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Kerner Report: 50 Years Later

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Sherri Williams, PhD
Sherri Williams, assistant professor of race, media and communication.

The Kerner report, commissioned by the government in 1968, studied the causes of deadly riots in American cities. It indicted the media for enabling racism and rebellion to flourish through neglect and distorted reporting on Black America as one of the contributing injustices. Understanding that race and media relations have only become more complex since the original commissioning of the report, American University School of Communication is (AU SOC) hosting The Kerner Report - 50 Years Later, a panel of journalists to discuss the importance of the Kerner Report in both a historical and contemporary context. The event will examine how behaviors implicated in the report continue to be perpetuated by the media today.

To enhance the discussion, AU will be welcoming several experts in the field to share their insights about the broader implications of this historical report and what it means in the media today. Panelists to include: Richard Prince - a Washington Post reporter hired in 1968 (the same year the Kerner Report was released) and publisher of Journal-isms, Hannah Allam - BuzzFeed News reporter covering Muslim life in America, Johnetta Elzie - a renowned citizen journalist and Ferguson protester, and Carolyn M. Byerly, Ph.D., Professor at Howard University. Dr. Sherri Williams, SOC Race, Media & Communications Professor will moderate.

SOC's Investigative Reporting Workshop is working to change the media narrative through in-depth projects that can expose the inequality and injustice that still exists throughout our criminal justice system and society at large. A practicum course, led by SOC professor and IRW senior editor John Sullivan, which embeds graduate students with experienced professional reporters and editors at the Washington Post, has produced several reports holding government and corporations to account, including a national investigation that documented more than twice the number of deadly shootings by police than were recorded on average annually by the FBI.

Uneven Justice, an exhaustive review of civil suits related to police killings, was part of a package including a database and series of stories exposing fatal police force won the Washington Post team, including graduate student Derek Hawkins, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting as well as the 2015 George Polk Award for National Reporting.

The Kerner Report- 50 Years Later will be held on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 6:30pm in The Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater, McKinley Building. This event is Co-Sponsored by the School of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Public Affairs, Office of Campus Life, Center for Media & Social Impact, and SOC Diversity Committee.

More details on the SOC calendar.