honored at awards dinner
The School of Journalism and Mass Communications annual Alumni Awards
Dinner celebrated three distinguished alumni and two outstanding
young alumnae and recognized an associate professor for her service.
Family, friends and faculty gathered to honor these industry
leaders on Oct. 22 at the Capital City Club in Columbia.
Dr. Brad Hamm, dean of the Indiana University School of Journalism;
Benjy Hamm, editorial director of Landmark Community Newspapers;
and Mari Maseng Will, communications strategist, are this year’s
Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.
Mary Hartney, director of audience engagement at The Baltimore
Sun, and Pushpa Gopalan, vice president of Leo Burnett USA,
are the Outstanding Young Alumnae of 2009. Gopalan was unable to
attend the dinner. Read more about Gopalan>
Associate Professor Bonnie Drewniany received our Excellence in
Shared below are excerpts of their comments. Click on each
image to read more about each of them and to watch video of each
person's entire comments.
I always thought I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, but as I got
into the newspaper business, I really liked it and I thought, "I
will stay in this as long as it is fun." And it still is. ...
Despite what you may hear, the appeal of newspapers is still quite
strong. ... It is not fading away. ...
I think that's what makes journalism a special calling. We have
the opportunity to inform, to enlighten, to awaken, and to inspire.
... As reporters and editors, we are paid to meet interesting people,
learn new things, observe historic events and cover the births and
deaths and life of a community — and the only thing that's
asked of us in return is that we tell others what we have observed,
what we heard and what we learned. What a terrific job. What a terrific
thing we get to do every day.
Enlighten, inspire, awaken
I would say the same thing, though, about colleges and professors:
enlighten, inspire, awaken every day. Every day, it goes on. That's
why I am grateful to this journalism school and the people who are
here. ... I benefited from the special attention I received here.
I have hired a number of people from the School ... some of the
top graduates, Chris Winston, Matt Pruitt, Josh Penrod, Brad Walters
... and I did that with help from Henry Price, Pat McNeely, Ken Campbell
and Doug Fisher and many others in this room.
Twenty years ago this fall, I left Columbia. I came to Columbia
as a newspaper person and I expected to leave as a newspaper person.
One of the amazing things about universities is that you are able
to bring together people and ideas and opportunities. What I discovered
in the time here was an opportunity to do something else, which was
to teach. ...
What I am left with is that South Carolina and this school doesn't
necessarily know what every person coming in wants to do. But for
whatever reason, in my opinion, our experience here was magical,
and it created in us not an ability to do one thing, but an ability
to do all that we dreamed of. It was something that maybe at that
time we weren't even aware of.
In talking to other alumni
I learned early on that they often never ask about classes.
They often never ask about certain things. They always want to know
about the people. When I think of South Carolina and as I look at
the tables, these are the people I am interested in. These are the
people I remember. These are the people that I hear about and I try
to follow. ...
I think journalism is essential. I am quite optimistic about it
because when I studied history here I learned of a time when newspaper
circulation was plummeting, advertising was walking away, people
were being laid off. And it was called the 1930s. What I learned
was that every 20 years there is some revolution in journalism, and
sometimes we forget that when the new revolution comes along. ...
There are so many remarkable people here tonight, and some who are
not, but who changed our lives. We'll never forget that. And I think
that's what makes this school special.
Mari Maseng Will
was never intimidated
I will always be grateful to Henry Price, Perry Ashley and
Jim McElveen — these people who inspired me — and in
Henry's case, scared me to death. ... Henry and others made sure
that I was able enough and tough enough — I was never intimidated
by a city editor after experiencing Henry — tough enough and
honorable enough to be a journalist, what I think is pretty much
the highest calling.
Advice to students
I encourage them to train themselves in the way that I was
trained by Henry and others to be a writer, because if you are a
writer and a disciplined writer, there's almost nothing you can't
do in America today. ...
I also encourage them not to worry about what's happening in journalism
today because if you actually are a journalist, there is always going
to be a place for you.
What reporters must do, always, to ensure the freedoms that we all
enjoy is to just give them the facts. ...
So in this case, when I talk to young people, I say it's not the
changes that we have to be afraid of in journalism. It's not the
different media that we are going to be writing in. What is important
now for us to address is the splintering of the media, the media
that is right or left or has an opinion, the transition from being
a reporter to being an entertainer. To me, that's the most threatening
thing that's happening in journalism today. If we just remember what
Jack Nelson said about presenting the facts, if we remember what
I was taught by Henry Price and others at the USC School of Journalism,
we can heal the splintering that's going on, and we can maintain
the most important freedom that I think is here, the freedom of speech
that enables the freedom of thought.
remember often interrupting Ernie Wiggins in his office ... Wiggins
helped me focus my thesis and kept me on track to graduation. ...
I remember also making frantic calls to Eric Collins from the Gamecock
offices. ... He always, no matter the hour or the topic, took it
in stride. ... And Doug Fisher
— when I came to copyediting class I had to leave the chip
on my shoulder at the door because he spares no one. ... I can still
hear his voice saying in my head, "I'm going to ding you for
The core values
These are the values I learned in the halls of the J-school:
to challenge the conventional wisdom, the knowledge that the law
is typically on the journalists' side and to always keep readers
in mind. I also got a fundamental grounding in the First Amendment
... They are a set of values I turn to often, and a set of values
that I rely on especially now in a turbulent industry.
A new industry trend
There's a disturbing trend in the industry. ... It's gaining
ground as circulation drops: It's the idea to start charging users
for general interest newspaper Web sites. ...
There are two key issues that tell me that charging for newspaper
Web sites is dangerous ground. ... The first is that putting up walls
goes against the spirit of the Web. ...
The second reason, though, that I think charging for content is
a dangerous one really ties into why we are here tonight. I think
there's a fundamental First Amendment issue in walling off content.
The work that journalists do, the most crucial, most important work — the
watchdog coverage, shining the light in the dark corners, afflicting
the comfortable, comforting the afflicted— it means nothing,
if no one reads it. ...
Too often we publish a story and rush right off to the next one.
... Our work really is meaningful when someone reads a story, sees
the photo and actually acts on it. ... We can report and write and
report and write and shoot photos and videos and post them, but they
won't mean anything if they are in a vacuum, and I believe a paid
site is a vacuum with a limited reach. Information is power, but
information that anyone can access is the most powerful. This core
belief that knowledge should be shared and shared freely and widely
really developed from the relationships I had here with professors
and with my friends at USC.
to everyone who has won tonight. You are the reason we are here.
Jerry Jewler is one of the reasons I came. He and Belle have been
so gracious. I won't bore you to tears with all the Woody Allen Thanksgivings
we have served together. ...
But Jerry is an extraordinary individual. He is one of the nation's
distinguished advertising educators from AAF, as is Lee Wenthe, who
came from Edisto to be here tonight. I was very touched when Karen
Mallia blew the surprise by telling me she had to clean her house.
Why I came to South Carolina is because service is in the DNA. Not
every university has service as an integral part of what it's about.
I am very, very grateful.