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African American columnists to discuss how press handles racial issues

STANFORD -- A group of leading African American newspaper columnists will discuss how the media handle racial issues at a public symposium at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, in Cubberley Auditorium.

The symposium, which will be moderated by Stanford alumnus and Harvard law Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., is free and open to the public.

It will be the only public session of the three-day annual meeting of the Trotter Group, an organization of African American columnists. The columnists will meet privately with some Stanford faculty members, as well as with African American students and John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellows. The Knight Fellowships Program is sponsoring the meeting.

The group is named for Monroe Trotter, editor of the Guardian newspaper and an influential black journalist in the early 20th century. In 1914, Trotter challenged President Woodrow Wilson's reticence to eliminate segregation in a face-to-face argument that made Page 1 of the New York Times. The mainstream white press criticized Trotter for what one newspaper called “superabundant untactful belligerency,” but W.E.B. DuBois praised Trotter for his fearlessness, and editor and author Oswald Garrison Villard said, “One has to be rude to get into the press and do good with a just cause.”

The first meeting of the Trotter Group was held in 1992 at Harvard. USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham said two developments spurred that first meeting. One was the horrendous - and largely unreported - conditions under which Haitian refugees were being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The other was the election of Bill Clinton, which raised the possibility that new attention would be focused on black America.

“We wanted to do what we could to insure that the voices of black columnists would speak the loudest in the debates that would surely follow such a turn of events,” Wickham said.

The group's second meeting was held last year at the University of Michigan.

Among the columnists expected to attend the meeting are Donna Britt of the Washington Post, Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe, Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post, Lorraine Montre of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Les Payne of Newsday and Brenda Payton of the Oakland Tribune.


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