First Endowed Professorship Goes to Pulitzer Journalist
NEW PALTZ -- Note to editors: SUNY New Paltz will host a media availability with Jim Ottaway Jr., the donor who made this professorship possible, Sydney Schanberg, the university's first James H. Ottaway Sr. Fellow, and university officials, at 10:30 a.m., Dec. 11 at the College Terrace. Contact Ken Ross at (845) 257-3245 for additional information.
Sydney H. Schanberg, an internationally-known journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for international journalism in 1976, has been named the first fellow under the James H. Ottaway Sr. Endowed Visiting Professorship in Journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The James H. Ottaway Sr. Endowed Visiting Professorship in Journalism is named for the founder of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., which is now a coast-to-coast group of 19 daily, 13 Sunday and more than 30 weekly newspapers with a total circulation of 555,587. The flagship newspaper of the chain is the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.
The donation to create the professorship was made by his son, Jim Ottaway Jr., who succeeded his father as the company's chief executive officer in 1976. James Ottaway Sr. died in January at the age of 88. Ottaway Sr. was a founder of the American Press Institute, an industry education center in Reston, Va., and received its first lifetime achievement award in 1996.
"My father preached and practiced fair and objective, but also aggressive and questioning, community journalism," said Ottaway Jr. "He believed that good newspapers serve their communities and readers best when they praise the good that people do, as well as criticize people and activities that are not serving the public good. He wanted his newspapers to stand up for the underprivileged against powerful but insensitive government.
"Sydney Schanberg practiced similar principles in his lifetime of outstanding journalism - from the streets of New York City to the 'Killing Fields' of Cambodia," he said. "I am proud to support his appointment and to support the teaching of public service journalism at SUNY New Paltz, which has the largest journalism program at any SUNY campus and has trained many fine reporters and editors."
Schanberg will be a visiting professor for the spring 2001 semester. He will teach a course entitled "The News the Press Doesn't Cover," which will examine how owners, editors and reporters make choices about what is important and newsworthy. Schanberg will also conduct several workshops for regional newspaper reporters, as well as students and faculty.
"One of the pleasures of growing older in this profession is that of working with young or aspiring journalists and being able to pass on the traditions and the lore and, especially, the standards," said Schanberg. "Many things change with the passing of generations, but the criteria for excellence do not. I'm looking forward to my time at SUNY New Paltz with a great deal of excitement. I've had, and continue to have, a wonderful life in journalism; my wish is to share that with you and have you share with me your youthful energy and cultural insights."
Schanberg, 66, will bring his 40 years of experience in journalism to the Journalism Program, one of the university's most popular major programs. His Pulitzer Prize stemmed from his reporting on the fall of Cambodia to the communist guerillas known as the Khmer Rouge. The Pulitzer committee cited the "great risk" involved in Schanberg's reporting.
The movie "The Killing Fields," which won several Academy Awards, was based on Schanberg's book, "The Death and Life of Dith Pran." The book tells the story of Schanberg's trusted aide, Dith Pran, who he had to leave behind in Cambodia as he fled the country. Pran eventually was able also to flee to safety.
"Attracting a Pulitzer Award winning journalist with extensive international credentials demonstrates the standard of excellence here at SUNY New Paltz," said Roger Bowen, the university's president. "More importantly, it is an example of how community support extends the margin of excellence here. Jim Ottaway has always been a strong supporter of public education and SUNY New Paltz, and we are enormously grateful for his generosity to set up this prestigious professorship."
Schanberg began his work in journalism at the New York Times in 1959. He worked there for 26 years, becoming better known beginning in 1981 with his "New York" column on the newspaper's opinion page. The column on New York City politics and events was highly acclaimed. His writing often was devoted to the plight of the poor and the individual and critically challenged several civic projects supported by some of New York's most powerful interests.
"Syd Schanberg's column was a display of the best of journalism," commented Professor Robert Miraldi, who headed the search that led to Schanberg. "He was committed to the voiceless, the powerless, and to good and open government. His voice was in a Progressive and muckraking tradition that makes one proud to be called a journalist."
In 1986 Schanberg left the Times and wrote his column for Newsday, the sixth largest newspaper in America, until 1998. Schanberg most recently worked as the chief of the investigative unit of an online news service.
Located in the heart of a dynamic college town, 90 minutes from metropolitan New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
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