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Overby Center spring lineup includes visit by Shepard Smith, latest Silver Em recipient

Posted on: February 11th, 2020 by ldrucker

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi has announced its spring lineup of programs, including one of the first public appearances by Shepard Smith since he stepped down as the chief anchor of Fox News.

Smith, a Mississippi native, was also managing editor of Fox’s breaking news division. Besides his appearance at the Overby Center, Smith will be returning to his alma mater to receive the prestigious Silver Em award, which is given by the School of Journalism and New Media to a Mississippi-connected journalist whose career has exhibited “the highest tenets of honorable, public service journalism, inside or outside the state.”

Shepard Smith

Ole Miss alumnus Shepard Smith hosting FOX Report live from the Grove

“This spring’s programs offer great conversations with and about nationally recognized experts,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center. “The audience will also have an opportunity to join these conversations.”

Each event will take place in the Overby Center Auditorium at 555 Grove Loop. The programs are free and open to the public, and parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the auditorium. The spring schedule includes:

Tuesday, February 18, 5:30 p.m. – THE INTERSECTION OF RELIGION AND POLITICS
Two nationally known journalists will discuss religion and the 2020 presidential election with Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center.  Terry Mattingly, an Overby fellow and editor of the daily blog GetReligion, and Richard Ostling, former chief religion writer for The Associated Press and former senior correspondent for Time Magazine, have written extensively about religion.

Wednesday, February 26, 5:30 p.m. – “ROBERT PENN WARREN: A VISION”
This documentary by the award-winning filmmaker Tom Thurman offers compelling insight into the life of the acclaimed writer Robert Penn Warren, whose novel “All the King’s Men” is considered one of the great dissections of Southern politics.

Tom Thurman

Tom Thurman

Thurman, a veteran filmmaker who has produced documentaries on director Sam Peckinpah, actor Harry Dean Stanton and writer Harry Crews, probes his fellow Kentuckian’s life, work, and evolution on race. Journalism Professor Joe Atkins will lead a discussion with Thurman after the film.

Wednesday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. – GENEVA OVERHOLSER: JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY IN CRISIS

A former editor of the Des Moines Register and now a consultant who writes about the future of journalism, Overholser will discuss how journalists are helping — and hindering – the profession’s role in democracy.

Overholser, who served as an ombudsman with The Washington Post, will be interviewed by Charles Overby and Greg Brock, an Overby fellow. Politics is certain to be part of the conversation since the program comes the day after Super Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 24, 5:30 p.m. – “JOSEPH PULITZER: VOICE OF THE PEOPLE”
Today’s threats to press freedom would be nothing new to Joseph Pulitzer, a leading figure in journalism, who spoke of “fake news” and warned more than 100 years ago that suppression of news threatened our democracy. One of the producers of the documentary, Robert Seidman, will discuss his project for PBS with Overby fellow Curtis Wilkie.Tuesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m. – SHEPARD SMITH COMES HOME

In one of his first public appearances since leaving Fox News, Shepard Smith returns to Ole Miss, his alma mater, and his home state of Mississippi to talk about his career in broadcast journalism in a conversation with Overby and Wilkie. Smith joined the network at its inception in 1996 and is known for his former role as the chief anchor and managing editor of the breaking news division.

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Shepard Smith speaks with students and Dean Will Norton, Jr. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Tuesday, April 7, 5:30 p.m. – ROBERT KENNEDY’S 1966 VISIT TO OLE MISS
The documentary “You Asked for the Facts” traces Robert F. Kennedy’s dramatic appearance at Ole Miss after law school students invited him to speak in hopes that it would derail former Gov. Ross Barnett’s drive to be elected again. It did, after Kennedy revealed details of the deals Barnett tried to cut with the Justice Department during the James Meredith crisis in 1962. Noted civil rights lawyer Barbara Phillips and a lecturer at Ole Miss’s law school, will discuss the film with the producer, Mary Blessey.

Overby Center program asks: Are Centrist Politics Doomed?

Posted on: March 28th, 2019 by ldrucker

At a time when American politics seem hopelessly polarized, a pair of prominent figures from the two major parties discussed the prospects for more centrist views at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics’ program in April.

Stuart Stevens, a native Mississippian who managed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, and David Baria, a Democratic leader in the Mississippi legislature, were guests in a conversation that included Charles Overby, the chairman of the center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie. Both Overby and Wilkie have long experience covering national politics as journalists.

The event was held in the Overby Center Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. Like all Overby programs, was free and open to the public.

The program represents a return engagement to the Overby Center for Stevens, who has previously appeared to comment on American politics and to talk about his book, “The Last Season,” in which he wrote of accompanying his aging father to a complete season of Ole Miss football. Though a major player in national Republican circles, Stevens has become a fierce critic of President Donald Trump and his style of divisive politics.

During his tenure in the Mississippi House of Representatives, Baria, an attorney with offices in Jackson and the Gulf Coast, has become one of the Democratic Party’s most respected members in the legislature. Last year he served as the party’s nominee in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Roger Wicker.

Overby Center Spring 2019: Journalism and politics during election year in Mississippi

Posted on: January 28th, 2019 by ldrucker

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss begins its spring schedule next week with a lineup that accentuates politics and decision-making for an election year in Mississippi.

“Our programs feature a nationally known federal judge who grew up in Mississippi, journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post, authors and political experts,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center. “The programs offer a rich opportunity for conversations between the panelists the audiences on a broad array of subjects.”

