Hall inducts six new members in annual ceremony

This story was posted on April 28, 2014.

Photo by Ann Schertz
The 2014 Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame induction ceremony was April 26 at the Tudor Room at Indiana University.

The Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame added six new members to its more than 200 during annual ceremonies April 26 at the Tudor Room in the Indiana Memorial Union.

The six news members are:

  • Walt Bogdanich, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner whose investigative work shone a light on business and government injustice;
  • Ruth Chin, a photojournalist who paved the way for both women and Chinese-Americans and who was the first female to cover the Indiana state high school basketball finals;
  • Earleen Fisher, who spent years reporting for The Associated Press in the Mideast, then was bureau chief in New Delhi and later chief of Middle East Services;
  • Lillian Thomas Fox, the first African-American to work for a white-owned newspaper in Indiana, who wrote a column for The Indianapolis News from 1900 to 1914;
  • Jim Hetherington, who worked in three media during his career — newspaper, television and corporate communications – and earned acclaim in each; and
  • James Alexander Thom, who applied his journalism skills to writing his successful historical novels focusing on Native Americans.
Photo by Ann Schertz
The New York Times' Walt Bogdanich has won three Pulitzer Prizes for investigative reporting.

Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame board member Lee Giles, retired WISH-TV news director, emceed the ceremony, which began with videos depicting the lives of each of the new members. Afterward, members or their friends or family accepted the awards, sharing a few remarks.

Bogdanich reflected on his 35 years as an investigative reporter for top newspapers and television news programs. Now assistant editor for investigative reporting at The New York Times, Bogdanich said his investigative career has been almost uninterrupted, unusual in the news business.

“For this work, you have to have a low threshold of indignation,” he said, adding that his anger over corporate or government injustice has been the spark for many of his story ideas. “Can you imagine what it’s like to be mad for 35 years?”

His Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations exposed toxic ingredients in Chinese-made medicines and other products; the corporate cover-up of responsibility for fatal accidents at railroad crossings; and faulty testing done at medical laboratories.

“My career is happy enterprise,” Bogdanich said. “I learned the craft here in Indiana, and I’m so thrilled to be around such distinguished people, in this hall, for such a great honor.”

Photo by Ann Schertz
Ruth Chin spent a lifetime in photography and told the crowd she is "not done yet."

Ruth Chin said she was drawn to art at an early age, but her father was more willing to buy her a camera than to buy pens and paints. She recounted how he gave her a camera when she was 8, and her photography hobby led to her first job at the Muncie Star in 1946.

One of her first assignments was covering the high school basketball tournament, the first woman to do so. A security guard questioned her right to be on the floor, not the first time Chin had to stand up to those who didn’t expect a 5-feet-2-inch Chinese-American woman to represent a news organization.

She later opened her own studio, taking on commercial clients, and used her love of travel and photography to freelance for travel magazines.

“I don’t look at this as an honor but as a mandate to get back to work,” said Chin, who turns 90 May 10 and said she has a few projects on her calendar. “If a picture is worth 1,000 words, I want that picture to shout, I want it to sing, I want it to cry. I want it to do something besides be on a piece of paper. I’m not done yet.”

Though she began her career 20 years after Chin, Earleen Fisher also found a way to crack the glass ceiling through Hoosier basketball. While working for The Associated Press in Indianapolis after college, Fisher wrote a feature about how school consolidation was changing the state basketball tournament. The story won a sports writing prize from the Indianapolis Press Club, which at that time did not allow women as members. When her name was announced, Fisher said she heard someone whisper, “It’s a girl.” She said that was just one of the many times her presence – and gender – surprised people.

Photo by Ann Schertz
Retired AP bureau chief Earleen Fisher talked about changes in technology, politics and gender equity over her career.

For example, in the early 1970s through the ‘80s, she filed stories with datelines such as Beirut, Tel Aviv, Nicosia, Dhaka and Kabul. Later, she was the New Delhi bureau chief, then chief of Middle Eastern Services, directing a staff of more than 100 journalists covering 16 countries.

Fisher talked about the changes she’s seen in technology and newsgathering.

