Integration lets candidate give back

Emily Andrews

Alice Bonner’s school became integrated 10 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education case made school segregation illegal.

This action gave her the opportunity to have a teacher who made her want to be a journalist. Now, she is an advocate for scholastic journalism.

Alice Bonner, candidate for the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, gave the fourth and final lecture of the “First Amendment at Risk: Free Speech in Today’s Schools” series.

She titled her lecture, “So long as they know they have a voice,” based on a saying she found in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s high school research initiative, she said.

“In the last throes of childhood, there is an opportunity as long as they know they have a voice,” Bonner said.

Bonner said some of her heroes in scholastic journalism are Wendy Copp, Ida B. Wells, Benjamin Franklin and Mary Beth Tinker. She gave examples of how in their youth, they made a difference in scholastic journalism.

She talked about Tinker, who wore an armband to school to protest the Vietnam War. She took her case to court and won.

She posed the question: If Tinker hadn’t done so, would Vietnam War protests have been the same?

Bonner said she has high hopes despite Knight Foundation results that students do not know the First Amendment.

“We may take two steps forward and one step back,” Bonner said. “But over the long hall we are moving forward.

“The First Amendment is not fragile. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.”

Bonner was director of journalism education for the Freedom Forum, coordinator of news staff reporting for the Gannett Company, Inc. and has held various positions at The Washington Post.

She also helped with a book entitled Death by Cheeseburger: High School Journalism in the 1990s and Beyond.

“My forte is taking good ideas, guiding and helping shape the final concept,” she said.

The process to choose which candidate to appoint to the Knight Chair position is now underway.

“Each of the four candidates brings a different perspective, different set of knowledge and skills, and their outlook on scholastic journalism,” Max Grubb, assistant professor of journalism, said. “The future is important and we need to help develop the future of journalism and the future of democracy.”

The candidate chosen will enter final negotiations in April, said Barb Hipsman-Springer, search director for the Knight Endowed Chair.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Emily Andrews at [email protected].