Overby Center Announces Cancellation of the Last Three Spring 2020 Programs

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi has canceled the final three programs for the Spring 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Charles Overby, chairman, announced on Friday.

“We regret having to cancel these programs, but we agree that public safety is paramount.”

The Overby Center’s decision is in line with the University’s announcement that it is canceling on-campus instruction and all events.

The Overby programs were to have been on March 24, March 31 and April 7. Decisions about fall programs will be made at a later date.

Journalism & Democracy in Crisis

Veteran journalist Geneva Overholser, who led the Des Moines Register to the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service during her seven years as its top editor, was at the Overby Center on Wednesday to discuss “Journalism and Democracy in Crisis.”

"There is no question that the enormous weakening of journalism, especially locally, has contributed to a sense of democracy that people are not confident about what they know," said Overholser who is now a consultant who writes and speaks about the future of journalism. She was also the ombudsman for The Washington Post and was on the editorial board of The New York Times.

"There's no question that you can be highly informed with all the different sources of information," said Overholser when asked what is contributing to the crisis. "The problem is you have to be your own editor. ... Be mindful about the sources you are looking at."

Overholser has also written extensively about the press and its coverage of politics. After the 2016 presidential election, she examined the many ways she thought the press had badly failed its coverage. With her appearance at the Overby Center coming the day after Super Tuesday, the discussion, led by Charles Overby, will also include their analysis of the election results and press coverage.

Until 2013, Overholser was director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California. Through the Annenberg Public Policy Center, she published a manifesto on the future of journalism titled “On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change.” She is also co-editor, with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the volume “The Press,” part of the Oxford University Press Institutions of American Democracy series. Before joining the Annenberg school, she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, based in the school’s Washington bureau.

“Robert Penn Warren: A Vision”

Award winning filmmaker Tom Thurman was the Overby Center on Wednesday for a screening of his documentary “Robert Penn Warren: A Vision.” Thurman, who has produced and directed 36 documentaries on art, film, music, sports and literary figures, discussed his work with Joe Atkins, a professor in the university’s School of Journalism and New Media.

Thurman’s documentary offers compelling insight into the life of the acclaimed writer, whose novel “All the King’s Men” is considered one of the great dissections of Southern politics. The idea for the project stemmed from Thurman’s re-reading of the novel, which features the fictional character Willie Stark, a populist southern governor modeled after the Louisiana governor Huey Long.

“The sheer force of the novel’s language prompted me more than anything else,” Thurman said. “And given today’s current political climate, it struck me that ‘All the King’s Men’ has gained relevance with time. Digging deeper into Warren’s total body of work, one additional book emerged that really captured my imagination: ‘Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South.’ Given that many of his interviews for this book were conducted with Civil Rights activists in Mississippi in 1955-1956, it seems very appropriate for me to screen my documentary on the campus of the University of Mississippi.”

Thurman opined that Warren would have a lot to say and write about the current state of politics. He said that Warren would certainly be disturbed by the attack on the democratic process. He jokingly added that Warren is probably planning a resurrection to pick up his pen and write again because there's so much to write about.

A Conversation on
the Intersection of Religion and Politics

Two nationally known journalists who specialize in the coverage of religion were at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss religion and the 2020 election. The journalists are Terry Mattingly, a senior fellow at the center and editor of the daily blog GetReligion.org, and Richard Ostling, a former chief religion writer for The Associated Press and a former senior correspondent for Time Magazine.

“The intersection of religion and politics is often misunderstood or stereotyped. This year’s presidential election will definitely be influenced by religion. Our discussion should offer fresh insights into what to expect in the upcoming primaries and general election,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center, who moderated the conversation with Mattingly and Ostling.

Overby Center Announces
Spring 2020 Schedule of Programs

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.”

“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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 7, 5:30 p.m.

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 director and producer, Mary Blessey.


The Overby Center for Southern Journalism & Politics’ mission is to create better understanding of the media, politicians and the role of the First Amendment in our democracy. The Center is funded through a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum, a foundation dedicated to educating people about the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.

The Overby Center features programs, multimedia displays and writings which examine the complex relationships between the media and politicians - past, present and future. The Overby Center pays special attention to Southern perspectives.

Adjacent to the newly renovated journalism department facility at Farley Hall, the Overby Center is a new building that features 16,000 square feet of conference space. It includes a 200-seat auditorium, a multipurpose conference room that will accommodate just under 100 people for seminars, and about 50 for dinners, and a boardroom seating up to 24 people.

The center has state-of-the-art technology and video throughout the building, including a news wall with nine large-screen TV monitors for showing live news programs and current front pages from 12 Southern states.

The center is named for Charles L. Overby, editor of the Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss from 1967-1968. Overby was the CEO of the Freedom Forum and Newseum until his retirement in 2012.

Overby Center Auditorium

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