AAUP Presents Award for Excellence in Coverage of Higher Education

June 15, 2013
For more information, please contact Robin Burns

Washington, DC—Writers Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, Keith Phaneuf, and Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror and Janese Silvey, formerly of the Columbia Daily Tribune, are this year’s recipients of the Iris Molotsky Award for Excellence in Coverage of Higher Education, given annually by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP’s purpose in giving this award is to recognize exceptional journalism and to encourage thoughtful, in-depth coverage of issues that are critical to faculty and higher education. The judges felt that this year’s shared award represented an acknowledgment that these two series represent the best kind of tough-minded, public-good journalism,  an achievement that is especially notable given the limited resources of newspapers today.

The Mirror’s series “Double-Digit Raise Goes to Top Higher Education Official” ran from October 8 to November 28, 2012. As a result of the hard work and perseverance of the Mirror reporters, the state was forced to hire an interim higher education president and lawmakers on the higher education committee vowed to reduce the governor’s control over higher education, in part by decreasing the number of members the governor can appoint to the board of regents. About the series, Connecticut Mirror editor Jenifer Frank commented, “It’s hard not to believe that officials at all levels of government, at least subconsciously, believe that a diminished press gives them carte blanche to act as they want. I’m certain that Connecticut’s higher ed officials were shocked when they realized how aggressively our reporters were investigating their actions. In thirty years as an editor, I have never taken so many calls from officials complaining about reporters who have the audacity to question them. It should make every remaining journalist intent on following every plausible lead—chances are good that a story awaits.”

Janese Silvey’s “Closure and Reopening of the University of Missouri Press” ran from May 24 to November 27, 2012. Silvey’s persistence in getting to the truth of how the closure was effected, who was behind it, and who stood to gain from it resulted in more than thirty articles published in the Columbia Daily Tribune in 2012. The media coverage drew national attention to the administration’s actions all summer, leading to a reversal of the decision to close the press and the rehiring of its senior editors. Perhaps just as important, the closure and reopening of the University of Missouri Press has opened a nationwide conversation about the dissemination of scholarly findings, the definition of shared governance in decisions about auxiliary units, and administrative transparency. “Covering the failed attempt to close the University of Missouri Press was really a roller-coaster ride,” Silvey commented. “At times, it appeared the Save the Missouri Press campaign was a lost cause. Some questioned why I continued to report on it when the decision to shut down the UM Press had apparently been finalized. But the authors, publishers, book distributors and readers cared too deeply to let the UM Press—or the story—die. Because the Save the Missouri Press supporters were so active, the story continued to have a life—and ultimately those actions saved the press.”

The series are available below in .pdf format.

About the judges:

Beryl Benderly won the 2011 Molotsky award for “The Real Science Gap.” Her articles have appeared in Miller-McCune, Scientific American, Scientific American Mind, Prism, Science, Slate, Smithsonian, and the New York Times, among many other prominent publications. In addition, Benderly is the author of eight books, has appeared on CNN and the Today Show, and has taught science and health writing.

Dane S. Claussen is an independent scholar, author of Anti-intellectualism in American Media, and former editor of Journalism and Mass Communication Educator. Until December 2010, he was chair of faculty and professor at Point Park University’s School of Communication.

Cat Warren has been a reporter for several newspapers across the United States, including the Hartford Courant. In 1995, she joined the faculty at North Carolina State, where she has taught a wide range of courses in journalism and media and in gender studies. In addition to being the former editor of Academe, she publishes in journalistic venues as well as in academic ones—on media criticism, cultural studies, and issues in higher education.

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.

Media Contact: 
Robin Burns
Publication Date: 
Saturday, June 15, 2013