Hall inducts seven in 50th anniversary celebration

This story was posted on Oct. 25, 2015.

2015 inductees
Photo by Ann Schertz
From left are 2015 inductees Gary Varvel, John Rumbach, Bob Daugherty, Cleve Wilhoit and Tom French.

The Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday by inducting seven new members during ceremonies at the Indiana Memorial Union in Bloomington.

The Class of 2015 includes journalists, broadcasters and scholars with Indiana connections:

  • Bob Daugherty, who covered nine presidents during their White House terms as a photographer for The Associated Press;
  • Tom French, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and professor of practice at the Indiana University Media School;
  • John Rumbach, editor and co-publisher of The Herald in Jasper, Indiana, who led the publication to the forefront of newspaper photography;
  • The late Gene Slaymaker, a distinguished longtime Indianapolis radio and television reporter, and newsroom leader;
  • The late Lotys B. Stewart, a prolific writer as well as the fashion and home furnishings editor for The Indianapolis Star;
  • Gary Varvel, syndicated editorial cartoonist with The Indianapolis Star; and
  • Cleve Wilhoit, retired professor and researcher who has studied journalists about their work and careers.

Board member Lee Giles, retired news director at WISH-TV in Indianapolis, served as emcee, introducing short video biographies. Each inductee or a family member spoke to the crowd, which included hall of fame members and inductees’ families and friends. IJHF president Sarah O. Wilson presented the awards.

wilson, daugherty
Photo by Ann Schertz
IJHF president Sarah O. Wilson presented retired AP photographer Bob Daugherty with his award. He covered nine U.S. presidents during his career.

Daugherty, who covered the rise and, sometimes, the fall of U.S. presidents, talked about his career, which started when he was taking photos for the yearbook at Marion High School. He later worked at The Indianapolis Star, where he recalled working with fellow 2015 inductee Lotys Benning Stewart, then moved to The Associated Press.

During his career, he captured now-famous photos, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson at his desk, writing what would be his speech withdrawing from the 1968 presidential race. He also captured a now-iconic shot of Richard M. Nixon on the steps of his airplane, about to depart Washington after resigning his office. Daugherty said that photo was emblematic of U.S. democracy.

“Where else can one observed the resignation of the president and installation of the successor, all within an hour? No tanks or troops necessary,” he said.

French, who spent more than 20 years at the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times), reflected on his student days as he noted his mentors, including Wilhoit, in the audience, but focused on his Media School students.

“We have terrific students who work themselves hard, are dedicated and are so much smarter and mature than I was,” French said of the students in his classes and those he has mentored during his seven years of teaching.

John Rumbach cited his family, which “has ink in its veins,” as the foundation for his success. His grandfather was committed to community journalism and adopted a corporate mission statement “that recognizes newspapers are a unique business; that directs us to serve the community and produce quality products; and values long-term stability over short term profits.”

John Rumbach
Photo by Ann Schertz
John Rumbach of The Herald in Jasper has brought news photography to the forefront of daily news.

His own contribution has been to bring news photography to the forefront of The Herald.

“Written and visual journalists should be equal partners,” he said. “This is more important today than ever, and the opportunity for words and pictures to work together to report news and tell stories is greater than ever.”

The late Gene Slaymaker was praised in his biographical video for his work at WTCL, an urban Indianapolis radio station with a mostly African American staff. As news director, Slaymaker mentored young staffers and guided the station to cover its community. He worked in radio, television and public relations, and also was a member of the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Slaymaker won two national awards for his radio editorial on the 1983 police shooting of former IU football player Denver Smith. Instead of hearing from family members, the audience heard a recording of Slaymaker reading his editorial on the air.

Lotys Benning Stewart’s son, William Stewart, accepted the award on behalf of his mother, who died in 1955, and talked about his memories of her career as one of the first full-time fashion editor in Indiana journalism. At The Indianapolis Star, Lotys Benning Stewart covered fashion and home furnishings, traveling to New York to bring fashion news to her Hoosier readers.

“She was a remarkable woman whose ability to convey news and ideas touched many lives over many years,” her son said. “She enjoyed being in front of societal change.”

Wilhoit, tash, French
Photo by Ann Schertz
Inductee Cleve Wilhoit, member Paul Tash and inductee Tom French chatted before the ceremony. As journalism undergrads at IU, Tash and French were Wilhoit’s students.

Gary Varvel, who became the editorial cartoonist for The Indianapolis Star in 1994, achieved national syndication in 2001 and is known for his political commentary. He described his career path and the people who helped shape his perspective and his drawing ability.

While he drew cartoons in high school, he knew he needed help if he wanted to make this a career. He found mentors who helped him refine his work as well as develop a “fire in his belly” for editorial cartooning. He said he would have much more difficulty trying to break into this profession today.

“There were about 700 editorial cartoonists when I first started in the 1970s. Now, I’m one of less than 40 full-time editorial cartoonists in the U.S.,” he said. “I’m very blessed to do this.”

Several inductees commented on the struggles of news organizations, especially newspapers, to adapt and make money in the digital age. As a researcher, Cleve Wilhoit spent several decades surveying journalists about their attitudes toward their work. Every 10 years, he and his collaborators published an update to The American Journalist project, marking and analyzing trends.

During his talk, he addressed with data some of the points the other speakers made. The overarching theme, he said, is that journalists want to effect change, to shine light on untold stories and issues. And, he added, they find this more difficult than ever in an industry that has been challenged by digital change and business plans that weren’t sufficient for the times.

“The Golden Age is not over,” he said, ticking off the organizations that have responded to change brought by the digital world and are thriving: The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Atlantic magazine, all of which are reaching larger audiences through royalty platforms. “

And, like French, Wilhoit expressed faith in today’s students.

Photo by Ann Schertz
Syndicated editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel listened to speakers during the ceremony. He is one of only 40 newspaper editorial cartoonists in the U.S.

“News journalism and its pivotal role in American democracy fall to a new generation of students with big shoes to fill, but they will not disappoint us with their creativity and intrepidness,” he said.

Also present for the festivities were former WISH-TV anchor Mike Ahern, many members of the hall of fame and Media School dean James Shanahan.

The hall also named its service award in honor of John P. McMeel, who accepted the honor. The John P. McMeel Distinguished Service Award is given periodically to a person who has contributed to the advancement of journalism in Indiana.

The Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame was established in 1966 by the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to honor journalists with strong ties to Indiana who’ve had significant impact nationally or locally through their work. It now is a partner with the Indiana University Media School, which houses the hall’s archives and works with the hall in producing its website and induction ceremony.


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