My Reunion With Fox News Channel’s Juan Williams As MLK Weekend Kicks Off At U. of Alabama

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Juan Williams

It’s hard to believe it’s been 23 years since I first met Juan Williams, the legendary author of Eyes on the Prize, the book that accompanied the 14-hour award-winning television series with the same name a quarter century ago.

Tonight I had the opportunity to be his chaffeur as he visited the University of Alabama to give the keynote address at our Realizing the Dream Legacy Awards Banquet.

Williams, formerly of National Public Radio and The Washington Post, now co-host of Fox News Channel’s “The Five, and fill-in host “The O’Reilly Factor,” spoke to a soldout crowd at the Hotel Capstone .

He used the occasion to share some of the comments from generations of readers of Eyes on the Prize who often are in disbelief about much of what Williams shares in recounting the Civil Rights Movement.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.56.41 PMA year after the 25th anniversary of the publication of Eyes on the Prize, Williams says people still ask “is that really true?” what he reported happened in the period between 1954 and 1965 “was it really that bad?”

Even as he shared stories from his Eyes on the Prize readers, who he says get “younger and younger” he lamented how many want to analyze what he calls the “complicated story of race in America today” by drawing comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement.

COMPARISONS TO FERGUSON

Months after the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the unrest following a grand jury’s decision not to the indict the police officer responsible,  Williams says with an African American in The White House, an African American United States Attorney General and an African American executive editor of The New York TImes, there is no comparison.

“People want this period now to be just like the Civil Rights Movement,” Williams said.   ” We have a different of problems.”

The 60-year-old Panamanian born political analyst says, instead of drawing those comparisons,  we should take inspiration from those who accomplished much a half-century ago.

“It’s not necessary to say we were back where we were 50 years ago,” he said.

MY REUNION

This afternoon, neither of us could recall The Washington Post story on Former Howard University President Franklyn Jenifer published in September 1992 for which he interviewed me as the editor-in-chief of THE HILLTOP, Howard’s student newspaper.

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Williams visited The Malone Hood Plaza, located at Foster Auditorium where the late Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in The Schoolhouse Door.

The subject of that news story wasn’t important today.

What is significant is that 23 years after he sat in my office at THE HILLTOP in Washington, DC talking to me as I was weeks away from finishing my undergraduate degree in journalism,   I’d be an assistant dean at the University of Alabama and Williams would be giving the keynote address here, the same place that he wrote about as being one of the last institutions to integrate.

It was neat showing him Foster Auditorium where George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and today where the University has recognized the accomplishments of the late Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, the first blacks admitted to the University in 1963.

What a great start to our Martin Luther King weekend!

University of Alabama Student Film on Journey to Integration Wins National Award, Showcases Student Journalists’ Role Then and Now

Daniel J. Roth’s film, “Stepping Through,” on University of Alabama’s 50-year-old journey to integration has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists at the “Best Use of Multimedia.” It spots the role of UA’s student journalists in 1963 and 2013.


I suppose we should just be excited that UA Telecommunication and Film Student Daniel J. Roth beat out students at several of the nation’s top journalism schools to win the Society of Professional Journalists’ First National Student Award for “Best Use of Multimedia.”

The 17-minute film, “Stepping Through” was chosen as the National Winner in the Mark of Excellence Awards,  an annual recognition of the top student work in journalism.

It was chosen from among 11 other regional winners that included student work at the Missouri School of Journalism, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State and the Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland.

In "Stepping Through," Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they wrote they published their story about Alabama's segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.
In “Stepping Through,” Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they published their story about Alabama’s segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.

While SPJ has recognized online student work for several years, this is first time an award is being given specifically for the “Best Use of Multimedia.”

While I did not serve on the awards committee or as a judge this year,  I know there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to judge journalistic work that is produced online, given that most student publications have a website.

But,  my excitement is not about The University of Alabama being the first to win in this brand new category.

As both a multimedia journalism instructor of 11 years here at UA and an advocate for diversity, I am most excited that this award recognizes a film showing the role student journalists played in the integration of the University of Alabama 50 years ago in 1963 and in 2013 when the University’s Greek system was integrated.

In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.
In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.

Roth’s film includes extensive interviews with Hank Black, the editor-in-chief of The Crimson White from 1963-64, who spoke of his own personal role in encouraging students from the all-black Stillman College here in town to make the move that would make history.

