Six outstanding journalists comprising the 2014 second class will be inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame (TJHOF) located at Middle Tennessee State University’s Mass Communication department August 12, 2014. Induction ceremonies will take place during the 60th Annual Conference of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters at Murfreesboro’s Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. TJHOF is an independent partner with Middle Tennessee State University’s Mass Communications department under the guidance of Dean Ken Paulson, who is known nationwide as a leader in the industry.
The 2014 class includes; Joe Birch, WMV-TV, Memphis; Bob Johnson, Co-anchor WTVC News, Chattanooga; Alex Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times; Luther Masingill, WDEF Radio/TV, Chattanooga; Otis Sanford, Veteran Editor, Commercial Appeal, Memphis; and Sam Venable, Columnist, Knoxville News Sentinel.
A veteran lead anchor for 35 years with WMC TV, Joe Birch is as well known in Memphis as Walter Cronkite was to the nation with CBS. Active in the community, Joe can be easily identified as someone special with compassion, experience and influence.
It was through his abilities as a professional Journalist that he exposed sex dens being operated in abandoned schools, became a hero at St. Judes Children’s Hospital by raising large sums of money and through his compassion during interviews, got actor Michael Douglas to openly talk about his personal life on camera. Triumphs and tragedies is his beat, they say. It’s not just a job for him, some say, but a way of life. Having overcome a tragic personal tragedy himself during an automobile accident which broke his neck, he was back on the job in less than two weeks. Being a family man, Joe Birch says his real stars are members of his family, seeing his two sons change from diapers to graduation caps.
Bob Johnson, a veteran Journalist of 45 years, began his career spinning records at a small radio station in his hometown. But he found his niche in Television where he began constructing his talents as a staff announcer, weatherman, interview program host, game show announcer and by being an on the air personality as a co-host of yearly telethons for benefit causes. Serving as the anchor chair for WTVC’s evening news Bob rapidly became the go to person for news.
During this time before he retired in 2007, he was sent to Russia to report on the Reagan/Gorbachev summit just before the fall of communism. And after returning home Bob traveled to Cape Canaveral to cover space shuttle’s first flight following the Challenger’s explosion after take-off three years before.
Pulitzer Prize winner, Author, National Public Radio Host and Lecturer Alex Jones, whose family owns the Greenville Sun in Greenville, Tenn., which is part of Jones Media Network, is the director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also a lecturer at the school occupying the Laurence M. Lombard Chair in the Press and Public Policy. In 1987, while covering the newspaper industry for the New York Times, his story about “The Fall of the House of Bingham” described by some as “a skillful and sensitive report” about a powerful newspaper family’s ups and downs ended with the sale of the family media empire after years of management of Barry Bingham, Jr. The following year, Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Specialized Reporting.
Luther Masingill, the longest serving announcer at the same station (70 years at WDEF Radio and TV, Chattanooga) is the only announcer to have reported over the air both the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11 on the Twin Towers in New York.
He began his career in radio in 1940, joined the army in 1942 serving with the 13th Airborne Signal Corps in the South Pacific, New Guinea and the Philippines. Still known for his early morning drive show, he continues to be a hit with listeners of all ages. Always ready to help his fellow man, Luther, the icon, still works daily beginning with his early morning drive show, a daily calendar with News 12’s Morning show and the daily Noon show. His love for others is demonstrated by his efforts to relocate pets with family owners, with everything from snakes to Llamas. His awards include the prestigious Marconi Award, and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters “Broadcaster of the Year Award.
Otis Sanford, a veteran editor with The Commercial Appeal occupies the Helen and Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economics/Managerial Journalism in the Journalism Department of the University of Memphis. A native of Como Miss. Sanford graduated from the University of Mississippi. He began his career as a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. Later, he served as editor of opinions and editorials for some time as well as managing editor, deputy manager and reporter and assistant metro editor for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. A nationally recognized speaker on Journalism ethics, education and the First Amendment, Sanford has lectured at Vanderbilt, Indiana University, Florida A&M and Hampton University. Recognized many times throughout his career, he was awarded the prestigious Silver Em Award from the University of Mississippi Journalism Department and the annual print journalism award at the University of Memphis was named in his honor. Sanford is also a member of the African-American Hall of Fame by the Black Business Association of Memphis.
Sam Venable, a writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel, is a columnist (1985) who specializes in humor is widely known for his wit and bizarre look at life composed in 12 books he authored and a contributing author to many more. Venable began his career with the Sentinel 15 years before as an outdoor editor. A native of Knoxville he graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Journalism with a minor in forestry and wildlife management. Winner of more than three dozen national and regional writing awards, Venable has recently become popular on the stand-up comedy stage. He sold his first magazine article in his senior year of college leading to over 150 regular published works. Prior to working for the Sentinel, Venable worked as a police reporter and feature writer for the Knoxville Journal and Chattanooga Free Press.
According to TJHOF Bylaws, 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.
To be considered for induction, individuals must have distinguished themselves through news or business management, leadership in the industry, or in the ordinary practice of journalism, and those whose contributions have otherwise been recognized by their peers. Inductees come from various ranks to include, reporters, writers, editors, publishers, news directors and other managers, as well as those who have excelled in the advertising, public relations, and education in those disciplines.
The selection committee is drawn from the TJHOF board, which includes established leaders in all facets of the industry with expertise in the various individual categories eligible for membership in the Hall of Fame. Induction into the TJHOF will occur annually at a time and place established and announced by the TJHOF Board.
Demetria Kalodimos, Nashville’s longest continuous evening TV news anchor, popular personality and winner of many national awards for her Journalist abilities including the Edward R. Murray award for investigative reporting, will be on hand to emcee the induction ceremony which will honor and recognize the class of 2014. The induction ceremony will take place on August 12, 2014 in conjunction with the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters annual conference at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center, 1200 Conference Center Blvd. Murfreesboro, TN. 37129, 615-890-4464. The event will begin promptly at 4:30 p.m. with a welcome reception to follow.
For more information about the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, visit our web site at www.journalismhof.org. or contact Hooper Penuel, Secretary-Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, 615-347-1672.