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Rev. Jesse Jackson adds voice to 2012 Schuneman Symposium

Alex Koumas, Erin Roberts | Apr 12, 2012

Rev. Jesse Jackson adds voice to 2012 Schuneman Symposium

Annual conference explores news media effect on social movements

By Alex Koumas, ak289507@ohio.edu and Erin Roberts, roberte1@ohio.edu

ATHENS, Ohio (April 12, 2012) – On Wednesday, April 11, in the Baker Ballroom, Rev. Jesse Jackson drew parallels between some of the Civil Rights events he experienced firsthand in the 1960s and the current event of an unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman in Miami, Fla., during the Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media.

“He is the mailman when we should be focusing on the post office,” Jackson said about shooter George Zimmerman, after being alerted by his phone that Zimmerman had been arrested just twenty minutes into the session.

Jackson’s address “From the Other Side of Lens” with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Clarence Page was part of the 2012 Schuneman Symposium titled “Impact: Words and Pictures That Matter,” which explored how social movements are shaped by the news media.

“Rev. Jackson is very closely associated with a major social movement in this nation, and he’s also worked in and with the media for much of his career,” said Dr. Bob Stewart, the director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. “This makes him uniquely qualified to reflect on the impact that media have in shaping movements such as the Civil Rights movement.”

Jackson is currently the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. For more than 40 years, Jackson has played a vital part in virtually every movement related to empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. Jackson worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the time of the Civil Rights Movement.

Page, a 1969 Ohio University graduate and winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, also spoke earlier in the day. He is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services, and a member of The Chicago Tribune editorial board. Page covered the Civil Rights Movement during the time that Jackson worked with Dr. King.

Throughout the closing address, Jackson and Page engaged in an intimate and interactive conversation centered around Jackson’s work for the Civil Rights Movement, his outlook on how politics have changed in America, and how media shapes public views on national and global issues.

“If we wouldn’t have marched in the summer and the cameras were not present to see the dogs biting, we would not have had our message,” Jackson explains regarding how the media exposed helped to expose the truth regarding the Civil Rights Movement. “Without the dogs being filmed, we could not have gotten our message out.”

Although Jackson began influencing Americans long before the current students at Ohio University were born, a large portion of attendees were members of the student body.

“Whenever a public figure comes to Ohio University, I think it’s extremely important to make the most out of it, and to hear what they have to say,” said Rachel Csaszar, a senior studying public relations. “Rev. Jesse Jackson was speaking about civil rights, and those issues are still relevant today. Who better to learn from about that than someone who spent time with Martin Luther King, Jr.? It was an amazing experience.”

The annual symposium is made possible by Ohio University alumni Smith “Smitty” and Pat Schuneman. The couple gave a generous $495,000 gift to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in order to establish an annual conference that explores the changing face of new media.

“We are both graduates of Ohio University and wanted to make a gift that we could see realized,” Smitty Schuneman stated in 2009. “We wanted to bring in globally significant communication leaders to help these students understand and perform for this future they will help shape.”

Other presenters at this year’s symposium included renowned photographer Paul Fusco, BFA ’57; journalist Laura Flanders; and magazine journalist Will Hopkins. For more information about the event, visit http://www.scrippsjschool.org/2012.php.