Gov. Inslee to Students: Journalism More Important than Ever for American Democracy

By Peter Tormey
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gov. Jay Inslee told Gonzaga University journalism students on Friday that the increasingly blurred lines between fact and fiction in American public discourse threatens our democracy, underscoring the crucial importance of quality journalism.

“There’s never been a time in our nation’s history where journalism and journalism schools are more important,” Inslee told students and faculty in a class taught by Lecturer Tracy Simmons. “Never in our lifetime, my lifetime certainly, has the profession of journalism been more pivotal, more important and more threatened frankly because of the economics of the media today.”

Speaking as part of a panel to help students learn more about covering divisive and culturally complex issues, Inslee called the freedoms of speech and religion two central tenets of American democracy.

“I have seen the degradation of the common set of common facts, which are the foundation for a legitimate debate in American society, and that is very much at risk right now,” the Democrat said. “Because of what is happening in the media and the internet and everywhere else, we are no longer sharing a common set of facts.”

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to Gonzaga journalism students on Friday, Feb. 3. In the background is journalism Lecturer Tracy Simmons. (Gonzaga University photo by Zack Berlat)

While diverse opinions and political views are expected, and encouraged, Inslee said our inability to have a “common debate around a common reality, it reduces the effectiveness of democracy.”

The other panel members were Gloria Ochoa-Bruck, a member of the state’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs, and director of local government and multi-cultural affairs for the city of Spokane; Admir Rasic, a Spokane Muslim who was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina and lived with his family in Germany as war refugees before moving to Spokane in 2000; Father Jim Voiss, S.J., Gonzaga assistant vice president of mission and ministry and rector of the Jesuit community; and Dr. Hershel Zellman, a retired physician and active member of Spokane’s Jewish community.

Rasic told the students his biggest hope is that his daughter, who was born in Spokane, will grow up without being subjected to prejudice based on her religion, ethnicity or the fact that her parents are immigrants.

“As a Muslim, what I recognize especially in the media is the normalization to marginalize the Muslims. What we don’t see very often are stories about American Muslims in the media, people like me,” said Rasic, who encouraged the students to avoid settling for simple narratives that perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes.

In addition, he urged the students to take time to form relationships with people of other cultures.

“It’s so much harder to hold prejudices or hate another group if you get to know them better,” he said, noting that doing so will help them understand “hey, there are people out here with different types of beliefs working together to make our country a better place.”

Zellman serves as chair of the committee that presents the Spokane observance of the Holocaust.

“I would like to make the point that truth that isn’t spoken can be just as bad as lies that are spoken,” Zellman said. “Last Saturday was the International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the White House came out with a statement that somehow totally avoided using the word Jew or Jewish. What are we supposed to get from that? Were the Jews not involved? Come on, give me a break. I think that’s all that I want to say for right now. But as journalists I think that is important.”

Ochoa-Bruck advised the aspiring journalists to understand the power of words.

“Educate yourself and learn what terms mean,” she said. “When journalists print ‘illegal alien’ versus ‘undocumented person’ that’s very dehumanizing. These are people. You’re speaking to people, like me.”

Fr. Voiss shared a Catholic Mass Scripture reading for the day that speaks to the issues being discussed. The reading was from Hebrews 13:

“Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.”

The passage expresses concern for the foreigner, and those lacking the social resources to protect themselves, he said.

“It speaks to a sensibility that was very much a part of the founding inspiration of this country,” he said. “This is a part of an ethos, a sense of right and wrong that has permeated our culture, our society, since its inception and yet is very much threatened in our current climate.”

Voiss also urged the students to take great care in their use of language.

“The terms we use have power. The terms you will be using as journalists have power. They have the power to unmask lies but they also have the power to perpetuate prejudice, depending on how you use them,” he said.

Professors Coming to Cronkite for Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute

Fifteen journalism professors from 12 states and three countries are coming to Arizona State University for the annual Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute, a rigorous five-day seminar at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Now in its sixth year, the institute is designed to help journalism professors bring entrepreneurship into their academic programs. The Jan. 3-7 event is made possible through a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the E.W. Scripps Co.

