Joe Lawton

Tackling Tough Issues

While working as a television reporter in Hartford, Connecticut, in the mid-?90s, Keith Brown reported on half-a-dozen child abuse and neglect cases?all involving African American children. He knew it was important to report on these incidents, but he was concerned that the stories gave a skewed view of black parents.
      Brown?s own mother played an important role in preparing him for adulthood, and he feels the bond between African American sons and their mothers is especially important. ?Because of the position of black men in this country, it takes someone special to raise a black son to believe he can do anything he wants,? he says.
      To highlight this relationship, Brown wrote Sacred Bond: Black Men and Their Mothers (Little, Brown, and Co.). The book made several top-selling lists, including the Blackboard African American Bestsellers List, and ones compiled by Essence magazine and Black Entertainment Television. It also won the American Library Association?s Black Caucus 1999 nonfiction Honors Book Award.
      Pretty good for a first-time author. But Brown has had plenty of experience communicating with an audience. He is a producer of critically acclaimed television documentaries, including Blacks and Blue, an investigation of the sometimes adversarial relationship between African Americans and the police; and Deadly Justice, an examination of the death penalty. As a member of the producing team for CBS Reports: In the Killing Fields of America a documentary about violence in the United States, he won a George Foster Peabody Award, an Emmy Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism. Currently, Brown is a senior producer of specials for Geraldo Rivera at NBC, working on such topics as the influence of Latinos in the United States and the recent Los Angeles police department scandal.
      When he was an SU student, Brown?s biggest interest was Africa, so he majored in international relations in the College of Arts and Sciences. That interest led to his first overseas experience, as part of Crossroads Africa, an organization that sends students to Africa to work on summer development projects. Between his junior and senior years, Brown traveled to Botswana. ?It changed my life,? he says.
      After work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, a stint producing cultural programs at the American Museum of Natural History, and serving as director of overseas programs for Crossroads Africa, Brown found himself wanting to communicate his African experiences to others. As a result, he broke into broadcasting by offering his expertise on Africa to the PBS television program South Africa Now. What began as volunteer work turned into a job for Brown, who honed his skills by earning a master?s degree from Columbia University?s School of Journalism.
      Brown became an author the same way he broke into journalism?he plunged right in. ?During my book tour, I met many SU alumni,? he says. ?The support I?ve gotten from the SU community has been absolutely amazing. I made lifelong friends.?

—Cynthia Moritz

 

Joe Lawton

Photo Op

Life as a photojournalist can be tedious. Just ask Ruth Fremson, who stood in the rain for hours before snapping her Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of White House Deputy Press Secretary Joe Lockhart peering out of his window shortly after then-President Bill Clinton gave his grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case. ?I?d staked out a position outside the White House early that morning,? Fremson says. ?As I walked back to the press room at the end of the day, I took a picture of Lockhart peeking out at us from behind closed curtains. I didn?t think about it at the time, but later I realized my photo captured the hunkered-down mood of the White House under siege.?
      Photography was not Fremson?s first career choice. She grew up in Queens, New York, and had planned to go to art school in New York City. But her parents wanted her to have a broader education, so she enrolled as a dual advertising design/photography major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. After two years of graduate study at Ohio University, Fremson became a photographer for the Washington Times, later worked for the Associated Press, and currently works for The New York Times.
      In the year and a half since Fremson began working for The New York Times, she has covered John McCain?s presidential primary campaign, Rick Lazio?s senate run in New York State, and the 2000 Republican Convention. She then hooked up with the Al Gore campaign after Labor Day and rode that through Election Day. ?Covering the inaugural festivities was a nice finish to a long political year,? Fremson says. ?Now I?m looking forward to staying home and exploring what New York City has to offer.?

—Christine Yackel


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