By Kellie Ell
San Francisco State University
SPJ honors journalists each year from across the nation during the President’s Installation Banquet. But this year, attendees of closing party in Chicago were reminded that while they ate salmon and steak, a colleague was sitting in a California jail cell.
Regional Director Paul McAfee of district 11 sported the pin on his lapel immediately.
“It’s the least I can do,” McAfee said. “He’s from California too. I’m supporting one of my homeboys.”
Award winners were honored after a performance by the “Rock Stars of the J-World’s” Peter Leidy and Bill Lueders, and after dinner and dessert were served.
Stan Chambers of Los Angeles was awarded the prestigious Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring his 59 years at the same station, KTLA-TV in southern California. The award is handed out each year to individuals who have demonstrated an amazing contribution and service to the journalism industry.
Chambers began his career in 1947, when KTLA first aired. He has reported on tens of thousands of stories, in the United States and abroad. He was awarded the Peabody Award for significant and meritorious achievement after breaking the Rodney King beating story.
“It’s an amazing experience to get an honor like this,” Chambers said. “It just came to me in an e-mail on my computer at work.”
Chambers began his career during college after being intrigued by a radio show.
“I thought it would be fun to do a TV show,” he said. “I didn’t even know what TV was.”
A few weeks after expressing interest, KTLA offered him a job.
“I got paid a dollar and a quarter,” Chambers said and laughed. “It was a small staff. We got to do everything. We couldn’t wait to get back to work. We’d put in 10 to 12 hour days.”
Although Chambers was aware of his honor, others were not, such as Carl Corry director of Region 1, overseeing all of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey. The Regional Director of the year, awarded for astounding service and contributions to journalism in his region, was presented to Corry, who is editor of the Long Island Business News.
New SPJ President Christine Tatum said in a news release that Corry was chosen for “his longstanding commitment to the national board (and) for his energy and effort to keep SPJ alive.” The Distinguished Teaching in Journalism award was given to Gene Murray of Grambling State University in Louisiana. The award honors educators who have made an outstanding contribution to the profession and/or to journalism education.
“His work with the students does not end in the classroom,” Murray’s colleague Sharon Ford-Dunn wrote in her nomination letter. “(Gene) is always going the extra mile to assist his students.”
SPJ also paid tribute individual members who have played noteworthy roles in their chapters and regions with the Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Professional Member Award.
Emil Q. Dansker, Ph.D. was presented with the honor during the banquet. Dansker has been a SPJ member for 56 years and at present is deputy director of Region 4. He advised the Bowling Green State University chapter for 10 years, served on the board of Cincinnati Pro Chapter for another 10 years, is the founder and director emeritus of the National Conventions Project, and participated in the Cincinnati Hall of Fame selection committee for five years. In 2003, Dansker was inducted into the Cincinnati SPJ Journalism Hall of Fame.
“The real honor is getting an honor named after my friend,” Dansker said. “Howard and I went to college together.”
Dansker holds Howard Dubin in the highest regard for “my long association and great respect for him, and for what he’s done.” Dansker said the two still keep in touch.
Keeping with this year’s theme of “Honoring the First,” SPJ presented the First Amendment Award to students, Miguel Morales, Kevin Mimms and the staff of The Campus Ledger, at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. The honor is bestowed upon those who have exhibited remarkable efforts to safeguard and reinforce the First Amendment.
After Morales received an anonymous letter via a blind e-mail account about alleged sexual harassment accusations within the college administration, Morales followed up. As a result of the stories that followed, the president resigned.
“The young men and women on the JCCC campus newspaper both shame and energize me,” Universal Press Syndicate Columnist David Chartrand wrote in a nomination letter. “They remind me that a free press is relevant only so long as it delivers the citizenry what it cannot get from the government.”
The packed ballroom gave a standing ovation for the winners of the Ethics in Journalism Award, nine California journalists who resigned from the Santa Barbara News-Press this summer after management at the privately owned publication made decisions they believed violated the SPJ Code of Ethics.
The nine journalists, including five editors and a long-time columnist, include Jerry Roberts, George Foulsham, Don Murphy, Gerry Spratt, Michael Todd, Jane Hulse, Colin Powers, Barney Brantingham and Scott Hadly.
Sandy Close, Reginald Stuart and Ben Bagdikian were named Fellows to the Society, one of the highest honors for professional journalists.
SPJ honored two journalists and a high school student with national Sunshine Awards, acknowledging them for their valuable contribution in open government.
This year’s winners include Ryan Nees of Kokomo, Indiana and Nancy Conway and John Hughes, both of Salt Lake City.
“I’m honored,” said Nees, who is still in high school. “Especially from an organization that I hold in such high regard.”
Nees currently writes a column for the Kokomo Perspective, and is a reporter for his high school paper, the Western Union. He is undecided about whether he will go into journalism, or politics.
Every year SPJ honors 10 chapters with the Circle of Excellence Awards. This year the Connecticut Pro Chapter won for Contributions to Freedom of Information after it fought against secrecy in the Connecticut Judicial branch and joined other Journalism organizations in a successful initiative for a state shield law. The Hawaii Pro Chapter won the small chapter award in the same category.
Indiana Pro Chapter won the large chapter award in diversity for its exceptional work with children. Northwest Arkansas Pro Chapter won the small award for its work on the Lemke Journalism Project and its panel on diversity issues.
Indiana also received the large award for campus relations. Likewise, Northwest Arkansas took the small award for campus relations after setting up a popular mentoring program, and pairing student journalists with professional journalist mentors.
Central Ohio Pro Chapter was the recipient of the large award in the Professional Development category. The East Tennessee Pro Chapter was honored with the small award.
The San Diego Pro Chapter and the Cincinnati Pro Chapter took home the large and small awards for Chapter Communications respectively.
Terry Francke, Peter Scheer and the California First Amendment Coalition received the 2006 Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award, sponsored by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. The award recognizes accomplishments provided by the First Amendment freedoms.
Renée DeLuca of the University of Maryland received the 2006 Julie Galvan Outstanding Graduate in Journalism Award.
Former SPJ President David Carlson created his own awards for the evening, honoring two SPJ members, and two non-members.
Carlson gave an award to his boss, Terry Hymes, the dean emeritus at the University of Florida’s school of journalism and communication. Carlson said Hymes was the person who encouraged him most to take the job.
“She has been very supportive,” Carlson said.
The other award went to Carlson’s wife “who has spent many a night alone,” he said.
The two SPJ members awarded were Charles Davis, co-chair of FOI, and also “an old friend.” The last award was for Bill McCloskey, chair by-laws committee.
At the end of the evening Carlson passed the torch to new President Christine Tatum.
SPJ received nearly $900 in donations for the Joshua Wolf fund during the meal of filet mignon and salmon. The money collected Saturday is in addition to $950 raised for Wolf during a luncheon Friday honoring college students. Carlson wasn’t content with the amount and held another auction.
SPJ Fellow Reginald Stuart auctioned off his necktie to Steve Giemann who cast the winning bid of $500. Geimann then auctioned his necktie off for a winning bid of $125.
Betsy Ashton won the tie.