His words today about showing his friend, the late Dr. James Hood (who Black knew as “Jimmy Hood”) around campus prompted the name of Roth’s film, “Stepping Through.”

“I went through this period of integration frankly shaking in my boots every day.  Yet there was nothing to do except go through it.  You have to just step through,” Black said.  “What I did was nothing compared to what Vivian and Jimmy did in facing their fears and stepping across that line into a world they didn’t know.”

Yet Black’s courage seems to have been repeated five decades later when Crimson White Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford published their award-winning story “The Final Barrier” on the still segregated Greek system.

“It was the right thing to do and it needed to be talked about, ” said Matt Ford.  “These barriers stopping change needed to be addressed,”

Roth’s film also included interviews with Melody Twilley-Zeidan, who was twice denied a chance to be in a traditionally white sorority and Wendell Hudson, the first black scholar athlete at the university.

The award for the best use of multimedia had an unintended impact in shining the light on the University’s diversity efforts and the students here both in the past and the present who are integrally involved in making the University of Alabama an inclusive campus.    I can think of so many other students who are not only concerned about diversity, but also producing media projects that are directed at effecting change.

We have  Daniel Roth to thank for capturing the University’s 50-year journey from integration to Greek system integration on film.  It’s exciting to know his film, which is our story as a University of Alabama family,  is being recognized as THE BEST student multimedia work in the nation this year.

Roth will be presented his award in September in Nashville at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Society of Professional  Journalists and Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Celebrating Two Journalism Educators Who Advocated For Diversity

This week we remember both Chuck Stone and Marian Huttenstine as journalism educators and for they did to open the doors for others. Their work must continue.

It’s funny how important a single encounter with a person can be.

On Sunday, two retired journalism educators, with whom I had only a single brief encounter passed away.  But, regardless of how well I knew them personally, Marian Huttenstine and Chuck Stone are noteworthy models for the trails they blazed as journalism educators and for the diversity they brought to the media.

They both leave legacies for what it means to make “DIVERSITY” an action word.

Fortunately, two institutions where they taught– the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continue Stone and Huttenstine’s legacies today with initiatives aimed at high school students.

Much has been written about Chuck Stone, one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), of which I am a member.  He was our first national president.

But, many may not know about the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity in Education and Media, a summer workshop for rising high school senior that began in 2007.

Chuck Stone was the first president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Photo Courtesy: UNC
Chuck Stone was the first president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Photo Courtesy: UNC

Glimpse of Chuck Stone at Work

While I can’t call Mr. Stone a personal friend or even an acquaintance, I did have the occasion to see him at work at his office in the old Howell Hall (former site of the UNC School of Journalism) in the late 1990s.

At the time, I was just a visitor on the beautiful Chapel Hill campus checking out prospective Ph.D. programs in mass communication.   Seeing the legendary Chuck Stone as he worked with a UNC student in his office was a highlight of my visit.

Ironically, UNC also factored  into my path from working journalist to journalism professor through another person.

Dr. Huttenstine received her PhD. from the University of North Carolina.   She taught media law for many years here at University of Alabama, where a few years after she left, I ended up in my first full-time job as a faculty member.

Back in 2004, I had the good fortune of meeting her on the 20th anniversary of the Multicultural Journalism Workshop, which she started with then graduate student Marie Parsons, who went on to be the first director of the workshop and a member of the faculty.

Hundreds of students have come through this workshop that is now in its 31st year.  As a graduate of a similar Dow Jones News Fund workshop back in the 1980s,  I know firsthand what a difference it can make in a high school student’s career planning.

Huttenstine: Opening Doors for Female Administrators

The only photo I have of Marian Huttenstine was of her on our 25th anniversary program for the Multicultural Journalism Workshop.
The only photo I have of Marian Huttenstine (lower right) was of her on our 25th anniversary program for the Multicultural Journalism Workshop in 2008.

Even Stone and Huttenstine both passed away on Sunday, Dr. Huttenstine may not make the national headlines the way that Professor Stone has this week.   But, her impact through her creation of the Minority Journalism Workshop in 1984 had just as much impact as Stone’s as one of the founders of NABJ.

