Guest: Critical apartheid coverage stunned S. Africa regime in ‘80s

By Wayne Dawkins

HAMPTON, Va. – Kenneth Walker, formerly of ABC News, recalled his breakthrough South Africa reporting Wednesday at the Caldwell Café here.

In the 1980s, South Africa was governed by apartheid, rule by a white minority that repressed the 80-percent black majority. Walker told host Earl Caldwell that because of a "soft" CBS "60 Minutes" report that was sympathetic toward the regime, the normally guarded leaders accepted ABC "Nightline's" request to report from South Africa. The apartheid leaders expected more complimentary coverage but were stung, said Walker, by ABC News' tough reports. Walker in 1969 went from high school in the nation's capital to a reporting job at the Washington Star newspaper, where he also received a scholarship to Catholic University. After a dozen years at the newspaper, which closed in 1981, Walker landed at ABC News.

Walker, who has lived in South Africa for the past decade with 30,000 other expatriate Americans, urged the 40 students and faculty in the studio to "travel the world. In many places people run to, not away from blacks. They admire our music, sports and human rights legacy."

Also, "What's wrong with news media?" asked Walker rhetorically. Answer: Unlike the blue-collar days of the craft in the 1960s and 1970s, many of today's professional and graduate-school educated journalists are like the elite government, corporate and entertainment sources they cover.

The Caldwell Café, hosted by Earl Caldwell, attracts iconic media figures and newsmakers for a videotaping and conversation with the Hampton University community. Wayne Dawkins is an associate professor at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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