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Former Times editor Keller speaks at Miami

By JM Rieger
On October 30, 2012

Former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller spoke Monday to approximately 200 students, faculty and Oxford community members in Miami University's Farmer School of Business.

The event, "My Time at The Times: A conversation with Bill Keller," consisted of initial remarks from Keller followed by a question and answer (Q&A) session.

Keller began the event talking about how his background influenced his career and belief system, and said he believes in three things: luck, doubt and curiosity.

He graduated from Pomona College in 1970, but said he has learned much more since graduating.

"I supposedly majored in English; in reality, I majored in the campus newspaper with a minor in recreational substances," Keller said.

During the Q&A session, Keller answered questions ranging from The Times' coverage of the Iraq War to the Jayson Blair scandal to whether or not The Times is a liberal publication. Keller said the Internet and social media have great potential, but also said the media needs to be conscious of the potential downside of the Internet, especially reinforcing audience prejudices and quickly releasing information rather than fact checking it.

The Miami chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) organized the event that was intended to excite and inform students about journalism, according to SPJ Treasurer Ariana Williams.

"I really enjoyed that he wanted to do something that was really informal," Williams said. "He stressed to us that he wanted to do a Q&A."

Keller answered questions for more than 45 minutes.

"I'm looking forward to a lively Q&A," Keller said. "When I say I'm looking forward to it, I'm just being polite. What I really mean is I feel like the guys in the dunking booth. And I see a lot of people out there limbering up their throwing arms."

Miami Journalism Program Coordinator of Special Events and SPJ Advisor, Patti Newberry, said she first emailed Keller about speaking at Miami in the summer of 2011. Newberry booked Keller for Monday's event in July 2012 following a series of emails.

Newberry said Keller was a very generous and accommodating guest and enjoyed his long and thoughtful responses.

"Bill Keller in my book is the real deal," Newberry said. "He is a solid, lifelong journalist, committed to the highest standards of newsgathering."

In addition to speaking with Miami students during his visit, Keller is also reporting on the election for The Times, and the Miami journalism department put together a list of potential sources to help with Keller's reporting. He returns to New York Wednesday.

Keller served as executive editor of The New York Times from 2003 to 2011. Keller now writes an op-ed column for The Times and is a senior writer for The New York Times Magazine. Keller is also a member of the Pomona College Board of Trustees.

Previously at The Times, Keller served as a managing editor, a foreign editor, a bureau chief and as a foreign and domestic correspondent. Keller began his journalism career writing for The Portland Oregonian before working for The Dallas Times Herald and the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report.

The event was sponsored by the Diana Stark Journalism Fund, the New York Times Collegiate Readership Program and the Miami University Office of the President and was organized by SPJ.


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