Knight Foundation received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University Thursday night. College officials said the award recognizes Knight “for its continued excellence in support of journalism and journalism education.” Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation, accepted the award. He delivered the following remarks:
On behalf of Knight Foundation, thank you to Dean Larry Pintak and all here at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.
This honor is singular. We will treasure it. We are humbled by the company of the legends you would have us join. Mostly we are awed by Murrow himself, the quintessential journalist, his move from radio to television a perfect example of how we must rise to the task when new forms of media emerge.
Knight Foundation exists because of the generosity of two brothers, Jack and Jim Knight, and their mother, Clara. Together the Knights endowed the foundation with their personal fortunes, earned by building what was in Murrow’s day America’s largest newspaper group.
We grow their money. We recycle it back into communities where they made it, and into journalism and media innovation, which is how they made it.
The foundation supports journalism excellence in the digital age, hoping to find out what in the 21st Century will inform and engage communities the way Knight newspapers did in the 20th.
Both Edward R. Murrow and John S. Knight placed trust in the people they served. Murrow said, “when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is — an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.” Jack Knight said, “we seek to bestir the people into an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their thoughts and rouse them to pursue their true interests.”
We need to travel light as we seek the best possible future for journalism in the 21st Century. Our techniques and technologies must be flexible. Yet we are not without obligation. We still owe people illumination, inspiration. We carry forward a responsibility fought for, and paid for at times, with blood. This obligation comes in the form of a belief, that journalism is above all a fair, accurate, contextual search for truth.
Our work, the news, may be perishable. But our values can’t be. Murrow and those who came before set the standards and kept the faith. Now in this time of rapid change it falls to us to help new generations keep honesty in their hearts.