The Race Beat

Writers who moved the nation

“A rogue Klansman knocked on our door at a motel in Louisiana … [and] cordially invited us to a cow pasture across the road in Mississippi,” said Gene Roberts at a lecture last week, recalling one of many experiences covering issues of race during the 1950s and 1960s.
Under the impression that they were invited to “get the story straight” about the Klan, Roberts and his colleagues ventured out to that Mississippi field. The demonstration they witnessed soon turned so derogatory and threatening that the reporters needed to be escorted out by a V-shaped blockade of robed Klansmen.
Roberts was on campus Feb. 21 to speak about his book, The Race Beat: The Press, The Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation with co-author Hank Klibanoff. The book, a 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner, explains the media’s coverage of the civil rights struggle and includes personal anecdotes from Klibanoff and Roberts, career journalists who covered many of stories about race before and during the civil rights movement.
Roberts, a native of North Carolina, said he came up with survival techniques that included “speaking Southern” to blend in and imitating FBI agents, to help himself “stay alive” when covering charged mob scenes, like the Klan meeting.
“Often, we don’t recognize that the status quo is a problem, and have more difficulty covering that than we do in covering change,” Roberts said of why the press was at first reluctant to explore the race issue. With the increasing prominence of television coverage and a more pronounced media presence in the South, America started to listen.
Roberts, now a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, worked as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, and The New York Times before becoming the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times. “Gene was part of a time when The New York Times had an enormous influence,” Klibanoff said of Roberts’ reporting on race. “It moved the nation.”
Klibanoff reported for the Boston Globe and worked as an editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 20 years. He is now the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. By Julia Osellame ’09

Sports shorts

Women’s squash | Repeat champions
Princeton’s Emery Maine ’10 dominated the last two games in a 3-1 win over Penn’s Tara Chawla to seal the Princeton’s second consecutive title at the Howe Cup, the sport’s national collegiate championship, at Jadwin Gym Feb. 24. The top-ranked Quakers were a perfect 15-0 entering the match, but the No. 2 Tigers prevailed, 6-3, thanks to strong performances in the middle of the lineup.

Men’s hockey | No goal, but still a win
Late in the second period of Princeton’s men’s hockey game against Cornell Feb. 23, Cam MacIntyre ’10 ripped a rebound into the back of the net for an apparent goal that would have put the Tigers up 3-1. But the puck popped out of the net as quickly as it entered, and the officials and goal judge did not register the score. Cornell, looking to capitalize, opened the third period with a barrage of shots, but Princeton held firm, thanks largely to goalie Zane Kalemba ’10. “If you didn’t look at the fans and didn’t look at the score, you’d think that he was playing a noontime hockey [pick-up] game,” coach Guy Gadowsky said of his poised netminder. “He has such a calming effect.”
Princeton held on for a 2-1 win, locking up a first-round bye in the ECAC Hockey playoffs. Gadowsky, who had argued for MacIntyre’s goal, would not comment on the call after the game, other than to say he was glad it wasn’t a factor in the final outcome.

Women’s basketball | Cowher nears 1,600 points
Basketball star Meagan Cowher ’08 could become the fourth Princeton woman to reach 1,600 points when she plays the final two home games of her career this weekend against Brown (Feb. 29) and Yale (March 1). With five games left on the schedule, Cowher also has an outside shot of becoming Princeton’s all-time scoring leader. She needs 23.6 points per game – 6.6 points more than her season average – to tie Sandi Bittler ’90′s total of 1,683 points.

Oscar-worthy Tigers: Answers to the Feb. 20 Weekly Blog Quiz

Congratulations are in order for four Princetonians: Ethan Coen ’79, Todd Wider ’86, and Jedd Wider ’89, whose films won Oscars on Feb. 24; and Anthony Cerminaro ’76, who correctly identified all six films from last week’s Oscar quiz. The answers were: 1. Scent of a Woman; 2. The Philadelphia Story; 3. Cyrano de Bergerac; 4. A Beautiful Mind; 5. M*A*S*H; Bonus: Alice Adams.