Tag: journalists

Trump coverage wins first-place SPJ award for election reporting

Trump coverage wins first-place SPJ award for election reporting

My stories on Donald Trump and other Republican candidates campaigning in Oklahoma City last year earned a first-place award for election reporting.

I received the honor in the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists’ 2017 contest.

The winning package included the main story “In the GOP primaries, do politics Trump values and character?” along with a column “GOP presidential politics, professional wrestling style” and a related story “Elephant in the pews: Is the GOP the party of Churches of Christ?”

I had a fun time at the April 22 awards banquet with my son Keaton, a journalism major at Oklahoma Christian University.

— Bobby

UPDATE: The same coverage also won a first-place award in the Associated Church Press national contest.

25 years ago, a young reporter (me) got a scoop on the president of the United States

25 years ago, a young reporter (me) got a scoop on the president of the United States

Above: At a 1992 campaign rally, John Fletcher directs the Oklahoma Christian University band as the crowd welcomes President George H.W. Bush. (Photo provided by John Fletcher)

By Bobby Ross Jr. | therossnews@gmail.com

During the 1992 race for the White House, I was a young reporter — all of 24 years old — for the Edmond Evening Sun.

In the caveman era before email, the Internet and social media, the Sun was a five-day-a-week newspaper that served the growing suburb of Edmond, Okla., north of Oklahoma City.

That paper started as a tiny weekly in Oklahoma Territory in 1889. By the time I worked there more than a century later, daily circulation topped 10,000.

I covered two main beats for the Sun: public safety and higher education. My daily routine consisted of thumbing through the last 24 hours of reports at the police and fire stations and checking in with officials at the University of Central Oklahoma. UCO is a regional commuter university that — during my year and a half with the Sun — hired popular former two-term Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh as its president.

The headlines in the Sun — robberies, house fires, regents meetings — were “hyperlocal” long before I ever heard anyone use that term.

But a few months into my tenure with the Edmond paper, I got a tip with national significance: The president of the United States was planning a campaign stop in our coverage area — at my alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University.

At that youthful stage of my career, such news represented a major scoop — a chance to beat our main competition, The Oklahoman, then a statewide newspaper with a special, zoned section focused on Edmond and north Oklahoma City.

I rushed to confirm the tip, and when I did, the Sun splashed it across the top of the front page.


That next week, I produced in-depth coverage of Oklahoma Christian preparing to welcome President George H.W. Bush (there was no need for the “H.W.” at that point).


Four years earlier, when President Ronald Reagan still occupied the Oval Office, I had written about the then-vice president’s son, George W. Bush, for the campus newspaper The Talon.

The younger Bush had made a 1988 campaign stop at Oklahoma Christian’s Enterprise Square USA. Unfortunately, I wrongly referred to him in print as “George Bush, Jr.” Later in my career, I covered several Bush events for The Associated Press, but I did not repeat the mistake of calling him “Junior.”


The older President Bush’s rally at Oklahoma Christian — 25 years ago on March 6, 1992 — occurred on a Friday morning.

That was perfect timing for the Sun.

I cranked out my story in time to meet our noonish deadline, and the news landed on thousands of driveways that afternoon. The miracle of the printing press …


In case you can’t read the text in the yellowed clipping I saved, this was the opening of my story:

By Bobby Ross Jr., SUN Staff Writer

Campaign ’92 came to Edmond in style today as a flag-waving crowd of about 5,000 welcomed President Bush to Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts.

A packed Thelma Gaylord Forum exploded with cheers and chants of “Four More Years!” shortly after 9 a.m. today as the president emerged from a second-floor chapel.

“Thanks to all of you who got up at all hours this morning to come to Edmond from Elk City to Enid and towns all over Oklahoma, and a special welcome to all the students here from Oklahoma Christian,” Bush said.

The president shook hands with Edmond Mayor Randel Shadid and other special guests assembled on stage before stepping to the podium at 9:20 a.m. Twenty-one minutes later, he was off the stage and on his way to Louisiana for another campaign stop.

Smiling, the president told Oklahoma Christian students he had only one question:

“Is it too late to audition for ‘Spring Sing?’ ” he asked, referring to the 500-student musical variety show that kicked off a three-night run Thursday night on campus.

Against a backdrop of 53 U.S. flags and a giant blue banner declaring “Oklahoma Christian Welcomes President Bush,” the president was the height of a patriotic atmosphere of the campaign rally.

Read the full story.

As you may have heard, Bush failed to win re-election that November. While he carried Edmond handily, he lost nationally to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, an old friend of Nigh.

5Q+1 interview: Melissa Binder on the thriving Godbeat in America’s least-religious city


5Q+1 interview: Melissa Binder on the thriving Godbeat in America’s least-religious city

Melissa Binder is rocking the Godbeat in one of the unlikeliest of places – Portland, Ore.

