Dr. Lee Thornton
Published on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 7:50pm
On February 8, 2012, in honor of Black History Month, the Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library was fortunate to host Dr. Lee Thornton, recently retired Richard Eaton chair in broadcast journalism and interim provost for equity and diversity at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Dr. Thornton presented a lecture entitled "Minorities in the Media: New Directions." Dr. Thornton's skill and professionalism were evident in the manner in which she recognized the intimate gathering and decided to present her presentation in a conversational style, rather than lecturing from the amplified podium. Her conversational style led to a more engaged interaction with the audience and this increased the affective dynamics of her articulation of personal experiences in the work place that impacted her career.
Dr. Thornton began her presentation with an overview that emphasized the important role of print journalism to the African American community, particularly its deep commitment to struggles for civil justice (from the Abolitionist press to the Black press coverage of the Civil Rights Movement). Until the late sixties there was hardly any minority presence in broadcast media. Hence, the Black print press was the dominant news media for the black community. This dichotomous structure of media institutions remained intact until the late sixties when a small number of minority journalist, such as Dr. Thornton, were hired by broadcast networks. Ironically, this relative integration of minorities into the hegemonic "mainstream" broadcast media also led to a transformation that ushered in the diminution of the African American press. Dr. Thornton's overview, though brief, was insightful. Following her overview, Dr. Thornton shared her experience working as Presidential correspondent, producer and host for major broadcast networks, such as CBS, CNN and NPR. Dr. Thornton proceeded in discussing the challenges and transformations brought on by new media. She spoke of her unease or ambivalence with the new media's propensity for surveillance and encroachment on privacy rights.
In closing, Dr. Thornton's presentation was engaging and informative. She was thoughtful and displayed openness to dialogue. Overall, I was impressed by her presentation, but most importantly, by her humility.
By Michael Shabaka Jones