NPC Newsmaker: Panel to Explore Man's Dual Role as Photographer of Civil Rights Movement and FBI Snitch

Sep 10, 2013, 12:30 ET from National Press Club

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A National Press Club panel will tell how a mid-size city newspaper was able to unearth the extraordinary story of how an iconic photographer of the civil rights movement led a double life as an FBI informant.


The Oct. 10 event, called "Double Exposure," will bring to life how the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis used a precedent-setting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit--and years of reporting--to piece together the facts about Ernest Withers. Withers was a photographer to whom Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had given close access. But, it turned out, Withers was at the same time secretly shooting pictures of King and other civil rights leaders for the FBI and providing agents with personal information on these figures and on their plans. 

The panel has particular resonance today.  It comes on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. It arrives on the heels of recent news about the government's sweeping domestic surveillance operations. And it highlights the challenges that public affairs journalism faces as news organizations' business model finds itself under stress. The discussion will shed light not only on the government's past surveillance practices but also on FOIA and the public's right to know what its government is up to. 

Panelists will include:

  • Marc Perrusquia, reporter, the Commercial Appeal
  • David Garrow, Pulitzer prize-winning historian and author on the Civil Rights Movement
  • Mizell Stewart III, VP/Content-Newspapers, The E.W. Scripps Company
  • David M. Giles, Vice President/Deputy General Counsel, The E.W. Scripps Company
  • Miriam M. Nisbet, Director, Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration
  • John F. Fox, Jr., PhD, Historian, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • (moderator) Charles D. Tobin, Attorney, Holland & Knight LLP

When:  Oct. 10 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Where: Lisagor Room of the National Press Club at 529 14th Street N.W., 13th floor, Washington, D.C.

Admission is free for National Press Club members and $5 for non-members. Register here:

The event is cosponsored by the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee and its Young Members Committee.

The National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee leads Club efforts to speak out about potential threats to press freedom and open government in the United States and abroad and to promote greater transparency and protections for journalists.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Founded in 1908, it comprises some 3,000 reporters and news sources.

Contact: John M. Donnelly, NPC Press Freedom Chair, 202-650-6020,

SOURCE National Press Club