Alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault accepted the DiGamma Kappa Broadcaster of the Year Award on campus Feb. 8, using the podium to talk optimistically about Africa and stoically about her time at UGA.
“I’ve been back to campus many times since I left—sometimes as a speaker, sometimes just to sneak around—but I’ve always enjoyed it, ” she said.
Hunter-Gault, the first black woman admitted to the university, talked to students and faculty about her role as a trailblazer, broadcaster and journalist.
Hunter-Gault’s triumphs at UGA and early career successes mirrored her optimism for Africa. Like Africa’s riches, hers also lay beneath a surface that many rejected. That didn’t stop her, she said, and won’t stop Africa.
“With the kind of resources in Africa’s rich earth, no African should be poor,” she said.
Her speech shone with the flourishes of broadcast journalism—gripping and detailed. Several time she reprised a line, “Fragile? Yes. Flawed? Yes,” to describe the emerging governments and progressive institutions in Africa.
A subtler struggle rages in the African media as more outlets begin to emerge under the fragile wings of new democracies, she said. Many journalists, disgusted with Western coverage of their countries’ crises, have begun to decry traditional media values.
“I would argue that they should not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater by rejecting the values of Western journalists even as they reject the work of those that don’t reflect their values,” she said.
A cure for this may lie with the new generation of journalists, she said, and charged students to carry on the tradition with a high caliber and uncompromising ethics.
“I worry that I don’t see much discussion of our core values. . .
I watch with interest the reports that younger people are turning away from traditional conveyances of news to ones that are more suited for their lifestyles. . . but I worry that I don’t see much discussion about the core values that have served our profession so well and how we hold onto those in whatever conveyances you choose,” she said.
“I hope you will work to ensure that just as Africans are working for a new future on their continent, we will work in our profession. . . with all of our core values, both at home and abroad.”
The award is given annually to a distinguished broadcast journalist. Past recipients include Bob Costas and the late Ed Bradley.