Representing excellence in newspaper, television and radio news, six veteran journalists were inducted into the second class of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame before a capacity crowd Tuesday afternoon at Murfreesboro’s Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.
The inductions were held during the 60th annual conference of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, which sponsored the ceremony along with the Associated Press. The Hall of Fame is an independent partner with MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, which houses the hall in its Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building on the MTSU campus.
The 2014 honorees were:
- Joe Birch, longtime co-anchor of WMC-TV Action News 5 in Memphis. A veteran lead anchor for 35 years, Birch is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has been recognized for his community work. He exposed sex dens being operated in abandoned schools and became a hero of and for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a prolific fundraising advocate.
- Bob Johnson, retired co-anchor of WTVC-TV News in Chattanooga. A veteran journalist of 45 years, Johnson reported from the scene of stories as diverse as the 1988 Moscow summit between the U.S. and Russia and the space shuttle’s first flight after the 1986 Challenger explosion.
- Alex S. Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner for The New York Times. Jones is the director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and also holds the school’s Laurence M. Lombard Chair in the Press and Public Policy. His family owns the Greeneville Sun in Greeneville, Tennessee, which is part of the Jones Media Network.
- Luther Masingill of WDEF Radio/TV, Chattanooga. Masingill is the world’s longest-serving radio announcer working at the same station. He is the only announcer to have reported on-air both the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 2011 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.
- Otis Sanford, longtime former reporter, editor and columnist for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. Sanford now holds the Helen and Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economics/Managerial Journalism in the Department of Journalism at the University of Memphis. He is a nationally recognized speaker on journalism ethics, education and the First Amendment.
- Sam Venable, columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Venable has also written 12 books featuring his wit and unique look at life and contributed to many other books as well. He is the winner of more than three dozen national and regional writing awards.
With proud family, friends and supporters looking on, this year’s inductees noted the honor of being members of the same hall of fame that inducted legendary journalist and First Amendment advocate John Seigenthaler in its inaugural class last year. Seigenthaler died last month at age 86.
Birch thanked the mentors “who taught me our craft” and hoped that the hall would inspire the next generation of dedicated journalist “because we need bright young people in journalism, whatever it’s going to be.”
Johnson, who retired from television news in 2007 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, expressed the supreme satisfaction he felt of “holding a mirror to the community” in Chattanooga for more than three decades.
Jones, a fourth-generation journalist who won a Pulitzer for his in-depth coverage of a Kentucky family’s media empire, told the crowd that “journalism is an art, a craft, a calling, and a mission, and work … it’s all kinds of things.” To the journalists in attendance, he said, “I’m proud to be one of you.”
Masingill, now 92, was unable to attend the ceremony. Proudly accepting the honor on his behalf were Phil Cox, general manager of WDEF-TV and chairman of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, and Bernie Barker, vice president and general manager of WDEF Radio. “Luther is an incredible fixture in Chattanooga,” Barker said.
Sanford noted that journalism “is not only a noble profession, but sometimes it’s a calling from the Almighty. … It’s been a thrill ride for me in journalism.” After sharing some of his trademark humor, Venable said that he was “incredibly honored and humbled” to be inducted into the hall of fame.
WSMV-TV Channel 4 anchor Demetria Kalodimos served as master of ceremonies.
In welcoming remarks, MTSU Mass Communication Dean Ken Paulson noted that Seigenthaler, a “good friend” with whom he worked for years at the First Amendment Center, was thrilled to be inducted into the hall’s inaugural class last year because of what the hall represents for a noble profession.
“It meant the world to him,” Paulson said of Seigenthaler. “One of our biggest challenges in education is conveying to this new generation of journalists just how important this work is.”
The Hall of Fame’s bylaws note that its inductees represent “those who have made significant and substantial contributions to the journalism profession.” Honorees may be living or deceased native Tennesseans who spent much of their career in state or out of state, or non-natives who spent a substantial part of their career in Tennessee.
The hall’s inaugural honorees, inducted in April 2013, were Chris Clark, retired chief news anchor for WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5 in Nashville; Anne Holt, a 30-year veteran and three-time Emmy winner at Nashville’s WKRN-TV News 2; the late Dan Miller, longtime chief news anchor and multiple Emmy Award winner at Nashville’s WSMV-TV Channel 4; Seigenthaler, chairman emeritus of The Tennessean and founding editorial director of USA Today; Dean Stone, editor of The Daily Times in Maryville, Tennessee, and former president of the Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors; and William Bryant “Bill” Williams Jr., publisher emeritus of the Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer.
Clark, Stone and Williams also attended Tuesday’s ceremony.
To be considered by the Hall of Fame’s board for induction, individuals must have distinguished themselves through news or business management, leadership in the industry, or in the ordinary practice of journalism. Those whose contributions have been recognized by their peers in other venues also may be considered. Inductees can include reporters, writers, editors, publishers, news directors and other managers, as well as those who have excelled in advertising or public relations and journalism, advertising and PR education.
For more information about the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, visit its website at www.tnjournalismhof.org or contact Hooper Penuel, TJHOF secretary, at 615-347-1672.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Watch a video of the entire ceremony below: