March 31, 2009

NPR’s Scott Simon to present Marmaduke lecture

by Pete Rosenbery

Scott Simon
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Peabody and Emmy award-winning broadcaster, commentator and author Scott Simon will discuss journalism and his inspiration when he visits Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week.

Simon, host of National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” will present the Virginia Marmaduke Scholarship Lecture at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, in the Student Center Ballrooms. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture honors the late Virginia “The Duchess” Marmaduke, a Southern Illinois native and groundbreaking Chicago journalist. A native of Carbondale who spent much of her later life in Pinckneyville, Marmaduke died in November 2001 at age 93.

Simon, who is Marmaduke’s godson, will discuss, “What’s the News When Every Person is His or Her Own Jimmy Olson and Perry White?”

The lecture description states it is a “plea to remember that real journalism challenges an audience, not just rewards their biases.” Simon will also draw upon the Marmaduke’s own experiences as an award-winning reporter and the first female news reporter for the Chicago Sun newspaper during World War II.

Simon said it’s an honor to speak in “the lineage of Virginia, my godmother and inspiration.”

He said he expects to tell the audience that Marmaduke “also lived through a great many changes in journalism -- from family owned to publicly owned newspapers, the rise of radio, then TV -- but that she never forfeited the quality of journalism embodied in that old Chicago phrase: ‘The job of a journalist is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted’.”

“I hope that the audience understands that good journalism won’t be possible in the future without a good audience; people prepared to be challenged by journalism, not reassured that they are correct in their assumptions,” Simon said.

The College of Mass Communications and Media Arts’ Virginia Marmaduke Scholarship Fund, and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute sponsor Simon’s lecture.

Dean Gary P. Kolb said this year’s lecture is particularly special because of Simon’s relationship with Marmaduke.

“We are thrilled to have Scott Simon on campus to help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of Public Broadcasting, visit with our Virginia Marmaduke Scholars in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, and deliver a public lecture cosponsored with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute,” Kolb said. “Scott Simon is a nationally known figure in public broadcasting with a distinguished career. He is a celebrated writer as well as noted commentator. We look forward to sharing a delightful evening with the local community.”

Marmaduke, who would go on to interview two U.S. presidents, Queen Elizabeth II, and numerous celebrities, worked at the Chicago Sun-Times after the two papers merged and briefly worked at the Chicago Tribune. Marmaduke also had a career in broadcasting beginning in the 1950s, hosting a radio advice show and also working in television. She hosted the Illinois pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. After returning to Southern Illinois in the mid-1960s, she remained a strong supporter of SIUC, and regularly spoke and visited with communications’ students and faculty.

Marmaduke “left a lasting legacy to the students of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts through her scholarship fund and to the campus and regional communities through her establishment of the Virginia Marmaduke Scholars Lecture fund,” Kolb said. The award goes to outstanding students in radio-television and journalism who have strong academic backgrounds and demonstrate talent within their department.

While on campus, Simon will meet with the college’s Marmaduke Scholars for about an hour.

“Scott is a respected American journalist and the institute is pleased to co-host his visit to campus,” said David Yepsen, who begins as the institute’s director on April 1. “This is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from one of the best.”

During his career, Simon has received every major broadcasting award, including the Peabody, Emmy, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award, according to his biography. The Washington Post has called his radio show, “the most literate, witty, moving and just plain interesting news show on any dial.”

Simon joined NPR in 1977 as chief of its Chicago bureau. A Chicago native, he received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine. He has also earned the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund and the Studs Terkel Award, according to his biography. His television specials including PBS’ “State of Mind and Voices of Vision,” and the Emmy winning, “Paterson Project.” Simon has appeared as a guest and commentator on all the major television networks, and contributed articles to newspapers including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Sunday Times of London.

He is the author of several books, including The New York Times bestseller, “Windy City,” “Pretty Birds,” “Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan,” and “Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball.”

The Marmaduke lecture series is the result of a $1.22 million gift from Marmaduke’s estate -- the largest gift in SIUC’s College of Mass Communication and Media Arts history. The gift funds the Virginia Marmaduke Mass Communication and Media Arts Endowed Scholarship, along with a lectureship and media center activities research also named in her honor.