“Who else is going to tell you what religion in the rest of the United States might look like in 50 years?” The Oregonian writer responds when asked about covering faith and values in America’s least-religious city.

Binder’s journalism talents earned her prestigious national awards even before her graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Besides gaining photography, writing and digital news experience on campus, she interned for major news organizations such as the CNN Wire, the Charlotte Observer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After graduation, she joined The Oregonian as a neighborhood news reporter covering parts of Portland before transitioning to the newspaper’s newly revived religion beat less than a year ago.

This interview appears online at GetReligion.org.

5Q+1 interview: Pulitzer winner on the Godbeat, the Charleston shooting and black church fires

5Q+1 interview: Pulitzer winner Jennifer Berry Hawes on the Godbeat, the Charleston shooting and black church fires

Just a few months ago, veteran religion writer Jennifer Berry Hawes celebrated winning the Pulitzer Prize.

Hawes, a projects writer for the The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., worked on the team that produced “Till Death Do Us Part,” a project on domestic violence that earned journalism’s top prize. (She discusses the Pulitzer in the video above.)

About 10 years ago, Hawes and her colleague Doug Pardue proposed creating the Post and Courier’s Faith & Values section “because religion and values-based coverage was so important to our readership, yet we weren’t writing about it as much as needed,” she recalled.

“I covered religion on and off after that until joining our projects teams about six months ago,” Hawes told GetReligion. “The beat was one of the most difficult and rewarding ones I have tackled because people care so much about it, yet for that reason I dealt with some extremely thin-skinned people who really struggled to understand why we would present faiths and views that weren’t ‘right’ in their minds.

“It honestly made me question my own faith at times to see how human the church is with infighting and backstabbing,” added Hawes, a former winner of the Religion Newswriters Association’s Cornell Reporter of the Year Award and a finalist again this year. “On the other side, I also met the most incredibly inspirational people of faith in our community who demonstrated the beauty of the human spirit and the strength of what faith could achieve.”

In a 5Q+1 interview (that’s five questions plus a bonus question) with GetReligion, Hawes reflected on her ongoing coverage of the June 17 shooting massacre that claimed nine lives at a historic black church in Charleston.

This interview appears online at GetReligion.org.

5Q+1 interview: Daniel Burke on CNN Belief, ‘The Friendly Atheists Next Door’ and the next big religion story

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

Lester Holt a humble newsman with a serious faith


Lester Holt a humble newsman with a serious faith: NBC anchor finds journalism ‘faith-affirming.’

A few years ago, a group of communications students from Harding University in Searcy, Ark., visited NBC’s “Today” show studios in New York.

A familiar face greeted them.

“Lester Holt was so kind to take a few minutes and visit with each of our students about their goals and plans,” said Jack Shock, a Harding communications professor. “I was impressed with Lester’s focus on each student, even for just a few minutes, making each feel at ease in what could have been an overwhelming environment.”

I know the feeling.

Holt, a member of the Manhattan Church of Christ, extended a similar warm, friendly welcome to me in 2009.

Millions know the hard-working newsman as the anchor of “Dateline” and the weekend anchor of “Today” and the “NBC Nightly News.” In recent weeks, he’s made headlines of his own as the interim anchor of NBC’s top-rated weeknight evening news.

For at least six months, Holt, 55, will fill the anchor chair of Brian Williams, who was suspended for making false claims about being aboard a helicopter forced down by rocket-propelled grenade fire in Iraq in 2003.

This column appears in the March 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

5Q+1 interview: RNS writer David Gibson on the Godbeat, falling into journalism and his conversion to Catholicism


5Q+1 interview: RNS writer David Gibson on the Godbeat, falling into journalism and his conversion to Catholicism.

GETRELIGION.ORG — On his Twitter profile, Religion News Service national reporter David Gibson describes himself as a Catholic convert, a Vatican veteran, a faith fan and an alliteration addict.

His RNS bio notes that he has written two books on Catholic topics, including a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.

Gibson was honored recently as the Religion Newswriters Association’s Religion Reporter of the Year for large newspapers and wire services. His winning entry included “The story behind Pope Francis’ election,” “Is ‘Just War’ doctrine another victim of the Syrian conflict?” and “The ‘Breaking Bad’ finale was great. But was it good?”

GetReligion has both praised Gibson’s work and — sometimes — questioned why RNS publishes his “analysis” pieces without labels identifying them as such.

What I like about Gibson is that he seems to enjoy the give and take and not take it too personally.

Case in point: his willingness to do this interview.

Related post: 5Q+1 interview, part 2: RNS writer David Gibson on what GetReligion doesn’t ‘get’ about religion news coverage

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.