Kautsch, Merritt named to Newspaper Hall of Fame

April 10, 2017
Kansas Press Association -- Image

TOPEKA — A long-time University of Kansas professor of media law and the former editor of the Wichita Eagle were inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame Friday night at the annual meeting of the Kansas Press Association here.

The meeting at the Capitol Plaza Hotel also included recognition for journalists for community service, investigative reporting and career accomplishments.

Mike Kautsch, the former dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism and a professor of media law in the KU Law School, and W. Davis "Buzz" Merritt Jr., editor of the Wichita Eagle from 1975 to 1998 and considered one of the fathers of public journalism, became the later members of the Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed on journalists and journalism educators by the KPA.

Kautsch joined the KU School of Journalism in 1979 and served as dean from 1987 to 1997. He has been at the KU Law School since then and has served as a media law consultant to KPA for two decades. He was one of the leaders of the effort in Kansas to establish a new shield law for journalists in 2010.

Merritt is the author of four books, but is best known for the public journalism reform movement he encouraged that urged journalists to do their jobs in ways that could help citizens engage in public life by writing about events from the citizen's perspective rather than that of the participants in the news.

Other awards presented included:

• Chad Lawhorn, editor of the Lawrence Journal-World, who was presented the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award.

Lawhorn was described by Scott Stanford, editor and publisher of the Journal-World, as the epitome of what a community newspaper editor should be.

"Chad is also a terrific teacher who as editor, is able to share his skills and knowledge with our team of young reporters. He challenges them to tackle complex issues with gusto but to write about them using the language of conversation. Write the way people talk to each other, he says. So simple. So right," Stanford said.

Lawhorn's daily blog, Town Talk, is the most highly rated content in the Journal-World, Stanford said.

• Sally Gray of the Marysville Advocate, recipient of the Gaston Outstanding Mentor Award for her 35 years of service.

Her publisher, Sarah Kessinger, said through her workas a news editor, copy editor and design guru at the Advocate, Gray had served "as a mentor to reporters young and old who have come through the newsroom, including three generations of my family who have enjoyed and learned from her dedication to the basics of good writing and reporting." 

• Adam Strunk, managing editor of Newton Now, winner of the Murdock Award, given annually for outstanding journalism efforts aimed at local issues.

Strunk's investigative work following the firing of Newton's city manager, Randy Riggs, helped uncover seven months of dealings behind closed doors, a taxpayer-funded private investigation into multiple city staff members and what some commissioners described as a breakdown in communication and trust between the commission and those the city employs.

• The Topeka Capital-Journal, honored with the Boyd Community Service Award for its project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the June 8, 1966 tornado that ripped through the capital city, killing 16 people, devastating the Washburn University campus and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

The Capital-Journal staff was cited for “Twist of Fate.” For a year, staff members researched documents and newspaper archives, and interviewed and videotaped more than 200 people, gathering information for a magazine, daily newspaper coverage and exclusive online content, including interactive maps and a message board.

• Roxana Hegeman, Wichita correspondent fort the Associated Press, who was named the AP's Kansas Staffer of the Year.