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Society's longest-serving member: ‘Our job is content’

By Billy O'Keefe

By Jacqueline Palochko and Amanda Dolasinski / Photo by Breanna Gaddie
The man who has been a member of SPJ longer than anyone else was among those honored during the President’s Installation Banquet.

Austin Kiplinger, SPJ/SDX member for 70 years, was one of three journalists honored as a Fellow of the society at Saturday's banquet.

Austin Kiplinger, SPJ/SDX member for 70 years, was one of three journalists honored as a Fellow of the society at Saturday's banquet.

Austin Kiplinger, a 73-year member of SPJ who was named a Fellow of the Society, urged attendees to refocus on the basics of journalism. Technology may change how journalism is distributed, but the need for solid reporting remains, he said.
“The flow of information will still flow,” said Kiplinger, who started his journalism career when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. “It will just flow in different structures. “
During his career, Kiplinger served as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and The Ithaca Journal, political commentator for ABC and NBC, and editor-in-chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
During his speech, Kiplinger assured members that there will always be a role for journalists.
“We worry about the demise of the printed word,” he said. “But our job is content — not mechanism.”
Kiplinger, who said he grew up in a newsroom and never took a journalism course, is the son of W.M. Kiplinger, the founder of Kiplinger Publishing Company.
“I’ve come from nothing else but journalism,” he said.
In 1936, his sophomore year at Cornell University, Kiplinger became a member of SPJ. At The Ithaca Journal, he was paid $4 a week. More than seven decades later, he still thinks it’s an exciting time to be a journalist.
“We’re in the greatest revolution journalism has ever known,” he said.
Kiplinger was one of three who were named Fellows of the Society.Meanwhile, the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award was given posthumously to Robert Churchwell, who died in February. His wife, Mary Elizabeth Buckingham, and son Robert Jr., accepted the award.
Churchwell was the first black journalist to work as a full-time reporter for a southern general-interest newspaper.
Buckingham said her husband was at his best when he was with a pencil, notepad and typewriter.
“We were married 58 years, but journalism was his first love,” Buckingham joked.
As the banquet concluded, outgoing President David Aeikens said his goodbyes before installing incoming President Kevin Smith.
Smith said he looks forward to the job and laid out three challenges he would like the society to tackle: increasing membership, increasing involvement and including SPJ in discussions about the future of journalism.
Most important, he said, he wants SPJ to become a powerful resource for journalists facing unemployment. “We need to provide real-time help for displaced workers,” he said.
Smith closed by saying SPJ will continue to be successful only with the help of its members nationwide.
“Your work, help and commitment is needed to move us forward,” he said. “I promise to not be passive if you roll up your sleeves as well. It has to be a team effort.”