Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

CABJ hosts forum on integration media coverage

The Capstone Association of Black Journalists hosted a forum in Reese Phifer Hall to discuss the role news media played in the recent integration of several traditionally white sororities Tuesday evening.

Meredith Cummings, CABJ advisor and a professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, said members of the organization decided to hold a forum following the protest by students and faculty members at Rose Administration Building.

“It just sort of organically came up,” Cummings said. “The overreaching goal is to keep the dialogue going. Just because national media has gone home doesn’t mean it’s over.”

The forum, titled “Covering Greek Integration,” was led by a panel of journalists who were involved in covering the attempts by black University of Alabama students to join white sororities and the subsequent protests that erupted over their rejection.

Included on the panel were Catenya McHenry, who covered the march on Rose for Reuters; Jamon Smith, diversity officer for The Tuscaloosa News; Stephen Dethrage, a reporter for in Tuscaloosa and Mazie Bryant, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White.

Bryant opened the forum by discussing the painstaking, weekslong process The Crimson White engaged in to break the initial story.

“We had to make sure that all of our bases were covered,” Bryant said. “We had to make sure that everybody we were accusing [and] everybody we were covering had a chance to respond.”

The night before the story ran, Bryant said she spoke with a student media lawyer to make sure they were not opening themselves up to libel charges.

While state and local media picked up the story fairly quickly after it broke, it took a few more ingredients to turn it into a national story, McHenry said.

“A couple things happened,” McHenry said. “It was the 50th anniversary. Then the girls spoke out. Then the march happened, and it kind of became a national story.”

Responses to the story varied by audience, from emailed congratulations to Bryant to acerbic racism and accusations in the comments section of

“When you give people a shield of anonymity, it’s amazing how piercing those comments can be,” McHenry said.

But regardless of the response from their audiences, panelists said their primary responsibility was to the story itself.

“We had done everything we could to make sure the story was flawless,” Bryant said.

While the national media coverage and the bid offers to several minority changes represents a change from past years, the reporters also said stories about segregation in the greek system have become almost routine at the University. Dethrage, who was on the Editorial Board at The Crimson White before he joined, told his editor that greek segregation would almost certainly come up at some point in the semester.

Smith also said while the basic story had become almost routine, the response this year was different than in the past.

“This story has happened every year, it seems,” Smith said. “What was different this year was they actually had students speaking out about it. It put pressure, I think, on the University to actually do something.”

Dethrage said he agreed that everything fell into place to give the story an impact it had lacked in previous years.

“All these pieces just fell into place,” Dethrage said. “You had the 50-year anniversary. You had the trustees and the governor speaking. You had hurt students speaking and top-notch reporting. It just all boiled over. It was all enough to finally get enough momentum to keep the pressure on the University and incite change. It was just a hundred different things happening in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.”

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