McGruder award winners selected

The Honolulu Advertiser and the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D., have been named winners of the fourth annual Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership.

The Honolulu Advertiser and the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D., have been named winners of the fourth annual Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership.

The two newspapers will be honored for outstanding leadership in newsroom diversity at a Thursday, Oct. 27, luncheon at the Associated Press Managing Editors association (APME) convention in San Jose, Calif.

The awards are given by APME and ASNE in partnership with the Freedom Forum, which provides the funding. Each honoree receives $2,500 and a sculpture representing leadership.

“The Freedom Forum is pleased that newsroom diversity efforts are thriving in states as different as Hawaii and South Dakota, and in papers as large as The Honolulu Advertiser and as small as the Argus Leader. We hope these smart and strategic leaders will inspire others nationwide,” said Charles Overby, chairman, chief executive officer and president of the Freedom Forum.

The winners represent communities at both ends of the diversity spectrum.

People of color make up more than 75 percent of the population in The Advertiser's circulation area. “The ‘aloha spirit' is not a slogan for tourists, but a description of the qualities that matter in Hawaii,” Publisher Michael Fisch wrote in his nomination.

At the newspaper, 53 percent of the professional staff and 48 percent of the managers -- including all the assistant managing editors -- are people of color. Awards judge Gilbert Bailón, publisher and editor of Al Día in Dallas, noted that the newsroom employs people of color throughout the organization.

Rick Rodriguez, executive editor of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee and an awards judge, said, “I'm struck by the numbers -- by what they have been able to achieve. There's a real commitment to retain and build the staff.”

The Argus Leader covers a mostly white population. While people of color make up 6.4 percnet of the population of the newspaper's circulation area, the percentage of minority journalists at the newspaper is twice that.

Both the Argus Leader and The Honolulu Advertiser make developing their own employees a priority.

The Argus Leader helps to organize and run the annual Native American Newspaper Career Conference at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota that introduces Native high school and college students to journalism. Publisher Arnold Garson, as chairman of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's minority-affairs committee, has overseen conference planning since its inception in 2000. The newspaper also hosts interns from the Freedom Forum's American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota, and some staff members serve as teachers for the institute.

The Advertiser, led by Editor Saundra Keyes, looks to its internship classes for potential full-time employees and has provided mentoring that helped newsroom clerks move into professional positions.

"The Honolulu Advertiser is more than making good on its mission to ‘provide a voice for all of the community,'” said Suki Dardarian, an awards judge and deputy managing editor/metro of The Seattle Times. “The mission permeates everything it does. Its staff is among the most diverse in the nation -- in a community that is rich in diversity. And the staff's appetite to learn more about that community, explore the nuances of that diversity and improve its coverage is impressive.”

Awards judge Calvin Stovall, executive editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y., noted that the content of both newspapers was outstanding.

The Advertiser provided comprehensive coverage of a ruling by an appeals court that the admissions policy of Kamehameha Schools to give preference to students of Hawaiian blood violated federal civil rights laws. The newspaper also pays close attention to the details of content. It ensures diversity in its weekly Ohana (family) page, and it changed font styles to include diacritical markings in Hawaiian words. “A column we added this Spring to explore the wildly popular Korean soap operas includes frequent reflections on how the programs incorporate traditional Korean values,” Fisch wrote.

In the Argus Leader's nomination, Garson and Executive Editor Randell Beck wrote: “We believe strongly that the inclusive environment we have created in our newsroom has helped foster a culture that aggressively covers issues but also seeks out opportunities for explanatory journalism that informs readers and helps them understand how our state's diversity affects their lives.”

The newspaper has written about overcrowding and related health problems on South Dakota reservations and about the increasing number of women moving into tribal leadership positions. The editorial page provided a community forum to debate the merits of a proposal to halt the flow of refugees into the city. In 2003, the newspaper published a yearlong series of special sections about the status of Native Americans 30 years after the uprising at Wounded Knee.

“Other newspapers can learn from the Argus Leader's work to build relationships with groups whose voices traditionally have not been heard in their newspapers,” Stovall said. “Native Americans hear their voices and see their faces in the Argus Leader and know that the newspaper will cover important issues about them and of interest to them.”

Other nominees were:

(over-75,000 circulation category)

  • Margaret Bernstein, reporter, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
  • Douglas Clancy, assistant managing editor/administration, The Record, Bergen County, N.J., and the Herald News, West Paterson, N.J.
  • Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.
  • Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.
  • Greg Moore, editor, The Denver Post
  • Otis Sanford, managing editor, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
  • The Mercury News, San Jose, Calif.
  • The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.
  • The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.

(under-75,000 circulation category)

  • Alan English, executive editor, The Times, Shreveport, La.
  • Charles Pittman, senior vice president/newspapers, Schurz Communications
  • Kathy Spurlock, executive editor, The News-Star, Monroe, La.
  • Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald
  • York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News

Judging the competition were: Bailón, UNITY: Journalists of Color board member; Dardarian, APME vice president; Susan Ihne, 2004 winner and executive editor, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times; Bennie Ivory, 2004 winner and executive editor, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.; Kate Kennedy, director/partnerships and initiatives, Freedom Forum; Rodriguez, ASNE president; Sharon Rosenhause, ASNE Diversity Committee chair and managing editor, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale; and Stovall, APME Diversity Committee chair.

Past winners of the McGruder awards are:

  • 2004: Bennie Ivory, executive editor and vice president for news at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and Susan Ihne, then executive editor of the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times
  • 2003: Charlotte Hall, then vice president/planning, Newsday, Long Island; and the Greeley (Colo.) Tribune
  • 2002: Don Flores, executive vice president and editor, El Paso (Texas) Times; and Jim Strauss, publisher, Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune

The Freedom Forum, based in Arlington, Va., is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. The foundation focuses on three priorities: the Newseum, the First Amendment and newsroom diversity.