“Today, we are inundated with the images, but can’t say for sure what day they were taken, where they were taken, who is in the photos,” she said. “We still need the person to tell you something is true, we need the journalist to interpret the story.”

Lillian Thomas Fox interpreted the story for the black population of Indianapolis in the early 20th century. Fox died in 1917, but her biography fascinated Frances Toler. As a graduate student at Ball State University in 1978, Toler chose Fox’s story for her thesis project.

“Fox started with her belief that written word could change lives,” said Toler, who accepted the award on behalf of Fox. “And she lived those words.”

Photo by Ann Schertz
Fran Toler, whose thesis explored the life of inductee Lillian Thomas Fox, described Fox's life and times.

Toler learned much about the Chicago native. Fox began writing for The Indianapolis Freeman, a newspaper for the black community largely supported by Booker T. Washington, and she later was the only woman on the five-member editorial staff.

Fox also worked as an advocate and community organizer for health and education programs. After her marriage failed, Fox returned to journalism, writing a column, News of the Colored Folk, for The Indianapolis News. She was the first African-American hired by a white-owned newspaper in Indiana.

Toler, a retired educator with the Federal Judicial Center who lives in Silver Spring, Md., praised Fox’s resilience.

“Her husband departed, her mother and brother died within two days of one another, yet she kept on,” Toler said. “She remained involved as a journalist, a speaker and an activist. She kept on.”

Susan Bassett Hetherington accepted the award on behalf of her husband, Jim Hetherington, whose ill health prevented his attendance. Several hall of fame members presented Hetherington with his award the day before the ceremony.

sue hetherington
Photo by Ann Schertz
Sue Hetherington discussed her husband's career. Inductee Jim Hetherington was too ill to attend the ceremony.

Sue Hetherington recounted her husband’s and her time at IU, where both worked at the Indiana Daily Student.

“He learned his craft here,” she said of IU, where Jim was IDS editor-in-chief as well as a Union Board member who co-chaired the founding of the Whittenberger Society.

Out of the Army in 1953, Jim Hetherington began the newspaper phase of his career, working at the Louisville Times covering southern Indiana. He moved next to the Indianapolis Times and, seeing that the newspaper’s days were numbered, decided to try his hand at broadcast, Sue Hetherington said. At WFBM in Indianapolis, Hetherington covered news, produced documentaries and researched editorials, contributing to the station’s winning a Peabody Award for a documentary, The Negro in Indianapolis.

Hetherington’s third career move was to American United Life as corporate communications executive, and he continued to work as an advocate for programs that would benefit Indianapolis and its residents, his wife said.

“Being inducted into the hall of fame caps a lifetime of achievement,” Sue Hetherington said.

Photo by Ann Schertz
Inductee James Alexander Thom shared stories of his early journalism career, which "paid the bills" until his novels became popular.

Novelist James Alexander Thom said his journalistic achievements weren’t much to speak of, that his early efforts as a newspaper reporter and editor were “half-assed.”

“I did the best I could after being up all night writing novels,” he said of his early years as a reporter at The Indianapolis Star. “If had given all the energy to my newspapering as I had my writing, I would have deserved this.”

He is proud of his part in the Star’s coverage of the 1963 explosion at the Indiana Coliseum, which happened in the late evening and created an all-hands situation in the newsroom, with editors calling in reporters to cover the disaster.

“The Star won a National Headliners Award for pulling a total story out past the deadline,” said Thom, who was on the rewrite desk that night. “It was a tremendous accomplishment and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

But Thom’s fame rests in his 10 historical fiction novels, including Panther in the Sky, which tell stories of the expansion of the United States from the perspective of Native Americans. He said he used his journalistic skills – researching, verifying, narrative storytelling – to write his novels.

Hall of fame executive director Larry Taylor summed up the day by announcing that nominations for the 2015 awards are now open, with a deadline of Oct. 1. All materials are on the website.

The Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, founded in 1966, now includes more than 200 members. It is housed at the Indiana University School of Journalism’s Ernie Pyle Hall. The IU School of Journalism partners with the hall of fame on this and other events.

–By Gena Asher, Digital Content Manager/Web Editor, IU School of Journalism


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