Speakers bring insights about race in sports, cost of medical care to conference

By Steve Sampsell
September 21, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The editor of an ESPN site that focuses on race, sports and culture, and a journalist who has investigated the high cost of U.S. medical care will be featured speakers at the Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers in mid-October on the University Park campus.

The Foster-Foreman Conference -- two free public lectures with question-and-answer opportunities -- annually brings award-winning writers to Penn State. 

Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in Schwab Auditorium. Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News, will speak at 10:35 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Freeman Auditorium of the HUB-Robeson Center.

Merida joined ESPN in 2015 after a 22-year career at The Washington Post, where he was the first African-American to hold the title of managing editor. He helped lead the Post’s digital transformation that resulted in a large increase in audience growth. Earlier in his career at the Post he was a reporter, columnist, associate editor and national editor. 

In 2006, Merida directed a multimedia project, “Being a Black Man,” which explored the lives of black men in America through in-depth reporting of their unique but shared experiences. In addition to 15 articles in the Post, the project offered video documentaries, online discussion areas, and narrated photo galleries. The project won a Peabody Award. Merida edited the Post articles into a 2007 book, “Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril.” 

He also has co-authored a biography of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and a photography-and-text record of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. 

Merida’s session will be moderated by John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism housed in the College of Communications.

Rosenthal, a former emergency-department doctor, assumed the leadership in September of Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service covering health-care policy and politics. Before moving to Kaiser, she was a New York Times reporter for 22 years. Among her Times assignments, Rosenthal was a Beijing correspondent for six years and covered European health and environment from Rome for five years.

In 2013-14, she produced a series of articles on the high cost of medical care in the United States. The series, “Pay Till It Hurts,” was based on crowdsourcing -- readers’ reports of their personal experiences that she compiled into a database and then checked out with her medical expertise and reporting skills. The series won the 2014 Victor Cohn Prize from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Rosenthal’s book, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back,” will be published in April. 

Her session will be moderated by Curt Chandler, a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism.

The Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers was made possible by a gift from Penn State alumni Larry and Ellen Foster. It is intended to bring students together with some of the best writers in journalism. Under the direction of Gene Foreman, the retired Foster Professor of Communications, the conference is an opportunity for students to acquaint themselves with distinguished role models. This is the 34th conference to be held under the auspices of the Foster Professorship and the eighth renamed as the Foster-Foreman Conference to honor the leadership of Foreman, who has directed the event since its inception in 1999.

The Conference has attracted 41 Pulitzer Prize winners to campus to share their experiences and skills. Ten Penn State graduates have been speakers in the series.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 22, 2016