On April 23 and 24, 1995 Emerson College hosted the 25th Year Retrospective
of Kent State and Jackson State. This conference reflected on the legacy of
May 1970 and on the deaths of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer,
and Bill Schroeder and the wounding of nine others at Kent State University
as well as the deaths of Phillip Gibbs and James Earl Green and the wounding
of ten others on the campus of Jackson State University.
This conference marked the historic first time meeting of Mary Ann Vecchio Gillum, the fourteen-year-old girl pictured in the now famous photograph taken at Kent State, and the man who took that Pulitzer Prize winning picture, John Filo. The photograph, which has become an emblem of an era that will forever be a part of the American psyche, shows an anguished Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller who had been shot moments earlier by Ohio National Guardsmen.
The historic meeting was a success for both Vecchio, currently working as a cashier at a Las Vegas casino, and Filo, a deputy photo editor at Newsweek magazine, as well as Emerson College. News of their meeting and of the conference at Emerson appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Herald, and the Associated Press photograph of the first meeting ran in newspapers throughout the world. "It was finally time for us to meet," said an understandably nervous Vecchio. Upon meeting Vecchio for the first time Filo said, "I always worried about this person....I am so happy that she is now happy."
While the meeting between Vecchio and Filo may have drawn the most national attention, there were many other significant speakers and events at this two day conference. Alan Canfora and Dean Kahler, two of the students wounded by guardsmen on May 4, attended. Canfora has worked since 1970 with Kent State's May 4 Task force to see that the events of that day are never forgotten. At the 25th Year Retrospective Canfora called the incident "calculated murder based on order of fire from a small contingent of 1,200 guardsmen." Kahler, who was paralyzed from the waist down on that day in 1970, cites a lack of communication as one of the reasons for the tragedy. "There was no communication from the president of the university or the student body on what to do. Local officials didn't take care of their constituents, local constituents were lied to, information was kept from them about what was going on in our state and community."
Other conference attendees included Gene Young, an eyewitness to the shootings at Jackson State, Paul Keane, a 1970 graduate of Kent State, and Alan Frank, the son of then Kent State geology professor Glenn Frank who is said to have saved many lives by encouraging the crowd of students to disperse after the initial barrage of 61 bullets in thirteen seconds by the Ohio National Guard. Frank currently continues his father's research into possible government involvement in the shootings. In addition to the panel discussions and the dialogue that constituted the bulk of the conference, Dr. J. Gregory Payne's play, "Kent State: A Requiem," a dramatic and factual examination of the events culminating in the deaths of the four students at Kent State was performed. The attempt of the play is to convey the emotional impact of the tragedy from the perspective of Mrs. Louis Schroeder whose son was killed at Kent. Her son Bill was played by Joe Johnson, Allison Krause by Alyse Nelson, Jeff Miller by Philip Craft, and Sandy Scheuer by Kristen Sullivan - all Emerson students. This play was taken to Kent State for their May 4 ceremonies and was the subject of a story by Entertainment Tonight.
The culminating event of this two day conference was a commemorative candlelight vigil to the Boston Massacre Statue on the Boston Common. After some readings that were reflective of the era by Professors Walt and Marcia Littlefield, the group walked to the monument and placed the burning candles at its base in memory of the students from Kent State and Jackson State.
Throughout the conference there was a multimedia display in one room while the main conference continued in another. This exhibit included music from the period in addition to a number of films pertaining to May of 1970. Among the films were Richard Meyers' "Allison" and "Confrontation at Kent State," NBC's Emmy Award winning docudrama "Kent State," Vanderbilt News coverage, and E.G. Marshall's "Kent State."
This past March 16, Communication Studies and the Communication, Politics,
and Law Association hosted the Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication
Conference. The day-long event brought together journalists, historians, media
critics, and scholars to discuss ethics and the media using Robert Redford's
Academy Award nominated "Quiz Show" as a case study.
This conference was inspired by Emerson alumna Judith Raphael Kletter whose father-in-law, Ed Kletter, was director of advertising for Geritol, the sole sponsor of the quiz show "Twenty-One," upon which the film is based. In October of 1994, Mrs. Kletter wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times criticizing the film that claimed to accurately represent the 1950's scandal. She wrote, "At the Congressional hearings my father-in-law stated that he had no knowledge that "Twenty-One" was fixed, and the conclusion of the hearings supported this. But Mr. Redford has implicated the sponsor as the stimulus for the deception." With that letter the conference was born.
Rance Crain, Editor-In-Chief of Advertising Age and founder of Crain Communications, Inc. gave the keynote speech. Much of what he said echoed the sentiments of Mrs. Kletter, remarking that it has become difficult for many to define what is and is not ethical in the media. Crain though contends "that anything that keeps the reader or viewer from getting the full story is unethical..."
Perhaps the most provocative panel of the day followed Mr. Crain's keynote and the address by Mrs. Kletter. This panel focused specifically on "Quiz Show" as the case study to explore the need for historical accuracy versus the use of dramatic license. Panelists included Fred Zollo, executive producer of "Quiz Show" as well as "Mississippi Burning" and "The Paper;" Albert Maysles, documentary filmmaker of "The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit" and "Gimme Shelter;" Richard Goodwin, a former presidential aide to both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson whose book "Remembering America" devoted a chapter to the quiz show scandal; Frank Annese, television and theatrical actor who was a regular cast member on "Days of Our Lives;" and Jan Roberts-Breslin, Assistant Professor in Mass Communication at Emerson College and documentary filmmaker.
The sparring began rather quickly when Mr. Maysels indicated that he was wholly prepared to discuss "Quiz Show" without ever having seen it. He said that he skips many films "because of the doubts that I have as to the veracity of the material in them," and he preferred to discuss the ethical issue at hand rather than the film specifically. Mr. Zollo responded with one of his many somewhat witty retorts, not really answering the question but playing to the crowd, "It's really good though. It's really a good movie." Mr. Annese simply thought that a wake up call was in order. "Stop believing movies," he implored.
While Mr. Maysels seemed genuinely disturbed that movies sometimes misinform, Mr. Annese thought that the whole issue should just be dismissed saying "...docudramas are not your life." Mr. Zollo did apologize for the inaccuracies in the film, regretfully admitting "Yes, we made a mistake when it came to Mr. Kletter." However, he first poked fun at Geritol, the product that Mr. Kletter sold, quipping "Do you even know what Geritol is?...It doesn't do anything."
Richard Goodwin tried to regain some focus. He rhetorically asked "How obliged are we to stick to the historical reality and to the facts?" He answered his own question indicating that, when dealing with recent history, it is the responsibility of the artist to be authentic. "In that I think Quiz Show succeeds admirably," he says.
Soon after the core of the discussion returned to "Quiz Show," Prof. Jan Roberts-Breslin refocused the discussion in a larger sense. She noted that "history is subjective" and that "a lot of the points that are being made today really underscore the importance of an ethical education as part of a communication degree..."
Dr. Kenneth Andersen from the University of Illinois closed the conference with his address, "The Presidency, Press, and Public: Will They Survive?" His chief point was clear, that ethics is at the core of everything that we had discussed throughout the day and that each and every one of us has the responsibility to be ethical communicators.