ATHENS, Ga. – “Watchdog, lapdog, hunting dog or kennel dog? The press in America is at a crossroads,” according to award-winning journalist and commentator Hodding Carter III, who will deliver the 25th Ralph McGill Lecture at the University of Georgia.
Carter said his lecture, “Who Speaks for the People,” will explore the state of journalism today and offer ideas for the future. He will speak at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 14, in room 101 of UGA’s Student Learning Center.
“The disconnect between the government and people, between the rich and the nonrich, grows ever larger,” Carter said. “It is past time that those who practice journalism in this country recommit themselves to the old notion that their task is to speak truth to power, not power’s truth.”
Now president and chief executive officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Carter’s roots are in the newspaper business. His father was the publisher and editor of the Greenville, Miss., Delta Democrat-Times, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for its editorials on racial and religious tolerance.
Carter graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1957 and served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1959, he returned to Mississippi where he spent nearly 18 years as a reporter and editorial writer, managing editor and editor and associate publisher of the family-owned newspaper.
During those 18 years, he interrupted his newspaper career to complete a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University and to join the presidential campaigns of Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. In June 1977, he became spokesman for the U.S. Department of State and assistant secretary of state for public affairs, most notably during the Iran hostage crisis.
He was a frequent correspondent for the PBS documentary series Frontline during the early 1990s. He won four national Emmy Awards in the 1980s and the Edward R. Murrow Award for his public affairs television documentaries produced for the Inside Story media criticism series.
He was a regular panelist on This Week with David Brinkley and has served as host, anchor, panelist, correspondent and reporter for a variety of other public affairs television shows on PBS, ABC, CBS, BBC and CNN.
Carter was a Washington-based opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal for 10 years, and has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post and many other publications. He served as president and later chairman of MainStreet, a TV production company that specialized in public affairs television.
He is a member of the editorial board of Southern Cultures and a longtime U.S. contributor to World Paper. Carter has written two books, “The Reagan Years” and “The South Strikes Back,” and contributed to seven others.
Sponsored by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the McGill Lecture series commemorates the life of the late Ralph McGill, former editor and publisher of The Atlanta Constitution. McGill was regarded as “the conscience of the South,” using the paper’s editorial pages to challenge segregation in the 1950s and 1960s. Speakers in the commemorative series address major issues in the American press and meet with students and members of the university community.
Previous McGill lecturers include White House correspondent Helen Thomas, Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford and the Washington Post’s Publisher Katharine Graham.
The Knight Foundation, with assets exceeding $1 billion, is one of the country’s 25 largest private foundations. Its grant-giving focuses on journalism, arts and culture and education programs, and in communities where the company, founded by brothers John and James Knight, publishes newspapers.
Established in 1915, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication provides seven undergraduate majors: advertising, broadcast news, magazines, newspapers, public relations, publication management and telecommunication arts. The college offers three graduate degrees and is home to the Peabody Awards, one of the premier award programs in broadcasting.