“The rapid pace of change and disruption in the journalism industry requires the examination and development of new concepts and revenue models,” said Liz Carter, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation. “The college environment is fertile ground for the sort of innovation necessary to meet this demand. During its existence, this institute has stimulated ideas and built a productive community of educators dedicated to guiding and inspiring prospective journalism entrepreneurs.”

Cronkite Professor of Practice Dan Gillmor, an internationally recognized author and authority in new media and entrepreneurship, leads the institute, which features sessions on the principles of entrepreneurship, digital product development and the startup culture.

“The Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute spreads the concepts and the spirit of entrepreneurship to journalism programs across the country and around the world,” Gillmor said. “We are delighted to be working with Scripps Howard Foundation on this important program.”

This year’s institute will feature a keynote talk from longtime journalist and author Steven Levy, who founded the tech news website Backchannel. Other sessions include discussions with Mark Briggs, author of “Entrepreneurial Journalism,” and Jeff Jarvis, director, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, City University of New York.

The 15 fellows were competitively selected, and each of their universities has committed to offer a class in journalism entrepreneurship in the year following the fellowship. Training, lodging, meals, materials and transportation are provided to the fellows at no cost to them or their universities.

Dedicated to excellence in journalism, the Scripps Howard Foundation educates, empowers and honors extraordinary journalists who illuminate community issues, and partners with impactful organizations to drive change and improve lives. As the philanthropic arm of The E.W. Scripps Company, the Foundation is a leader in industry efforts in journalism education, scholarships, internships, minority recruitment and development, literacy and First Amendment causes. With a special commitment to the regions where Scripps does business, the Foundation helps build thriving communities.

2017 Scripps Howard Entrepreneurship Institute Fellows

L. Simone Byrd, Alabama State University

Britt Christensen, Zayed University

Jayne Cubbage, Bowie State University

Diego Fonseca, CIDE (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas)

M.E. Yancosek Gamble, Bethany College

Mary Glick, California Polytechnic State University

Amy Haimerl, Michigan State University

Robert Jonason, University of Cincinnati

Richard Jones, University of Huddersfield

Sheryl Kennedy-Haydel, Xavier University of Louisiana

Emily Metzgar, Indiana University

Charles Munro, University of Iowa

Tracy Simmons, Gonzaga University

Alecia Swasy, Washington and Lee University

Julia Wallace, Arizona State University

Coping with the death of a parent I hardly knew

They say our loved ones live on in our memories.

Or in the words of poet Thomas Campbell, “To live in hearts we leave behind. Is not to die.”

When grief wraps its spindly fingers around our hearts, we overcome by turning to recollections of our time together.

What do you do, though, when the pool of memories is slight, and the pool of disappointments runneth over?

When my dad died Tuesday at 2:44 p.m. Texas time, so did the fantasies I’ve been clutching for three decades.

It doesn’t feel like I lost a parent, it feels like I lost someone I’ve been longing to know — someone who looks just like me.

I’ve met my dad five times — six if you count our first reunion when I was 6 years old.

When I look back on those encounters, it’s not bliss that overwhelms me.

Nervous excitement ran through my veins the first time I met him when I was a little girl. It was at a gas station in Albuquerque. He bent down and gave me a hug. I remember his boots and jeans and jacket, but not his face. I remember the tears that followed after about two weeks, when he disappeared once again.

Anger seized me 13 years later when I saw his deep blue, discomforted eyes at an airport outside of Marshall, Texas. Sadness and frustration enveloped me when I said goodbye — sadness, because I wasn’t sure if I’d see this man again; and frustration because our time together had washed away the ire I wanted so badly to cling to.

Thus was the circle of emotions that came with each visit. It was a grueling vortex of sentiments — one I don’t particularly want to turn to in this time of grief.

For me my dad won’t live on through joyful memories, but through regret. I regret not knowing each other better, not having a seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th visit; but I also know I did my best. And, somehow, I can also sense his remorse. I saw it in his eyes. I heard it in his jokes. And more recently, I read it in the comments he left on my Facebook page.

