The Deadline Club celebrated the 40th anniversary of The New York Journalism Hall of Fame at Sardi’s Restaurant in November. Six illustrious journalists were officially inducted into the Hall of Fame, bringing the total number to be so honored to more than 100.
The honorees regaled the audience with anecdotes from their remarkable careers during a luncheon ceremony that played to an audience of nearly 150 journalists.
The 2015 Hall of Fame honorees were Max Frankel, the former executive editor of The New York Times; Juan González, a long-time Daily News columnist; Charlie Rose, an anchor and executive editor of several programs on CBS and PBS* ; Lesley Stahl, who is commencing her 25th season as a “60 Minutes” correspondent; Paul E. Steiger, the former editor of The Wall Street Journal and the founding editor of ProPublica; and Richard B. Stolley, the former editor of Life and the founding editor of People. * The Deadline Club has revoked Rose’s membership in the Deadline Club’s New York Journalism Hall of Fame
Stahl lead the program with a tribute to the profession’s higher calling. “What we do has an idealistic purpose. We really are here to fulfill our mission as the Fourth Estate.” She was the first honoree, although not the last, to allude to the recent attacks in Paris. “There are little waves of fear that you can sense in the air that we might be the next target,” she said. “And of course we cannot let the bastards terrorize us, because that’s what this is all about.”
Frankel began from the beginning of his dramatic life, with his escape from Nazi Germany as a 10-year-old child. He described how he rose from a student editor at Columbia University to become a college correspondent for The New York Times, where he later served as a foreign correspondent before moving up the editorial ladder. Frankel said that going to Moscow and Cuba while still in his 20s had taught him about the value of journalism, as well as “the ultimate values of what makes a society fair and decent.”
González, the first Latino to be inducted into the New York Journalism Hall of Fame, spoke about his early years with the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group in the 1960s and 70s, which he said fellow Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin had described as having “produced more good journalists than Columbia j’school.” González said he must be the “only reporter in mainstream journalism with an extensive rap sheet,” with minor charges stemming from his early years of political protest. When he became a columnist, he decided his contribution would be as a “voice from another part of New York.”
Rose said he began every day with questions based on what he had read in the news, and his daily quest was to transform those questions into compelling narratives. He said he has always believed that at the heart of a great story is a great interview. Although he works in a visual medium, he put high value on the descriptive power of language. “I’ve often said that a picture is worth a thousand words,” he commented. “But a word can define a thousand pictures.”
Steiger began his career as a recent college graduate by driving across the country in a red Volkswagen bug to take a job with The Wall Street Journal in San Francisco. “I found that covering business, finance and economics has its excitements and drama,” he said. Steiger observed that it was becoming difficult for journalists in an era when we are “increasingly finding people who are trying to shout us down, and we are also increasingly finding people who want to kill us.” He said the best response was to focus on the journalist’s broader mission to serve the public.
Stolley’s career began during World War II, when he was hired at the age of 15 to replace the local newspaper’s sports editor, who had enlisted. “The publisher was reluctant at that point in history to hire a woman,” Stolley said, “so he hired a child instead.” During his decades with Life and People magazines, he covered many of the era’s biggest stories, including the struggle for Southern desegregation, presidential politics, and the Vietnam War. He spent three years in Life’s Paris bureau, and drew a round of applause when he said, “French lives matter.”
Stolley is best remembered for purchasing the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy for Life. “That experience has followed me relentlessly ever since,” he said, adding that he is accused by name of being personally involved in the crime in at least two of the conspiracy theories. “There are important unanswered questions about Nov. 22, 1963, yes, but I am thoroughly convinced that the president was killed by one troubled young man acting alone.”
The Nov. 19 ceremony, held in Sardi’s famous caricature-lined banquet room, was only the second time in recent memory that The Club hosted the New York Journalism Hall of Fame, which was established in 1975. After a hiatus beginning in 2000, The Deadline Club revived the tradition in 2013, with the intention of making it a bi-annual event.
“In looking back, what was conceived of 40 years ago as a tribute to New York journalists, has grown to become a pantheon of men and women, many of whom are considered, by their peers, to be the iconic voices of American journalism,” said Deadline Club Chairwoman J. Alex Tarquinio, who is also a national SPJ board member.
This year’s luncheon was sponsored by CBS News, The Daily News, Democracy Now!, The New York Times and Time Inc.
Local and national Society of Professional Journalists leaders were on hand to enlighten the audience about our shared goals. Deadline Club President Peter Szekely opened the ceremony by telling guests about the many benefits of club membership. SPJ President Paul Fletcher spoke about our parent organization’s advocacy on behalf of the Freedom of Information Act and student journalists. Deadline Club Past President Betsy Ashton entertained the audience with Hall of Fame lore. Tarquinio chaired the Hall of Fame committee and served as the luncheon program’s emcee.
NOTE: The Deadline Club has revoked Charlie Rose’s membership in the Deadline Club’s New York Journalism Hall of Fame.
Media Coverage of the 2015 New York Journalism Hall of Fame
Talking Biz News
Steiger inducted into Deadline Club Hall of Fame