University News

News Media Panel Feb. 13

January 25, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- A panel discussion, "The News Media's Impact on Shaping Our Perceptions of Culture and Diversity," featuring former White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page; Pam Huey, a Western Illinois University alumna; and Mark Ridolfi, editorial page editor at the Quad City Times, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13 in Western Hall on WIU's Macomb campus. The presentation, part of the University Theme "Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility – Cultural Diversity" 2006-2007 Speaker Series, is open free to the public.

Commonly referred to as "The First Lady of the Press," former White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas is a trailblazer, breaking through barriers for women reporters while covering every president since John F. Kennedy. For 57 years, Thomas also served as White House correspondent for United Press International. She recently left this post and joined Hearst Newspapers as a syndicated columnist.

After graduating from Wayne State University, Thomas served as a copy girl on the old, now defunct Washington Daily News. In 1943, she joined United Press International and the Washington Press Corps. For 12 years, Thomas wrote radio news for UPI, her work day beginning at 5:30 a.m. Eventually she covered the news of the federal government, including the FBI and Capitol Hill.

In November 1960, Thomas began covering then-President-elect John F. Kennedy, following him to the White House in January 1961 as a member of the UPI team. It was during this first White House assignment that Thomas began closing presidential press conferences with "Thank you, Mr. President."

Thomas was the only woman print journalist traveling with President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip in January 1972. She has the distinction of having traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, during the course of which she covered every Economic Summit. The World Almanac has cited her as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America.

Thomas has written three books, including her latest, "Thanks for the Memories Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House."

Page, the 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Commentary, has been a columnist and a member of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board since July 1984. His column is syndicated nationally by Tribune Media Services in close to 200 papers.

Page is an occasional panelist on The McLaughlin Group; a regular contributor of essays to NewsHour with Jim Lehrer; and the host of several documentaries on the Public Broadcasting Service. He is also a regular panelist on Black Entertainment Television's weekly "Lead Story" program and an occasional commentator on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition Sunday."

Page began his journalism career as a freelance writer and photographer for the Middletown Journal and Cincinnati Enquirer at the age of 17. Page graduated from Ohio University, where he was the commencement speaker in 1993 and 2001. He has received honorary doctorates from Columbia College in Chicago, Lake Forest College and Nazareth College in Rochester.

He originally joined the Chicago Tribune in 1969; however, six months later Page was drafted and served in the press office at the 212th Artillery Group in Fort Lewis, WA. He returned to the Tribune in 1971, writing for a variety of beats including police, rewrite, religion and neighborhood news, with freelance assignments as a rock music critic for "Tempo." Page became a foreign correspondent in Africa in 1976, an assistant city editor upon his return and an investigative task force reporter in 1979.

In 1980 he left the Chicago Tribune to join WBBM-TV, as director of the community affairs department. He also sereved as a documentary producer, reporter and planning editor. He returned to the Chicago Tribune in 1984.

In addition to the 1989 Pulitzer, Page has also received the American Civil Liberties Union James P. McGuire Award for columns on constitutional rights (1987), the Illinois UPI Award for community service for The Black Tax (1980), the Edward Scott Beck Award for overseas reporting on the changing politics of Southern Africa (1976) and a Pulitzer Prize for a Chicago Tribune Task Force series on voter fraud (1972). He is the author of "Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity."

Huey, a 1972 graduate, is an editor and writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. After graduating from Western and Sangamon State's Public Affairs Reporting Program, which was started by the late Sen. Paul Simon, Huey worked for UPI in Des Moines, IA and was bureau manager in Champaign (IL).

In 1985, Huey moved to Washington, D.C. as Simon's deputy press secretary, returning to the Twin Cities region in 1992, where she worked for Minnesota Public Radio and the Associated Press before joining the Star Tribune in 2000.

Ridolfi, who will serve as the panel moderator, has worked on city desks 20 years as city editor for the Daily Dispatch, Moline (IL); assistant city editor for the Indianapolis (IN) News and city editor for the Quad-City Times. He served as online director for the Quad-City Times in 2006 and he has also worked as the United Press International bureau manager in Davenport, IA from 1984-1985

He led the Times reporting team that won the Inland investigative reporting award in 1995, and his editorial writing won first place awards from the Illinois Press Association in 2002; Suburban Newspapers of America in 2003 and 2005; and the Iowa APME in 2005.

Ridolfi is covering his fourth Iowa caucus campaign and created the niche political website, IowaPulse, in 1998. He has been a board member for 10 years for Mid American Press Institute (MPI), a national journalism training organization, and served as board chair for two years. He currently oversees MPI's website. He is also a journalism instructor at Augustana College in Rock Island (IL) and is preparing an interactive journalism course for Knox College in Galesburg (IL) this spring.

Ridolfi earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University and a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University.

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