Some, in efforts to console me, have said he’s watching me from above now. I wish I could believe that, but why would he start guarding me now?

No, I won’t find comfort in memories or thoughts of his watchful spirit. True relief lays in forgiveness. His abandonment will always sting. But I feel no resentment, no fury. I’m thankful to have met him, and by meeting him to have met my two half sisters. I’m thankful they were kind enough to hold the phone up to his ear for me in his final hours, so I could finally say, I love you.

RNA Honors Best in Religion Reporting


AUSTIN — Religion reporters from across the country won top honors Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Religion Newswriters Association’s 2013 awards competition.

Adon Taft was presented with the William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award. Taft was a long-time religion reporter for The Miami Herald and a leader within RNA.

Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post won first place in the Religion Reporter of the Year contest for large newspapers and wire services. Rachel Zoll of The Associated Press won second place and Daniel Burke won third for stories written for Religion News Service.

First place in the Religion Reporter of the Year contest for metropolitan newspapers went to Tim Townsend for work done at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Second place was awarded to Richard Dujardin of The Providence Journal, and third place went to Carla Hinton of The Oklahoman.

G. Jeffrey MacDonald, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, won the Cornell Religion Reporter of the Year Award for mid-sized newspapers. Jeff Sheler of The Virginian-Pilot and Peggy Fletcher Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune tied for second. Robert Sibley of The Ottawa Citizen received an honorable mention.

In the Cassels Religion Reporter of the Year contest for small newspapers, first place went to Matthew Miller of the Lansing State Journal, with Mary Garrigan of The Rapid City Journal in second place and Jennifer Preyss of the Victoria Advocate coming in third. Catherine Godbey of The Decatur Daily and Marshall Weiss of The Dayton Jewish Observer both received honorable mention.

Jaweed Kaleem of The Huffington Post won first place in the Supple Religion Feature Writer of the Year Award. David Gibson of Religion News Service placed second, and Peggy Fletcher Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune won third.

The Gerald A. Renner Enterprise Religion Report of the Year Award went to Tiffany Stanley of Religion & Politics, followed by Jaweed Kaleem of The Huffington Post in second and a team led by Arnold Labaton of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly in third.

First place in the Religion Commentary of the Year Award went to David Gibson of the Religion News Service. Second place went to Christine Scheller of and Naomi Schaefer Riley of The Wall Street Journal placed third. Jamie Mason of the National Catholic Reporter received an honorable mention.

The Schachern Award for Online Religion Section of the Year went to Reuters, with second place going to CNN and third place to Spokane.

Bobby Ross Jr. of The Christian Chronicle placed first for Magazine News Religion Report of the Year Award. Jaweed Kaleem of The Huffington Post Magazine placed second and Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter took third.

The Magazine of the Year Award went to Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Moment Magazine placed second and Sojourners came in third.

First place in the Radio or Podcast Religion Report of the Year contest went to Taki Telonidis of Western Folklife Center. Second place went to Tony Ganzer of World Radio Switzerland. Third place was awarded to Sarah Richards. An honorable mention was awarded to Amanda Greene of Wilmington Faith & Values.

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly swept the Television News Magazine Religion Report of the Year awards. Bob Faw placed first, Betty Rollin placed second, Judy Valente came in third and Kim Lawton received honorable mention.

The National Network/Cable News Religion Report of the Year Award went to Jerome Socolovsky with Voice of America. Second place was awarded to Eric Marrapodi of CNN and third went to Michael O’Sullivan, also with Voice of America.

The first place award for the Television Local News Religion Report of the Year contest went to Ben Winslow of KSTU Fox 13.

The Nonfiction Religion Book of the Year contest resulted in a tie for first. Winning first was Don Lattin for “Distilled Spirits” and T.H. Luhrman for “When God Talks Back.” Matti Friedman’s “The Aleppo Codex” placed second.

Finally, Rebecca Nakashima of Biola University won first place in the Chandler Award for Student Religion Reporter of the Year. In second place was Catherine Knarr of the University of Missouri. April Burbank of Wheaton College won third place. The Chandler Award for Student Religion Reporter of the Year was presented by Russell and M.L. Chandler, who fund the award.