Black newspaper columnists look at the next fours years

November 9, 2004

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press and DeWayne Wickham, USA Today.

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press and DeWayne Wickham, USA Today.

November 9, 2004 — The sixth conference of the Trotter Group was sponsored by the Shorenstein Center and held at Harvard immediately after the November election. Attendees discussed issues ranging from the “No Child Left Behind” policy, the threat of nuclear terrorism and the recent election, to concerns over growing rates of obesity.

While many of the panels focused on issues of race, broad social issues were explored, including women’s role in the election and the relationship between religion and politics. Thomas Patterson, Nolan Bowie, Graham Allison, Robert Blendon, Richard Parker, and John Kenneth Galbraith all spoke to the group.

A highlight of the conference was a panel discussion in the Forum on “The Next Four Years: Perspectives of Black Columnists.” The panel featured Donna Britt of the Washington Post, Joe Davidson of National Public Radio and Black Entertainment Television, Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe, Rochelle Riley of Detroit Free Press and Dewayne Wickham of USA Today and Gannett News Service. The panel was moderated by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School.

The panel was co-sponsored by the Shorenstein Center, the Harvard Black Men’s Forum, and the Kennedy School’s Black Student Caucus.

The Trotter Group was founded after Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign promise to provide political refuge to Haitians fleeing from military rule. Hopeful that a change in the administration would bring attention to the oft-ignored issues facing African-Americans, DeWayne Wickham of USA Today and the Gannet News Service, Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe, and Newsday‘s Les Payne gathered a group of African American journalists committed to airing issues affecting the black community. Together, they donned the name of the Trotter Group, honoring William Monroe Trotter, former editor of the Guardian. The first African-American to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College, Trotter is widely remembered for challenging President Woodrow Wilson’s policies on race.

Since the Trotter Group’s first meeting (held at Harvard in 1992), it has endeavored to prove that “the craft of journalism has a cadre of black columnists ‘who can and will think black.’ “