Longtime Midstate journalist Pat Embry has been selected as the new director of MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, bringing decades of experience with Nashville newspapers to help the College of Mass Communication expand national awareness of First Amendment issues.
The Seigenthaler Chair supports a variety of activities related to free speech, free press rights and other topics of concern for contemporary journalism, including distinguished visiting professors and visiting lecturers at MTSU, research related to free expression, seminars and meetings dedicated to expressive freedom and hands-on training for student journalists through the Seigenthaler News Service.
“Pat Embry brings a wealth of experience in journalism and a strong commitment to the First Amendment as he takes on this new role,” said Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Mass Communication.
“He’ll be a great mentor for our student journalists and help us build national visibility for our national First Amendment education efforts.”
“I’ve long admired John Seigenthaler’s relentless commitment to First Amendment awareness and education, and working with college interns always has been one of my favorite roles as a newspaper editor,” said Embry, a Nashville resident and former editor at the Nashville Banner and The Tennessean.
“Directing the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU combines the two. It’s a wonderful opportunity and a perfect fit for this stage in my career.”
Embry rose from sports writer to executive editor in a nearly 20-year career at the Nashville Banner and joined The Tennessean after the Banner closed in 1998. During his seven-year tenure with The Tennessean, Embry served as entertainment editor, oversaw editorial operations for six Middle Tennessee community newspapers and developed and launched “The Rage,” a free weekly entertainment printed guide and website.
Before coming to MTSU, Embry worked as editorial director for Magellan Press in Brentwood, leading operations and managing content for iTunes’ top paid mobile dining app, LocalEats, and its companion website since 2008. He also wrote, marketed and managed distribution for Magellan’s successful dining guidebook “Where the Locals Eat-Nashville” from 2005 to 2008.
Embry’s extensive civic and community work includes service as deputy chair of the Freedom of Information committee of the Tennessee Press Association; membership in Leadership Nashville and Leadership Music, including a stint as Leadership Music’s board president; and participation in the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Tourism Task Force. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
MTSU established the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies in 1986 to honor the iconic journalist’s lifelong commitment to free expression.
Seigenthaler, who passed away July 11 at age 86, was a reporter, editor, publisher and CEO of The Tennessean as well as an administrative assistant for then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. After serving as founding editorial director for USA Today, he established the First Amendment Center in Nashville in 1991.
The list of people who’ve served as chairholder for the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence at MTSU reads like a Who’s Who of media and includes Wallace Westfeldt, former producer for NBC and ABC News; Bill Kovach, former editor of The New York Times and curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard; Tom Wicker, former columnist for The New York Times; John Henry Faulk, humorist and popular CBS radio personality blacklisted during the Red Scare and a hero of free expression rights; Jim Squires, former editor of The Chicago Tribune; author and journalist Wallace Terry; television journalist Sander Vanocur; former U.S. News & World Report Washington bureau chief John Mashek; and Seigenthaler himself.
Embry joins three current MTSU professors who also have helmed the Seigenthaler Chair: Chris Clark, one of the longest-tenured TV anchors in American history with 41 years at WTVF-TV, whose advocacy for public information access led the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow TV cameras in the state’s courtrooms; Beverly Keel, entertainment journalist and music industry executive who now leads MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry; and Wendell “Sonny” Rawls, Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a former director of the Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
“My only regret is that I arrive too late to work with John directly,” Embry said. “I can’t help but think he’ll be here in spirit, though. It’s a challenging but enviable job to spend each day helping to continue John Seigenthaler’s legacy of relentless passion for, and commitment to, our First Amendment freedoms and for journalistic fairness, justice and truth-telling.”
Learn more about MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at www.mtsu.edu/masscomm/chair_mc.php.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)