The Foundation for Progress in Journalism honored three Alabama media luminaries at its second annual Medal of Honor Awards reception on Friday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Concert Hall.
The ceremony honored the late George E. Curry, journalist; Don Logan, businessman and former publisher; and Rickey Smiley, radio broadcaster and actor/comedian.
Logan was honored for his many exemplary achievements, including executive leadership positions with Time Warner, Time Inc. and Southern Progress. He was also recognized for many investments in media and sports enterprises, including the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), the Birmingham Barons and Seek Publishing.
“It feels amazing to be honored in my home community by such a terrific organization,” Logan said. “You always need an organization to help people get started and to help them find their way, and I think the real challenge today is finding somebody who can turn the lights on. This industry is so complex and complicated that, moving into it, you don’t really know where to begin sometimes.”
Young journalists today find that the traditional career paths have changed drastically, Logan said.
“It’s hard to give (new journalists) advice because they’re coming into a swift-moving stream, and it’s only getting faster,” he said. “Even corporate communications and public relations have changed. I was a magazine guy when I started over at Southern Living and Progressive Farmer (magazines), and it’s all very different than it used to be; with the internet becoming such an integral part of our lives … so much so, that the creative writing and journalistic approach has changed to fit” what works on the internet.
Logan was blunt when analyzing some of today’s news sites. “Some of it shouldn’t even be considered journalism; a lot of it is pure garbage,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to define which is which right now. … I won’t even get in that boat; but that’s why organizations like the Foundation for Progress in Journalism are important … to help steer the ship, and I’m honored to be recognized by them.”
Sam P. Martin, executive director of FPJ and publisher of The Birmingham Times, said, “The heart of the FPJ mission is to give young people a chance and opportunity to gain support with their curriculum and to equip them for the field. We’ve also had an opportunity to position the Birmingham Times as the starting ground for a lot of young journalists. … We place interns at news websites, TV stations, radio stations and news publications all across the state.”
Also honored at the event were:
Top-rated syndicated radio personality Rickey Smiley has earned a reputation for delivering boundless laughter on radio and television, the stand-up comedy stage and the movie screen. Every morning, millions of Americans in nearly 60 cities listen to Smiley and his cast members on “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show.” His interviews with major celebrities and newsmakers, commentary on matters of social and political importance and trademark humor in his prank phone calls have made Smiley one of the nation’s most popular media personalities. The Birmingham native is an alumnus of Alabama State University and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Journalist and publisher George Curry died of heart failure on Aug. 20, 2016, at age 69. He was a driving force behind African-American-focused newspapers and magazines. He was renowned as the dean of black press columnists because of his riveting weekly commentary that was featured in black newspapers across the country, including The Birmingham Times.
This story originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.