Souad Mekhennet, author of "I Was Told to Come Alone," headlines the 2017 McGill Lecture. The McGill Symposium features five visiting journalists, who will speak about journalistic courage.

McGill lecturer to recount experiences covering the Taliban and ISIS

Five guest journalists to lead conversations about courage in journalism

A journalist and author who has written about her experiences covering terrorism in some of the world’s most dangerous countries, will headline the 39th annual McGill Lecture Nov. 15, 2017.

The McGill Lecture will be given by Souad Mekhennet, national security desk correspondent at The Washington Post and author of “I Was Told to Come Alone.” The lecture, “Being a Female Reporter Behind the Lines of Jihad,” will start at 4 p.m. in Studio 100. It is part of the University of Georgia Signature Lecture Series.

The McGill Lecture is the capstone event of the 11th annual McGill Symposium, which will be held earlier that day in Grady College’s Peyton Anderson Forum, according to Diane Murray, who directs the McGill program for journalistic courage. Twelve Grady College students were selected as McGill Fellows to participate in the event.

Mekhennet is a German journalist and author whose reports on terrorism have been appeared in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and NPR. She is currently a correspondent on the national security desk at The Washington Post. Since 9/11, Mekhennet has covered conflicts and terrorist attacks in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. She has gained rare access to the inner circles of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and her latest book, “I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad,” describes some of her most dangerous assignments.

The McGill Symposium brings together students, faculty and leading journalists to consider what journalistic courage means and how it is exemplified by reporters and editors. Journalists scheduled to participate in the symposium include:

  • Peter Sterne, senior reporter at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, will lead a discussion about press freedom under attack in the United States. Grady College Dean Charles Davis, a first amendment scholar, will facilitate the discussion.
  • Beth Reinhard, a reporter at The Washington Post, will discuss reporting in the era of leaks and fake news. Janice Hume, journalism department head and the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism, will moderate the discussion.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter, a beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Steve Wyche, a reporter for, will discuss covering race in sports. Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports Media and the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society, will moderate.
  • Billy Howard, an award-winning photojournalist who is known for his photography of people with HIV/AIDS, will discuss “The Eyes are Listening: Using Photography as a Messenger of Hope, Empathy, and Change.” Mark Johnson, a senior lecturer in photojournalism, will moderate.

While the McGill lecture is open to the public, the McGill Symposium is not a public event. Limited seating is available to Grady students and faculty.

For more than three decades, the McGill Lecture has brought significant figures in journalism to the University of Georgia to help honor Ralph McGill’s courage as an editor.

McGill, while editor and publisher of The Atlanta Constitution, was regarded as the “conscience of the south,” using the newspaper’s editorial pages to challenge segregation in the 1950s and 1960s. McGill was awarded a Pulitizer Prize in 1958 for long, courageous and effective leadership.”

Established in 1978, this UGA annual lecture series addresses major issues impacting American journalism.

The McGill Lecture is funded by the McGill Endowment Fund.

Date: October 30, 2017
Author:  Sarah Freeman,
Contact:  Diane Murray,