions of Lyall during this year’s 40-minute session. Question topics included how the war has changed in the past year, what toll the war has taken on children and families, the role other countries might have in the conflict, and possible next steps for the embattled nation of Ukraine. Lyall answered with equal parts candor and humor but offered no crystal ball prediction for what the future holds. She did express admiration for the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the importance of reporting news of the war to the world.
“It’s the biggest foreign news story we’re covering,” Lyall said.
Not all questions were directly about the war. One student asked how Lyall — who has a husband and two children — finds balance between her family life and her professional life.
“If you want to do this job, you need a support system,” responded Lyall. “It takes a village.”
When another student asked about Food Under Fire, the journalist’s food blog about eating in warzones, Lyall called the sharing of food an incredible expression of humanity that crosses all boundaries.
“It’s like a physical hug,” said Lyall, praising food’s power to connect strangers. In fact, earlier in the conversation, she played footage of villagers outside the Ukrainian city of Kherson, sharing whatever food and drink they had with Lyall and her CBS news crew during the team’s time in the field, creating lasting bonds. She recommended that students try Ukrainian delicacies such as borscht (a soup) or vareniki (a type of dumpling) to get to know the country’s food. She also urged her audience to read about Ukrainian history and culture as a way to better understand the people and the topics of today’s headlines.
The Thayer Global Speaker Series brings thought leaders, innovators, and difference-makers to the Thayer campus to engage the community in issues that matter to the world.