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Bodette, Pittman win McGruder diversity leadership awards
John Bodette, Charles Pittman win McGruder diversity leadership awards

Posted Aug. 20, 2008

John Bodette

Charles Pittman

John Bodette, executive editor of the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times, and Charles Pittman, senior vice president for publishing at Schurz Communications, have been named winners of the seventh annual Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership.

The two will be honored as champions of newsroom diversity at the Associated Press Managing Editors convention Sept. 10 in Las Vegas.

The awards are given by the Freedom Forum, which provides the funding and administers the program, in partnership with APME and the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE). Each honoree receives $2,500 and a sculpture.

The awards go to individuals, newsrooms or teams of journalists who embody the spirit of McGruder, a former APME president and executive editor of the Detroit Free Press and relentless diversity advocate who died in April 2002. Judges singled out Bodette and Pittman for furthering diversity in content and in recruiting, developing and retaining journalists of color.

"John Bodette and Charles Pittman deserve recognition because their qualities are so similar to those of Bob McGruder, and because they haven't lost their focus on the importance of diversity despite extraordinary economic challenges for the industry," said Jack Marsh, vice president/diversity programs of the Freedom Forum and Diversity Institute. "Their passion for diversity is unwavering and an inspiration to others. They model what they preach by mentoring, hiring and promoting journalists of color. Their organizations and readers reap the benefits of newsroom diversity through richer, fairer, more inclusive and more relevant content."

Although Bodette and Pittman have responsibilities that are different in size and scope, the influence of both is vast and their passion is contagious, the judges noted. Bodette works at the community-newspaper level in a single market. Pittman advocates diversity as an industry leader and media executive responsible for 17 daily newspapers.

Pittman, who won in the over-75,000 circulation category, "has been a persistent and influential voice for diversity and industry change, particularly among the people who lead newspaper companies," said Jeanne Fox-Alston, vice president of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation. "Through actions and words, he has leveraged the access that he has to industry leaders, and at his company has set an example for others to follow."

Pittman chairs the diversity committee of the Newspaper Association of America, sits on the Associated Press and American Press Institute boards of directors and will be president of the Inland Daily Press Association in 2010.

In August, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., announced that Schurz is one of only three media companies working with it to increase the number of senior newsroom managers of color through the "Ten by 2010" initiative. Each summer, Schurz Communications newsrooms also host a dozen multimedia journalism interns from the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. And Schurz filled several full-time positions in recent years with graduates of another Diversity Institute journalism-training program.

"Charles understands, as so many do not, that if we abandon the goals and principles of our business now, we're truly lost," said Tim Harmon, managing editor of the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, a Schurz newspaper. "Charles stands tall for the idea that newspapers' obligations to serve all parts of their community hasn't gone away just because advertising and circulation revenues are lagging."

In the under-75,000 circulation category, Bodette was cited for a positive and profound impact on journalists of color, his newspaper and the industry. "It is wonderful to read the praise about him" from interns and staff members, said Pam Fine, diversity chair for ASNE and one of the judges. "That shows that his legacy of championing diversity will extend long into the future. It also shows the impact one committed editor can have on the careers of individuals."

Bodette "sets a tone and creates a culture that invites journalists of color to boldly display their abilities and launch their careers," according to the nomination from St. Cloud Times Publisher Bill Albrecht and Managing Editor Sue Halena. "He has made that a priority during his 33-year tenure, first as managing editor and now as executive editor. For the 45 professionals in the room, the welcoming is as natural as breathing and talking. ... That's just the way it is. Ask John why it is and you will eventually hear his creed: Do the right thing."

Bodette was recognized for his recruiting and mentoring of young journalists. In recent years, the St. Cloud Times hired seven interns from the American Indian Journalism Institute and 20 interns from the Chips Quinn Scholars program. Bodette is a visiting journalist in classrooms and on college campuses, and a career coach to aspiring and rising journalists. He also is a volunteer mentor at the annual Native American Journalism Career Conference at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.

"During my five years at the St. Cloud Times, John became an invaluable coach and mentor to me, always encouraging me to think big and go for the key stories even when it seemed impossible," wrote Michelle Tan, now a staff writer at Army Times. "He taught me to care about our readers, be passionate about my job and look for the truth no matter how difficult it may be. ... John's passion for journalism and his heart for young journalists have left a lasting impression."

Judges were Calvin Stovall, executive editor, Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, N.Y., representing APME; Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel, and Fine of the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at The University of Kansas, representing ASNE; Aki Soga, editorial-page editor of The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, representing UNITY; last year's winners Joe Grimm, former recruiting and development editor at the Detroit Free Press, and Wanda Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser; and Marsh, representing the Freedom Forum.

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