Talent, passion highlights press honorees

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By MONTE HALE JR, Murfreesboro Post

Talent, dedication and immense passion embody six individuals who were inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Aug. 12.

The second annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center featured both broadcast and print professionals who had one common goal - deliver people the news.

This year's inductees included: Joe Birch of WMC TV in Memphis; Bob Johnson of WTVC in Chattanooga; Alex Jones, who family owns the "Greeneville Sun"; Luther Masingill, the longest serving radio announcer in the United States at WDEF Radio in Chattanooga; Otis Sanford, veteran editor with "The Commercial Appeal" in Memphis; Sam Venable, long time writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Birch has been a lead anchor for 35 years. He has exposed sex dens being operated in abandoned schools in Memphis, become a hero at St. Judes Children's Hospital (raising more than $100,000) and is known as the Walter Cronkite in Memphis.

"This is a serious honor," Birch said. "A holy mystery of how this came about. When I saw Mr. John Seigenthaler's (former Tennessean editor) name was in I was astonished that mine was in the same sentence as his."

Johnson's career spanned 45 years as a radio man and TV anchor. In 2007, he was sent to Russia to report on the Reagan/Gorbachev summit before the fall of communism. He also went to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to cover the first space shuttle flight in three years after the Challenger disaster.

"I wanted to be on radio at the age of 15," said Johnson. "I found my niche on television. The thing that I enjoyed most was going on air every day to deliver the news to people in their homes."

Jones is a fourth generation owner of the Greeneville Sun, who is best known for winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 while working for the "New York Times."

His story about a powerful newspaper family's triumphs and tribulations that eventually resulted in the sale of the empire won him the Pulitzer.

He is the director of the Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. After spending many days gathering information, interviewing people and writing the story, Jones said he sent the story back to New York knowing he had done his "very best."

"I am from a newspaper family," Jones said. "I'm extremely proud of my family and grateful to have them with me. Journalism is an art and craft and a calling. . This means a great deal to me. I'm honored and touched."

Sanford, a veteran editor of "The Commercial Appeal," holds the Helen and Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economics/ Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis.

He began his career at "The Clarion Ledger" in Jackson, Miss., and later served as editor of opinions, deputy manager and reporter and assistant metro editor for "The Commercial Appeal."

He covered the death of Elvis Presley and is a renowned speaker."I'm very honored by this award . to be part of such a prestigious, prestigious honor," Sanford said.
"Journalism is not only a noble profession - it's a calling in life. It's something deep down in your soul."

Venable is a long time columnist at the "Knoxville News Sentinel" who has authored 12 books. He also worked as a feature writer and police reporter for the "Knoxville Journal" and "Chattanooga Free Press." Known for his wit and love for the outdoors, Venable also has become a popular stand-up comedian.

"I'm incredibly honored and humbled," Venable said. "We're all a product of people we worked under. I worked for great editors. . I've had the longest leash for 44 years with the Knoxville News Sentinel to just go write."

Masingill, 92, has worked for 70 years at WDEF Radio in Chattanooga. He is the only announcer in the country to have reported on air the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.

He began his radio career in 1940 before joining the Army in 1942 and serving with the 13thAirborne Signal Corps in the South Pacific, New Guinea and Philippines
.He is best known for his morning drive show and also appears on News 12's Morning show and daily Noon show. His awards also include the prestigious Marconi Award and the Tennessee Association of Broad-casters "Distinguished Service Award."
Masingill was unable to attend the induction ceremony.
The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame was founded by Courier columnist Dan Whittle and Hooper Penuel.
MTSU's Dr. Larry Burriss, also a Courier columnist, serves as its president.

WSMV TV's Demetria Kalodimos served as the Hall of Fame emcee, while speakers included: Ken Paulson (Dean of MTSU's College of Mass Communication); Whit Adamson (President of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters); Ron Fryar (Publisher of the "The Murfreesboro Post" and Publisher/Owner of the "Cannon Courier."

The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame is housed in the Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building at MTSU.

Last year's inaugural class was also recognized and included: John Seigenthaler, Chris Clark, Dan Miller, Dean Stone Bill Williams Jr. and Anne Holt.

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