Walter D. Greason, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership, delivered the keynote address to the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists at their awards luncheon held in Newark, New Jersey on June 22.
Greason’s talk focused on civil rights leader and journalist Timothy Thomas Fortune and the future of media. A prominent African American journalist in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Fortune was the editor of The New York Age, a weekly newspaper first published in the late 1800s and considered to be one of the most influential publications in the black community during its time.
As the founding president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, Greason has worked extensively to promote community outreach, education, and programming to further the social justice legacy of Fortune. Most recently, Greason and his colleagues celebrated a major milestone–the opening of the T. Thomas Fortune House, a museum and cultural center in Red Bank, New Jersey, where Fortune had previously lived in the early 1900s.
During his keynote address, Greason pointed to Fortune as a “visionary” who understood the “seductive power of rhetoric, especially in its printed form.”
Greason said, “Fortune believed in the essential promise of America. He believed that a citizen–a free person–could raise his or her voice against injustice. He believed that if enough people heard that voice, those ideas, that the government itself would be forced to change.”
Greason also warned the audience of journalists that the power of journalism is currently in jeopardy, saying “The most literate and informed population of human beings in the history of civilization has come to doubt the words they read and hear.”
In the face of this challenging time, Greason urged the group to follow Fortune’s example and “exercise diligent care in our consideration of evidence.”
Greason added, “We must consult with the brightest, most informed minds on every subject. And when we place our hands upon another keyboard to write our thoughts and insights, we must marshal the force of truth in service to our audiences, so that they model our clarity in service to freedom and democracy.”
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