Center pays tribute to objective reporting in its first awards dinner

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Walter E. Hussman Jr., longtime publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, helped established the Center for Integrity in News Reporting. Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

WASHINGTON — Reporters whose work highlighted issues ranging from misconduct within the Los Angeles Fire Department to sexual assault at a U.S. military academy received recognition during a ceremony celebrating objective and fair journalism.

The Center for Integrity in News Reporting held its first awards dinner honoring impartial reporting May 14 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The organization, citing declining public confidence in news organizations, offered the awards with hopes of encouraging news organizations to pursue reporting similar to the celebrated content, restoring Americans’ trust in journalism in the process.

Walter E. Hussman Jr.–the chairman of WEHCO Media Inc. and longtime publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette–helped establish the center, with its first major step being to honor journalistic work from across the country.

“After a lot of good advice, we decided the first initiative really should be reward the very best examples of impartial, objective and fair news reporting,” he said.

Hussman, current WEHCO Media Publisher Eliza Gaines and former (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger editor Charles Overby serve as the center’s trustees.

Hussman pitched the center’s work by referring to reports regarding Americans’ views of the news industry. An October 2023 survey from Gallup showed less than 20% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in newspapers and television news. In a 2020 report from Gallup and the Knight Foundation concerning how Americans perceive news coverage, 46% of respondents reported seeing “a great deal” of political bias in news coverage.

“It’s fine to have news and facts in an opinion piece, but opinion should not be in news articles,” Hussman said.

Fox News host Bret Baier, the event’s keynote speaker, said news organizations should prioritize informing the public on the state of the nation, its people and how everyone can do better “in the long run.”

“Sometimes, it’s not about the clicks, it’s not about the views, and it’s not about how many people are tuned in,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to eat the chicken and broccoli before you have the cotton candy.”

The center recruited executive directors with six state press associations to judge more than 100 entries from print, cable television and digital news organizations: Ashley Kemp Wimberley with the Arkansas Press Association; Brian Allfrey with the Utah Press Association; Emily Bradbury with the Kansas Press Association; Layne Bruce with the Mississippi Press Association; Mark Maassen with the Missouri Press Association; and Michelle Rea with the New York Press Association.

Winners of the awards included Paul Pringle of the Los Angeles Times with his coverage into leadership of the Los Angeles Fire Department; CNN for its investigation into sexual assault cover-ups at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; and Rose Hoban with North Carolina Health News for her reporting on Blue Cross NC.

Molly Parker and Beth Hundsdorfer with Capitol News Illinois; Ashley Luthern with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Fox News’ Baier; HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’; Chris Fulton with Mountain Home Observer; and Public Health Watch were recognized as award finalists.