James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism Hank Klibanoff has joined the ranks of CNN founder Ted Turner and distinguished Civil Rights Movement reporter Claude Sitton in the Atlanta Press Club (APC) Hall of Fame for his work not only as a journalist, but also as a professor, investigator and author.
The APC Hall of Fame induction took place on Nov. 5 at the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta.
Klibanoff has risen the ladder in the journalism world from a newspaper boy to the managing editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. As former head of Emory’s Journalism Department and current director of the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project, Klibanoff has worked towards and emphasized the freedom and equality of press in his work.
“It was very easy for Americans to turn their eyes away from the discrimination and the violence against African Americans and … virtually every aspect of life in the South,” Klibanoff said, as he addressed the impact of the press on race in the last century.
In his book, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation — a book that won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2007 – Klibanoff furthers his ideas about discrimination. The book covers the African American Civil Rights Movement, particularly the role of the press in shaping communication in and awareness of the movement.
According to Co-Author Gene Roberts, who originally introduced the idea of the book, Klibanoff conducted admirable exploration about the segregation in the South.
“Hank’s impeccable research showed me how much I didn’t know of the era I lived in,” Roberts said. He praised Klibanoff’s contribution to the book, particularly his “historical richness” and “graceful prose.”
The issues addressed in the book, particularly those regarding the influence of the press on discrimination, are especially relevant today, according to Klibanoff.
“Were it not for the press and the light they shine on dark corners, the illumination they bring to complex issues and the portrayal they are able to give to injustice, very negative aspects of American life will continue,” Klibanoff said.
Klibanoff’s interest in journalism started at his high school newspaper and continued as he went to college at the University of Washington in St. Louis, even though there was no journalism program at the University. He was reluctant to commit involvement to the partisan college newspaper, but his interest in journalism remained.
“Once a week, an editor from the St. Louis Post Dispatch would drive out and meet with us and talk with us, and usually he would’ve stopped somewhere along the way and had a couple of drinks and was in good storytelling fashion,” Klibanoff said. “He used to keep us enthralled by telling us great stories about what it was like to be a journalist, and it only made me more interested in it.”
After his receiving his bachelor’s degree in English, Klibanoff changed his mind and went on to pursue journalism in graduate school at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in the 1960s. His master’s degree helped secure his first job for The Daily Herald in Mississippi, and his career took off from there.
Along with Klibanoff, three other journalists were inducted: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Denis O’Hayer and Dick Pettys. The crowd consisted of friends, family and colleagues of the inductees.
“I don’t see this [award] as a culmination of my work,” Klibanoff said. “I see it as an incentive to just do more and keep going and going and going.”