September 28, 2020

School of Journalism virtual event to honor PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff

by Pete Rosenbery

Judy-Woodruff-sm.jpgCARBONDALE, Ill. – Acclaimed broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award next month as the Gateway Journalism Review/St. Louis Journalism Review celebrates its 50th anniversary with a virtual event hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Journalism.

Woodruff, the anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, will receive the award during “An Evening Conversation with Judy Woodruff.” The program begins at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13. Tickets for the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Gateway Journalism Review, or GJR, are now available. The SIU School of Journalism publishes the quarterly print magazine along with a weekly newsletter that focuses on journalism and media-related issues.

‘Unassailable integrity and credibility’

Woodruff has five decades broadcast experience covering politics and other news for NBC, CNN and PBS, where she is anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour..

“Judy Woodruff is today's Walter Cronkite or, in the public media realm Jim Lehrer,” said William Freivogel, the SIU Carbondale School of Journalism professor responsible for publishing GJR.

“She is one of those unique people who has unassailable integrity and credibility. In an era of fake news and political divisions, this is no small feat. She is unflappable, modest, conversational and trustworthy.”

First Amendment, elections to be discussed

Jon Sawyer, director of the Pulitzer Center, will present Woodruff, who will be at home, with the award virtually. The annual event, called a “First Amendment Celebration, will likely start there and then center on the election, Freivogel said. He noted one of Woodruff’s quotes:

“A free press is at the heart of a democracy; it’s what ties the American people to their government, to each other, and to the rest of the world.”

Freivogel believes the event will be memorable at “an important historical moment.”

“We journalists too often talk about an election being the most important in recent history. But this one really may live up to the hype,” he said. “The election conversation will occur between the first and second presidential debates. And it comes in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the president's statements about the peaceful transfer of power.”

Previous lifetime achievement recipients were Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist in 2018 and Tony Messenger, Pulitzer Prize winning St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist in 2019.

Event delayed by pandemic

Woodruff was planning travel to St. Louis, Missouri for GJR’s 50th anniversary at the Edward Jones Building in Des Peres because St. Louis is the home of the publication’s long-time supporters. But the pandemic prompted cancellation of the celebration, Freivogel said.

Sawyer and Freivogel are former colleagues at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and worked together in the newspaper’s Washington, D.C. bureau for 12 years. Sawyer began the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in 2006 and “is one of the most successful of the new era of non-profit online news organizations,” Freivogel said.

Pulitzer Center and SIU have deep ties

The Pulitzer Center provides grants for veteran reporters and student journalists, including those from SIU Carbondale “to tell untold stories from around the world,” he added.

The university’s partnership with the Pulitzer Center gives students the opportunity to report on global issues through reporting fellowships. The School of Journalism has been part of the Campus Consortium since its launch in January 2009. SIU has had 15 students involved with reporting fellowships.

The Center’s grants have also allowed projects on civil asset forfeitures, GJR’s recent 1857 Project and a project on police accountability that Freivogel and about 10 college journalists are working on.

Five decades of journalistic review

GJR is one of only two journalism review publications in the nation. Funds from the event go toward paying for GJR’s four print editions and for freelance fees paid to journalists who write for it. Originally the St. Louis Journalism Review founded in 1970, GJR assumed the publication a decade ago at the request of its founder, Charles Klotzer, Freivogel said. The name change was a made “to reflect our aspiration to be a provider of Midwest media news, not just St. Louis news,” Freivogel said.