Center for American Progress

: The Civil Rights Movement: Personal Recollections of the Journalists Who Were There
Past Event

The Civil Rights Movement: Personal Recollections of the Journalists Who Were There

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

The Civil Rights Movement: Personal Recollections of the Journalists Who Were There


Chuck Conconi, former journalist, The Washington Post; Editor-at-Large, Washingtonian Magazine

Jack Nelson, former journalist, Los Angeles Times

Barbara Reynolds, former Columnist, USA Today; reporter, Chicago Tribune

Carl Stern, former journalist, NBC News; J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

Helen Thomas, former UPI White House Correspondent; Columnist, Hearst Newspapers

Moderated by:
Mark Lloyd, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

What were the experiences of journalists who covered the civil rights movement? In celebration of Black History Month, the Center for American Progress will examine the press coverage of the civil rights era as an influential agent of change. Is the civil rights movement an example of how media coverage is crucial for the progressive movement’s success? Our distinguished panelists will share their personal recollections as recorders of one of the most crucial moments in our country’s history. They will address how the media has changed since the civil rights era and what this means for people struggling towards equal rights now. The panelists will also tackle media accountability and how lessons from the past apply to today’s radically different media environment.



Note: All video provided in  QuickTime (MPEG-4)  format.

Full event transcript (PDF)


Friday, February 24, 2006
Program: 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Lunch will be served at 12:00 PM.
Admission is free.

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Chuck Conconi is a veteran journalist with more than 40 years of experience in television, radio and print journalism. Conconi recently joined Qorvis as Senior Counselor from The Washingtonian, where he worked 14 years as Editor-at-Large, responsible for the front of the magazine, “Capital Comment.” Prior to his tenure at The Washingtonian, he spent nearly 13 years at The Washington Post , contributing to both the “Style” section and the daily “Personalities” column. He has appeared on CNN International and in a number of foreign locations including Italy, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, Spain, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France, Germany and Austria. Conconi originally came to Washington to work for the Evening Star, where he covered the District Building and the civil rights movement, including the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the “Poor People’s Campaign.” Conconci has also served as Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson’s press secretary. Conconi has co-written two books – “The Energy Balloon” and “The Washington Sting.” Conconi attended Kent State University and earned a master’s degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Jack Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, worked for The Los Angeles Times for 37 years, including 22 years as Washington Bureau Chief. Born and raised in the South, he began his career on the Biloxi, Miss. Daily Herald and later was a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution before opening the Times’ Atlanta Bureau in 1965. He covered politics and the civil rights movement from 1965 until 1970, when he joined the Times’ Washington Bureau. He has authored or co-authored five books, including two stemming from his civil rights coverage: The Orangeburg Massacre and Terror in the Night: The Klan’s Campaign Against the Jews. In 1987 he chaired a two-day University of Mississippi symposium on media coverage of the the civil rights movement that C-SPAN broadcast nationwide. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, awarded in 1960 for exposing malpractice and other corruption at Milledgeville (Ga.) State Hospital, he has won a number of other national journalism awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy award for lifetime achievement and the Drew Pearson award for investigative reporting. Nelson studied economics at George State College and attended Harvard University twice under fellowships–in 1961-62 under the Nieman program and in 2003 as a Shorenstein Fellow. Since retiring he also has taught journalism as an adjunct professor for Northwestern and Southern California universities.

Barbara Reynolds is an ordained minister and an Adjunct Professor at the Howard University School of Divinity and author of several books including No I Won’t Shut Up, with a foreword by Mrs. King. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Barbara Reynolds began her journalism career after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1966. Although she had been told by a college professor that she would “not make it as a journalist” because she was a “Negro woman,” Reynolds refused to accept his negative description of her future and began a successful journey in the world of journalism. Her first reporting job out of college was for the Columbus Call & Post, a black-owned newspaper, and in 1968, she landed her first job with a metropolitan daily newspaper, the now-defunct Cleveland Press. That same year, she became assistant editor of Ebony magazine. Reynolds wrote numerous freelance articles for a variety of major magazines including Essence, The New Republic, Encore and The Black Family. While in Chicago, Reynolds co-founded Dollars & Sense magazine, a progressive periodical for black professionals that now has a circulation of more than 300,000. While in Chicago, Reynolds taught at Columbia College and was a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1975, Reynolds wrote the award-winning biography of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson: The Man, The Movement and The Myth. In 1976 she became the second black woman in history to win a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University and studied constitutional law while there. Reynolds later moved to the nation’s capital where she became a Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, covering the federal agencies, the White House and President Jimmy Carter and his urban policies. In 1988, Reynolds authored And Still We Rise, a book that showcases up-close-and-personal interviews with 50 black role models.

Carl Stern joined the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs faculty in 1996 as the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs. Stern was a 30-year veteran journalist for NBC News and former public affairs director for the U.S. Department of Justice. For 26 years, he was NBC’s reporting authority on the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Department. Stern has won many awards throughout his distinguished career, including a Peabody Award for radio and meritorious service to broadcasting. In 1975, he won the Emmy Ted Yates Award and in 1974 he was nominated for two Emmys for Outstanding Network TV Broadcaster and Outstanding Achievement TV News Specials. Stern’s background and experience in media law, Supreme Court decisions, and broadcasting fills a special Washington-based reporting niche within the SMPA curriculum.

Helen Thomas is a trailblazer, breaking through barriers for women reporters while covering every President since John F. Kennedy. Commonly referred to as “The First Lady of the Press,” Thomas formerly served as the White House Bureau Chief. For 57 years, Helen also served as White House Correspondent for United Press International. She recently left this post and joined Hearst Newspapers as a syndicated columnist. Born in Winchester, Kentucky, Helen Thomas was raised in Detroit, Michigan where she attended public schools and later graduated from Wayne State University. Upon leaving college, Helen served as a copy girl on the old, now defunct Washington Daily News. In 1943, Ms. Thomas joined United Press International and the Washington Press Corps. For 12 years, Helen wrote radio news for UPI. Eventually she covered the news of the Federal government, including the FBI and Capitol Hill. In November, 1960, Helen Thomas began covering then President-elect John F. Kennedy, following him to the White House in January 1961 as a member of the UPI team. It was during this first White House assignment that Thomas began closing presidential press conferences with “Thank you, Mr. President.” In September 1971, Pat Nixon scooped Helen by announcing her engagement to Associated Press’ retiring White House correspondent, Douglas B. Cornell, at a White House party hosted by then President Nixon in honor of Cornell. Thomas was the only woman print journalist traveling with then President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip in January 1972. She has the distinction of having traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, during the course of which she covered every Economic Summit. The World Almanac has cited her as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America. Helen Thomas has written three books, including her latest, Thanks for the Memories Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House.

Mark Lloyd is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on communications policy issues, including universal service, advanced telecommunications deployment, media concentration and diversity. From the fall of 2002 until the summer of 2004, Mr. Lloyd was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught communications policy and wrote and conducted research on the relationship between communications policy and strong democratic communities. He also served as the Executive Director of the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan project he co-founded in 1997 to bring civil rights principles and advocacy to the communications policy debate. He also has nearly 20 years of experience as a print and broadcast journalist, including work as a reporter and producer at NBC and CNN, and is the recipient of several awards including an Emmy and a Cine Golden Eagle. He has served on the boards of directors of dozens of national and local organizations, including the Independent Television Service, OMB Watch, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. He has also served as a consultant to the Clinton White House, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute and the Smithsonian Institution. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center.