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After Ku Klux Klansman Devours Nix claimed he was too disabled to go to jail or post bail, Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell published a photo of him playing golf, and Nix was arrested. For decades Bobby Cherry claimed he was at home watching wrestling when four girls were killed in the infamous 1963 Birmingham church bombing. Mitchell looked it up—there was no wrestling on TV that night. Cherry was convicted on four counts of murder and received four life sentences.
Mitchell, whose dogged reporting has led to the convictions of some of the most notorious civil-rights era Ku Klux Klansmen, will receive Colby’s 2006 Lovejoy Award and deliver a speech at 8 p.m. in Lorimer Chapel on Sunday, September 17.
As part of the celebration of his work, that afternoon a panel of journalists will discuss the place of journalists in righting wrongs of the past. “The Role of Journalism in Reopening History” will take place Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center. The public is invited to attend both events.
Mitchell, who is depicted in Rob Reiner’s film Ghosts of Mississippi for his work on the murder case of NAACP worker Medgar Evers, will serve on the panel. Other panelists are Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and co-author of the forthcoming book The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation; Ann Marie Lipinski, senior vice president and editor of the Chicago Tribune; and Matthew Storin, former editor of the Boston Globe. L. Sandy Maisel, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, will facilitate.
Given annually to a courageous journalist, the award honors another individual who fought for racial justice: Elijah Lovejoy, a Colby alumnus and an abolitionist publisher who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837.
Lovejoy was a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby whom John Quincy Adams called “the first American martyr to the freedom of the press.” Colby established the award for an editor, reporter or publisher who has contributed to the nation’s journalistic achievement. Recent recipients include Bill Kovach, David Halberstam, Ellen Goodman, Studs Terkel, and Daniel Pearl, who received the 2002 award posthumously.