AP reporter calls for race discussions in Six@Six talk


Sam Rosenstiel

Jess Holland spoke at a Six@Six lecture. Holland is an AP reporter.

Sam Rosenstiel, Reporter

Associated Press reporter Jesse Holland encouraged ongoing discussions in the media about race and ethnicity at a lecture held in NKU’s Digitorium on Thursday.

Holland, the race and ethnicity editor for the AP, addressed a packed Digitorium as part of the Six@Six speaker series with a lecture titled “Race In America: Then and Now.”

Holland said the last few years were “turbulent” for race and ethnicity reporters, and the coverage of race is becoming more important.

“The work that race and ethnicity writers have been doing these past few years is making a difference because we’re bringing up topics,” Holland said. “Whether it’s the treatment of African Americans by police, whether it’s the difference between marijuana prosecutions and heroin prosecutions, these are conflicts that America as a country needs to talk about.”

Holland said even though race has been an issue in America since it was founded, race is not an easy subject to discuss or write about. Nevertheless, these discussions are happening on a wider scale.

“Now, more and more, we are seeing these conversations show up in the media,” Holland said, “and if you ask me, that’s a good thing.”

Holland has covered race since the start of his career two decades ago. He was the second African-American editor of the University of Mississippi’s campus newspaper, and he later covered race and ethnicity stories for the AP in South Carolina. Holland also wrote two books about the role of African-American slaves in the White House and the building of Washington, D.C.

Throughout his career, Holland said race has been the “common thread” in his work.

“It seems almost like destiny that I would end up in this position,” Holland said, “and on such an important topic in America.”

Even though Holland has written about the topic for a long time, he said the way that race is covered in media might soon change. He cited U.S. Census Bureau data that within the next 20 years, demographics will shift to a “minority-majority” country or a country with no racial majority.

Holland said current race and ethnicity coverage usually only involves races other than white. But facing an uncertain demographic future, it might not remain that way for long.

“We’ve got to figure out a better way to tell all these different stories,” Holland said, “and include everyone in the stories that we’re telling.”

NKU honors professor Rachel Zlatkin brought her Studies in Diversity class to Holland’s lecture, and she said it provided an important opportunity to learn about media coverage of race.

“I was interested to learn exactly how the language about race is shifting in the media,” Zlatkin said, “especially with how it relates to activism.”

NKU freshman Areej Aldossary said she was glad she came to Holland’s talk in order to learn more about how race affects Americans. Aldossary, a communications studies major, said she believes through more active conversations about race, positive change can happen.

“I think Mr. Holland was right,” Aldossary said. “To fix a problem, you have to speak up and be willing to talk about it.”