Each event will take place in the Overby Center Auditorium. The programs are free and open to the public, and parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the auditorium. The schedule includes:

Read more descriptions of upcoming Overby events below the graphic.

Monday, Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m. – INSIGHT INTO MISSISSIPPI’S ELECTION YEAR

Two seasoned journalists who cover state politics – Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press and Adam Ganucheau of Mississippi Today –will provide early intelligence on the developing contests for statewide offices this year. They will talk with Overby and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.

Monday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. – A PIONEER OF THE BLACK PRESS

Burnis Morris, an Ole Miss graduate who is now a journalism professor at Marshall University, returns to campus to discuss his new book based on the work of Carter G. Woodson, who was called the “Father of Black History.” He will be joined in the conversation by Alysia Steele, the author of “Delta Jewels” and a member of the journalism faculty at Ole Miss.

Wednesday, March 20, 5:30 pm. – THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKE NEWS

The chief media columnists for The New York Times and The Washington Post will weigh in on the fake news phenomenon and how it is not only undercutting a civil discourse in the country, but is also striking at the heart of our democracy. Margaret Sullivan of The Post (the former public editor of The New York Times) and Jim Rutenberg of The Times, a long-time political reporter, head up a panel on this issue that has gone from a funny catch phrase to a crucial challenge for covering the news. They will talk with Overby and Overby Fellow Greg Brock.

Wednesday, April 3, 5:30 p.m. – “THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD”

Yeats coined the term 100 years ago in his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” but the expression applies today in the nation’s bitterly divided politics. Stuart Stevens, a Mississippi native and architect of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and David Baria, a Democratic candidate for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats last fall, will talk about the dilemma with Overby and Wilkie.

Wednesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m. – OVERCOMING A SEGREGATIONIST PAST

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco and attorney Danny Cupit of Jackson were white high school and college friends in the segregated environment of Mississippi in the 1960s. Alsup has written a book, “Won Over,” about how he broke through the segregationist status quo to become a civil rights advocate. He and Cupit will talk with Overby and Wilkie about their experiences.

National politics and Mississippi’s senate runoff analyzed

Posted on: November 12th, 2018 by ldrucker

Two veterans of Mississippi’s politics — a Republican and a Democrat  reviewed the results of the Nov. 6 election and offered commentary on the extraordinary runoff for a U.S. Senate seat during the final program of the fall season at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Austin Barbour, who held prominent roles in past Senate campaigns of Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, joined Brandon Jones, a former member of the state House of Representatives and co-founder of the Mississippi Democratic Trust, in an hour-long discussion with two former national political reporters, Charles Overby, chairman of the center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.

A focus of the program was the Nov. 27 runoff between Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican appointed to fill a seat vacated by Cochran’s resignation, and Mike Espy, a former Democratic congressman from Mississippian who served as President Clinton’s secretary of agriculture. Hyde-Smith and Espy both won more than 40 percent of the votes in the midterm election, but because neither topped 50 percent, it triggered a rare runoff to determine who would take the remaining two years of Cochran’s term.

The panel also discussed the state of politics in the rest of the country and what the mid-term elections will mean to the 2020 presidential campaign.

“The end of the midterm elections signals the beginning of the presidential race,” said Overby before the event. “We will talk about the ramifications of the midterms in Mississippi and beyond.”

Barbour comes from a First Family of Republicans in the state. His father, Jeppie Barbour, became one of the first members of the GOP to serve as a mayor in Mississippi when he was elected to the post in Yazoo City nearly 50 years ago. Former Gov. Haley Barbour is Austin’s uncle. As a result, Barbour has worked in and around campaigns all his life.

He is managing partner of the Clearwater Group, a regional public affairs firm in Jackson, and also a partner in Strategic Partners & Media, a national advertising group based in Annapolis, Maryland.

Jones is an attorney with Baria-Jones, a law firm with offices in Jackson and Bay St. Louis. (His partner, David Baria, ran unsuccessfully against Wicker for the other U.S. Senate seat at stake this month.)

Jones has also worked as an advisor for Democratic candidates in a number of other state and local campaigns in Mississippi.

Janet Brown, director of presidential debates, speaks at Overby Center

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by ldrucker

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates who was instrumental in bringing the first 2008 debate to the Ole Miss campus, was the featured guest in a discussion Tuesday, April 10, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics about the merits of holding the high-stakes political confrontation.

The program was the fifth of the spring season at the Overby Center. All Overby Center functions are free and open to the public.

Brown served as a guest lecturer for two weeks at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, but she has a longer history with Mississippi and the university. Her grandparents were residents of Como, and she has frequently visited the state.

Ten years ago, she was the key force behind the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, a dramatic moment during the campaign when McCain, the Republican nominee, threatened to pull out of the encounter in order to pay more attention to an economic crisis.

She spoke about her experiences over the past 30 years as head of the non-partisan commission and her thoughts about the value of presidential debates in a discussion with Charles Overby, chairman of the center, Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who is teaching the Honors College class on presidential debates with Brown, and Tom Oliphant, a former political columnist for The Boston Globe. As journalists, Overby, Wilkie and Oliphant covered many of the debates after they became a regular practice in 1976.

“Janet is the country’s presidential debate czar,” said Overby. “She has overseen the evolution of the debates. She knows the inside stories of these historical events.”

The Overby Center season will conclude April 17 with an appearance by Tucker Carrington, director of the Innocence Project at the Ole Miss law school, and Radley Balko, an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. Carrington and Balko are authors of a new book, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist,” an exposé about misbehavior by Mississippi officials which led to the convictions of innocent defendants.