Huttenstine is credited with having the idea for MJW (now known as the “Multicultural Journalism Workshop”)   A decade ago, the editorial board of the Tuscaloosa News recognized the importance of such an idea, that has been sustained for three decades.

She’s also among those who opened the doors for women to eventually to serve as leaders of academic units like our own College of Communication and Information Sciences.  Long before the University of Alabama would have its first female president (Dr. Judy Bonner), there was the Capstone Women’s Network (CWN).

CWN was started in 1980 as one local effort here at University of Alabama to respond to the national call to expand and improve the opportunities for women to be in administrative decision-making posts.

After her stint on the faculty at the University of Alabama,  Huttenstine went on to become the first female chair of the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University.

Today incoming freshman in the MSU communication program can apply for the Marian Huttenstine Scholarship that was named in her honor.

More than once I’ve run into alumni from our program here at University of Alabama who vividly remember Huttenstine as a tough media law professor.

But, even if we don’t have those memories as students,  we can be students of hers and Stone’s way of marrying education with the ongoing effort to bring about diversity in the nation’s newsrooms and media outlets.     This week every journalism educator should remember them and re-commit ourselves as individuals to continue what they started as we do our part in preparing tomorrow’s journalists and mass communication professionals.

Marian and Chuck, we’ll miss you.  But, your work will continue!

University of Alabama is Looking for a Lemon from Louisiana

CNN anchor and author of TRANSPARENT Don Lemon visits the University of Alabama today in Tuscaloosa, a place where he formerly worked for a short time as an weekend anchor. There are several things we’re looking for in Lemon’s visit to West Central Alabama.

Lemons are usually yellow or pale, sweet, make good lemonade or they’re bad cars.

Depending on how you look at it, only a couple of those descriptors would apply to CNN Anchor Don Lemon, who is making a quick stop on our University of Alabama campus later today.

Don Lemon is weekend evening anchor at CNN.

The native Louisianan is openly gay and he’s a lighter-skinned African American man.   Some might say he’s “high-yellow” and because of his sexual orientation, he’s sweet.

Because he’s so TRANSPARENT, Lemon probably would not be offended by either of those references, neither of which was  meant in a derogatory way.

I purchased his book, appropriately named TRANSPARENT a couple years ago, just days after it was released.

The 220-page memoir has received mixed reviews, but the 19 chapters provided great LESSONS for his readers, especially if you’re an African American working in the broadcast news business as I was for eight years.

Despite all of the media attention surrounding Lemon’s decision to reveal his sexual orientation as he released the book nearly two years ago,   he didn’t talk much about that “coming out” experience in the book.

In the eighth chapter, where he included a section on “Coming to Terms with Myself,”  he provided just as many if not more pertinent lessons about dealing with college professors, some of whom can be more dis-empowering than encouraging.

That’s the kind of lessons I think we’re looking for TODAY here at Alabama.

Looking for Lessons on Persistence, Perseverance 

Don Lemon took classes at both Louisiana State University and Brooklyn College.  He juggled finishing college while launching his journalism career.

Students at UA need to know how he did it.   What strategies were required to be successful in the classroom even as you were making a name for yourself in the newsroom?

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Lemon’s first book, TRANSPARENT, was published in 2011 by Farrah Gray Publishing, one of the largest African-American-owned book publishing companies in the country.

Students in my Diversity class here at Alabama were assigned to read Lemon’s opening chapter on “A Lesson in Race and Color.”

In fact, his discussion is a template for UA students on how to tell their own diversity story.

I hope today we’ll get more frank, honest dialogue about race like Lemon provides on his 11 months as a weekend anchor at WBRC- Fox 6 in Birmingham.

Looking for Transparency

In looking for Lemon today, the University of Alabama ought to look for the same transparency this broadcast journalist demonstrated in making news with his own lived experience as he covered a breaking story involving an Atlanta minister accused of sexual misconduct

That Atlanta minister, Bishop Eddie L. Long, was  my pastor during my nearly seven years as a active member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church while living in Atlanta/Athens, Ga. area.  I still consider him one of my spiritual fathers.  So I was especially interested in all of the interviews and updates in this scandal involving my pastor.

