Value of modern journalism focus of LaGuardia forum

By Tatyana Southerland

A veteran foreign correspondent and author will explore the evolution of modern journalism during a discussion at LaGuardia Community College next week.

Les Payne, a former Newsday associate editor, columnist and foreign news correspondent, said he will talk with students and visitors about the role of news today and how it affects society.

On Wednesday, April 25, Payne plans to explore the influence reporters had during the Arab Spring and the importance of informing the public about potential injustices, such as the February killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman.

Through his decades-long career, Payne, 71, has covered the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa, the Vietnam War and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Payne was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for “The Heroin Trail,” a 33-piece investigative report that tracked down the flow of heroin from the poppy fields of Turkey to the streets of New York City.

Over the course of Payne’s 28-year career at Newsday, the paper was recognized for several major journalism awards and six Pulitzer prizes while he was an editor.

Payne is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“[Journalism] is in a state of transition because of technology, but the role of the journalist will always be to inform by gathering information on critical issues and disseminating it to the public,” said Payne during a phone interview last week.

Noel Holten, a journalism professor at the college, asked Payne to speak to her students about the role journalists play in a healthy democracy and their commitment to keeping the public informed.

“When I asked him to speak, he was very excited,” said Holten. “He is someone who really cares about young people.”

Holten first met Payne 15 years ago while working as a summer intern at Newsday. She said he was very influential and helped mentor her.

Payne’s lecture is open to the public. It will take place April 25 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.in the Little Theater at 31-10 Thompson Avenue in Long Island City.

“Having Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Les Payne share his expertise gives our students the chance to learn from someone who has traveled far and wide providing an unparalleled look at complex situations,” said Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, in a statement. The lecture will also touch on the importance of news literacy and how the general public can become informed news consumers.

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