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College of Information and Communications

Investigative podcaster Al Letson to visit UofSC

Posted March 4, 2019
By Rebekah Friedman, communications manager

Drug addicts sent to work camps instead of rehab. Mortgage lending practices designed to discriminate against people of color. Immigrant children forcibly injected with psychiatric medications.

Al Letson has shed light on these issues and others like them as host of “Reveal,” the Center for Investigative Reporting’s award-winning podcast. He’ll dive deeper into the power of public service journalism as keynote speaker at the fifth biennial Media & Civil Rights History Symposium at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, March 8-9.

Now in its third season, “Reveal” is aired on more than 400 public radio stations nationwide and has racked up numerous journalism awards for its groundbreaking work enacting change through storytelling. Last year, the Online News Association named “Reveal” a finalist for best mid-sized online news organization in America; it also won the 2018 Knight Award for Public Service for its “All Work, No Pay” project. 

Letson isn’t new to the podcast scene. Prior to “Reveal,” the spoken-word poet garnered national attention as creator, host and executive producer of NPR’s “State of the Re:Union.” This documentary-style program, which aired from 2008 to 2015, examined a multitude of perspectives within a different American community in each episode.

In addition to his appearances at the symposium, Letson will provide a free public presentation on Friday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Richland Library’s main branch on Main Street in downtown Columbia.

His visit is co-sponsored by the university’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research as part of the “Justice for All” events series.

“Letson is a world-class, award-winning journalist and storyteller who uses a variety of methods to share news, profound analysis and provocative thought in today’s new media landscape,” said SJMC Professor Kenneth Campbell, director of the symposium. “As his work shows, today’s journalism is about much more than just sharing information in newspapers, news magazines and broadcast newscasts. Today’s journalism requires us to reach people through whatever means necessary to get their attention so we can all do our part to hold leaders accountable and promote economic and social justice in society.”

About the symposium

The Media & Civil Rights History Symposium brings together civil rights and media historians to share historical knowledge on the vital relationships between civil rights and various types of public communication, especially journalism. It is presented in partnership with the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, University Libraries, the African American Studies program and The History Center. 

This year, the SJMC will be teeming with more researchers than ever — in conjunction with the symposium, the school is also hosting the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications 2019 Southeast Colloquium.

Because of the influx of journalism educators, the SJMC will offer Google News Tool Training sessions on March 7 and 8 as part of the Society for Professional Journalists’ Google News Initiative. Symposium and colloquium attendees, including many from area historically black colleges and universities, will learn how to enhance their storytelling through cutting-edge techniques such as scraping data from the web and creating complex visualizations. Session participants will also learn updated fact-verification practices.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.