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Pioneering journalist to address industry’s future

By Billy O'Keefe

MICHELLE D. ANDERSON / The Working Press
Charlayne Hunter-Gault likes a newspaper in her hand.
“I like the way it feels and how it crinkles,” said Hunter-Gault, who also reads news on the Web.
The pioneering journalist will speak at the 2 p.m. Saturday super session about protecting journalism’s future.
“We can’t just let things just happen to us,” she said. “We need to be vigilant in our profession. This is a critical turning point. We need to be extremely conscious and extremely alert.”
These days, Hunter-Gault is working on independent projects. She produced a six-part series for National Public Radio this summer titled, “South Africa at a Crossroads.”
She has done work for TheRoot.com, a Washington Post Co. affiliated Web site serving news, culture and perspectives to African-Americans, and an article for Essence magazine on Sen. Barack Obama and the Civil Rights Movement legacy.
Hunter-Gault made civil rights history herself as the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Georgia in 1962. Since then, she has established herself as a sought after journalist and speaker.
In 1968, she began work at The New York Times as part of a pioneering group of black journalists to join the staff. For 14 years, she worked as the chief national correspondent for “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS. While based in Johannesburg, South Africa, she worked for CNN and NPR. During her time at PBS, Hunter-Gault published “In My Place,” a memoir about her childhood and young adulthood.
She has also worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker and Trans-Action magazines. She has earned several awards including two Emmys, a Peabody and the 1986 “Journalist of the Year” award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
Her second book, “New News Out of Africa,” is a memoir and an analysis. Despite media reports to the contrary, there is good news in Africa.
“A lot of people don’t understand the changes going on in Africa. I think a lot people see Africa through a prism of ‘The Four D’s, which is death, disaster, disease and despair,” she said.
Hunter-Gault says the industry needs more diversity and balanced coverage of world events.
The 66-year-old demonstrated her dedication to the industry by immersing herself in all things Africa, said Paul Delaney, former national correspondent and deputy national editor for The New York Times.
“We who see the work, the finished product, have no idea of what the demands are in this field. … It’s a big demand and I think she has met all of those demands successfully,” Delaney said.