A long time ago, a pioneer journalist got the scoop of scoops, the interview of interviews, because he had a reputation for courage, for backbone and ethics, for accuracy, strong detail and delightful description, the ability to get the quotes right, and spell difficult names correctly.
Like many later journalists, he turned his reporting and experience into best selling books, but as has always been the case, much of his success was because he was in the right place at the right time...and also because of his character, he was allowed unlimited access to personally interview … “The Authority of Authorities.”
In one of his books, this journalist, Moses... writes in Genesis 6:4: “There were Giants in the earth in those days.”
Folks, there still are, and this state is full of them, many of them members of a distinguished group.
Will Rogers is a member. So is William Ross, founder of the Cherokee Advocate. National names like Frank McGee, Paul Harvey, Vivian Vahlberg, Tony Hillerman, Walker Stone. State leaders like Harry Heath of OSU, H.H. Herbert and Joe Holland of O.U., Frosty Troy, E. K. Gaylord. Robert Lorton and Joe Worley of Tulsa. Pulitizer Prize winners like Vance Trimble of Okemah. And hundreds of people well known in their communities from the Panhandle to Little Dixie.
Like Ed Livermore Sr. of Edmond, Harold Belknap of Norman, Leland Gourley of Nichols Hills, Dick Pryor of OETA, Ben Blackstock of Ben Blackstock. Even Terry Clark.
I’m talking about the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, in a new exhibition hall and inducting nine new members.
This past year, UCO President W. Roger Webb hired me to spend half my time as director of the Hall of Fame, and designated a budget to redesign it and move it to the third floor of the Nigh University Center. The new exhibition hall is being completed today in time for Friday’s ceremony. I’ve moved my office to the University center, and with the help of some great people we have a new logo, new display area, everything in a high-traffic area attracting a lot of attention. Senior interior design students and senior design students with the help of their professors put together the display design and logo design for the area.
This Friday, Dr. Ray Tassin, who founded the hall in 1971, and my predecessor as journalism chair, will be here with me, with former director Dennie Hall, and a crowd of about 250 to cut the ribbon. I’ll post photos later. Then we'll eat, hear a speech by CNN war correspondent and Ponca City native Mike Boettcher. And those being inducted this year?
Gean B. Atkinson, Oklahoma City journalist; Mike Boettcher, CNN correspondent; Ray Dyer, co-publisher of the El Reno Tribune; Sean Dyer, co- publisher of the El Reno Tribune; Susan Boling Ellerbach, managing editor of the Tulsa World; Melba Lovelace, columnist for The Oklahoman; Andy Rieger, managing editor of The Norman Transcript; Bill Sherman, religion writer for the Tulsa World; and Jack Stone, retired executive editor of The Anadarko News.
They join 252 others members of the hall of fame, and about 30 of them will be in the crowd, along with friends and family. I’m proud.
I’m proud that the Mass Communication Department of the University of Central Oklahoma is home to the Hall of Fame because we love our profession, respect the job these journalists do, and value their example in instilling in our students the devotion to excellence and service and success we must have in a free state and country.
We honor the members, but they honor us here at UCO. We may use computers, not tablets of stone, but we still believe in the old- fashioned craft of teaching writing, of demanding accuracy and ethics, and emphasizing community service-- the nuts and bolts of what makes our profession so critical to the life of the state and Republic. We have a passion for good journalism that characterizes all these members of the hall of fame.
Our respect is best summed up by that great Oklahoma journalist, Will Rogers, who said:
“Take my ham away, take away my eggs, even my Chili, but leave me my newspapers.”