South Carolina photojournalist to describe covering racial issues

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Photo by Paul Moeller

Photo by Paul Zoeller/ Post and Courier

Former student will discuss his experiences as a news photographer after church shooting last year.

By Courtney Kaiser

Remarks from a reporter-photographer partnership covering racial tensions of the last year in South Carolina will kick off Black History Month at this college.

The Ranger sponsors the event, “Charleston: Grace Through Tragedy,” at 10:50 a.m. Feb. 1 in the auditorium of McAllister Fine Arts Center.

Photographer Paul Zoeller is a former student of this college who works for the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., where Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans in their church and a white police officer killed unarmed African-American Walter Scott.

South Carolina, a holdout in the debate over the legacy of the Confederate battle flag, finally ordered the flag removed from the state capitol.

Zoeller attended this college and worked on the staff of The Ranger from 1995-97 and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2000.

He worked at the Odessa American and Bryan-College Station Eagle before moving to South Carolina. He worked eight years at freelance photography before joining the Post and Courier three years ago.

Student success specialist Dee Dixon said, “Here’s somebody from SAC who has been on the front line of some of the nation’s most pressing stories.”

She is a member of the Black History Month Committee and former student at The Ranger.

“South Carolina is unique in the fact that they did not react the way the U.S. expected them to,” Zoeller said. “They did not react in anger, but forgiveness.”

Zoeller said instead of holding violent protests and acting out like other states had done after racial tensions grew, South Carolina turned its efforts to healing and moving forward.

Accompanying Zoeller will be Christina Elmore, a reporter at the Post and Courier who often works with Zoeller on stories.

“She probably has more insight than I do,” Zoeller said. “Charleston is her hometown. You don’t expect this to be in your hometown — you don’t expect you’ll be covering it.”

Many journalists are not experienced in covering racial issues, but they need to learn, as racial tensions have grown increasingly high in the U.S., Dixon said.

Dixon said the Post and Courier’s process for deciding how Zoeller would cover stories was not handled lightly.

“It’s pretty enlightening,” Dixon said. “They had serious discussions and made big decisions about what they would cover.”

Coverage of the memorial service for those killed in the church shooting and links to other stories can be found at

“People are going to want to hear those stories,” Dixon said.

The event is free and open to the public.

The theme of Black History Month this winter is “On Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African-American Memory.”

Dixon said Zoeller’s and Elmore’s remarks will complement other activities throughout Black History Month, including a poetry slam, read-in and dance and music performances.

In addition, students enrolled this fall and in the spring in at least six hours with a GPA of at least 2.0 are eligible to enter a Black History Month essay contest and a multimedia contest.

Rules for the essay contest are available in the writing center in Room 203 of Gonzales Hall. The deadline is 5 p.m. Feb. 17.

For more information, email English Professor Jane Focht-Hansen at

Information on the multimedia contest can be obtained by emailing journalism lab tech Tricia Buchhorn at The deadline is 5 p.m. Jan. 22.

For more information about Black History Month events, call Barbara Knotts, director of creative multimedia, at 210-486-0593.


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