Friday, February 8, 2008

Chris Clark picked as MTSU's new chairholder for First Amendment studies

Here's the release:

Veteran Newsman to ‘Pass Along Legacy’ of Fellow Journalist Seigenthaler

(MURFREESBORO)—Award-winning broadcast journalist Chris Clark has been named chairholder of MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, announced Beverly Keel, director of the program.

Clark, who was the longest-tenured anchor in the Nashville market, retired from WTVF in 2007 after 41 years behind the anchor desk. During his four decades at the CBS affiliate, he was a champion of First Amendment rights and open government.

“Chris Clark is a distinguished Nashville journalist with a national reputation who has had a career-long commitment to First Amendment rights and values,” said John Seigenthaler, for whom the Chair is named.

“His presence in the Seigenthaler Chair at MTSU will be of special interest to students who see a merger of broadcast, online and print journalism as an exciting pathway to their own careers,” Seigenthaler said.

Clark noted that “John Seigenthaler, as editor and publisher of The Tennessean, and I, as news director of WTVF, have joined forces on numerous occasions to fight government efforts to circumvent the people's full and free access to information. On numerous occasions these efforts have taken us to court, and in almost all instances our efforts were successful in defending First Amendment access for our readers and viewers.

“John has been a tireless fighter in defense of the First Amendment. His enthusiasm and leadership in this cause has inspired journalists throughout the country. I consider my appointment as a Seigenthaler Scholar the highlight of my career. What better way can a journalist contribute to the future defense of the First Amendment than to pass along John's legacy?”

As the Seigenthaler Scholar, Clark will teach courses in electronic media communication, deliver public lectures and conduct research. “Being a Seigenthaler Scholar will also give me the opportunity to study some of the issues that are of concern to journalists and the public at large,” Clark said.

Clark graduated from the University of Georgia’s School of Journalism and began his career in Atlanta before making the move to Nashville. His reporting took him all over the world for stories in Somalia, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Israel and the Dominican Republic.

His career highlights include being summoned by former Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington to mediate the release of hostages held by a state penitentiary inmate. As news director, he led the station’s conversion from film to electronic coverage. As chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom of Information Committee, he played a key role in convincing the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow an experiment with cameras in the court, a move that persuaded the justices to allow cameras in state courts. Previous distinguished chairholders include Wallace Westfeldt, former producer for NBC and ABC News; Bill Kovach, former editor of The New York Times and curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard; Tom Wicker, former columnist for The New York Times; John Henry Faulk, humorist and popular CBS radio personality blacklisted during the Red Scare and a hero of free expression rights; and Jim Squires, former editor of The Chicago Tribune.

The John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies was instituted in 1986 to honor Seigenthaler’s lifelong commitment to free expression values. Seigenthaler, longtime president, editor and publisher of The Tennessean, is now chairman emeritus of that newspaper.

He was also the first editorial director of USA Today and the first chairman of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He is a leading nationwide spokesman for First Amendment freedoms.

The purpose of the Chair is to provide programs of excellence centering on the First Amendment’s protection of free press and free speech rights for MTSU’s College of Mass Communication. The Chair funds a variety of activities, including distinguished visiting professors of First Amendment studies, visiting lecturers addressing issues of freedom of speech and press, research related to free expression, and seminars and meetings dedicated to expressive freedom.

One of the largest programs in the nation, the MTSU College of Mass Communication offers degree concentrations in 14 major areas—ranging from journalism to digital media and media management to recording industry management—and is accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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