Journalist speaks on race and media

Destiny Hosmer

Online Content Editor

Journalist and Emory University professor Hank Klibanoff shared interviewing tips and the importance of remembering history at the M. Stanton Evans Symposium on Thursday, Feb. 11.

Klibanoff, a Florence native, co-wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Race Beat,” which shines a light on the role of the media during the civil rights movement.

The symposium opened with a welcome from Jeff Spurlock, director of the Hall School of Journalism, and Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr., who honored the work of journalism.

“One of the marks of an educated person is the ability to communicate,” Hawkins said.

Klibanoff said that the purpose of the symposium was to show that history is within reach and that racial tensions were more severe than segregated water fountains.

“I’m taking you back to a time when we had terrorism in our midst,” he said.

He followed with stories of young African-American men who were murdered in the 1940s and ’50s, which seemed a familiar tale to some.

In light of the recent killings of people like Eric Garner, an African-American man who died in police custody, an audience member asked Klibanoff if he believed that history is repeating itself.

“There’s certainly an echo,” Klibanoff said. “There are so many similarities.

“Enough people haven’t learned the lessons of history, and I’m afraid that we’re having positions hardening instead of softening.”

In an attempt to find closure for the past, undergraduate students at Emory under Klibanoff examine unsolved racially motivated cases for the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project.

He shared some of their findings, including a case that led them to a previously undiscovered gravesite.

Race relations during the civil rights movement were impacted by journalism, according to Klibanoff’s book, which explores news coverage of the black, Northern, Southern liberal and segregationist press.

“On a personal level, it (‘The Race Beat’) was the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had,” Klibanoff said. “I feel privileged.”

Following the symposium, Klibanoff also held a more intimate writing and editing seminar, in which he told more about his past in journalism and answered questions from student journalists.

His advice to future journalists was to always be curious, to not give up on research, to work hard and to remember that there is no shame in not knowing something.

“Having someone like Hank Klibanoff speak to us was a great experience,” said Ryan Renfrow, a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Alabaster. “I want to make a difference as an aspiring reporter.”

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