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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.