During an 2010 interview, rather than the details on the status of Bishop Long,  what I heard was a very “transparent” Don Lemon disclose on national TV that he was the victim of abuse.    The unusual disclosure is archived on YouTube.Don-Lemonfreezeframe

“I probably wouldn’t have addressed the whole issue of my own experience with childhood sexual abuse during the context of the news story, but the accusations against Bishop Eddie Long, and the things the members of his congregation said in his defense, triggered me, ” Lemon wrote.

Looking for Disclosure

As Don Lemon talks to the University of Alabama community tonight at 6 p.m. at the Ferguson Theater,  we’re looking for disclosures that reveal a truly transparent journalist.

More than a decade after anchoring the news here in Alabama, when he probably covered at least one story here in Tuscaloosa,  Don Lemon returns today with a much higher profile.

The timing of the Emmy award-winning author and anchor’s visit could not have been better as the University marks the 50th anniversary of its welcoming its first black students.

As for me, I hope not only to hear a great presentation, but GET my copy of TRANSPARENT autographed.

Allison Stoutland Shares Story That Inspires Me To Write, Speak, Do What I Do

Allison Stoutland sowed seeds of wisdom in the lives of those who heard her address at the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference at The University of Alabama Tuesday.

In the course of a year, I hear a lot of speeches at conferences, workshops and meetings.

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Allison Stoutland has published several children’s books and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Ala. where her husband, Jeff, serves as the offensive line coach for the 2012 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Few can compare to the address today by Allison Stoutland, a children’s book author and coach’s wife, who spoke at the Doing What Matters Conference For Alabama’s Children Conference at The University of Alabama.

“I’m just a stressed-out mom,” Stoutland, told the nearly 400 people assembled in Sellers Auditorium. ” I can’t believe I’m up here speaking with people.  I’m totally shy.”

Continue reading “Allison Stoutland Shares Story That Inspires Me To Write, Speak, Do What I Do”

Alabama Football Coach’s Wife To Tell Her Story At Children’s Conference Tuesday

Allison Jo Stoutland, children’s book author and wife of Alabama Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland, will speak Tuesday at the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Terry Saban, wife of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban,  isn’t the only football coach’s wife making the headlines these days.

Allison Jo StoutlandOn Tuesday, I’ll get a chance to hear Allison Jo Stoutland tell her story at the “Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children” Conference.

Stoutland is Crimson Tide Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland’s better half.

I was just looking over the line-up for Tuesday’s event and discovered an unfamiliar name.

I’m like ‘Who’s Allison Stoutland?’  Why is she on the conference program with State School Superintendent Tommy Bice?

Turns out Stoutland had beenfeatured in TUSCALOOSA Magazine for her work as a children’s author and co-owner of Inch-by-Inch Publications.

She’s author of  The Sad Flower.

Like my mother, Sallie Daniels, Stoutland has taught kindergarten.  Her Twitter profile says she’s also a dog owner, baker and gardner.

While I don’t have children yet,  I certainly want to find out more about this local celebrity writer, who’s connected to our University of Alabama campus.    Perhaps she has some wisdom for future parents like me.

Stoutland is set to give her talk at the Bryant Conference Center Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.

WVUA Video of University of Alabama Students At Bama Belle Crossed Way Over Ethical Line

A WVUA YouTube Video showing distraught, emotional University of Alabama students after Charles Edward Jones fell overboard Thursday from The Bama Belle violated the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics code, which requires journalists to minimize harm.

This is a still image taken from the questionable WVUA video that showed the crying students as they exited the Bama Belle, shortly after Charles Edward Jones, III apparently fell overboard.

A WVUA-TV video clip posted on YouTube showing emotional University of Alabama students as they left The Bama Belle Thursday night after one of their own fell overboard went far beyond reporting the news and has sparked outrage among those on social media.

The body of Charles Edward Jones,III known by friends as “Tre,” was found Friday afternoon following hours of searching Tuscaloosa’s Black Warrior River.

Jones, an engineering major from Demopolis, Ala.  had been attending a Delta Sigma Theta party Thursday on board The Bama Belle, a riverboat along The Black Warrior River that’s become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions since it started offering public cruises in 2001.

While the investigation into Jones’ tragic death continues and family and friends prepare to remember him at an April 11th memorial service,  we must call attention to a journalism mis-step that makes all of those covering this story look bad.

Continue reading “WVUA Video of University of Alabama Students At Bama Belle Crossed Way Over Ethical Line”