When Chris Matthews was growing up, whenever he told his father anything, his father would reply: “Who told ya?” That, Matthews said – as he received the School of Communications and Theater’s Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award Tuesday, Oct. 25 – is the key to reporting. Reporters should always ask questions, he said.
Matthews, a Philadelphia native, first took a poll of the audience before he accepted his award.
“How many people have no I idea who I am?” he asked. Though no hands were raised, everyone in the audience laughed.
The talk show host wasn’t playing any hardball on Tuesday as he discussed television’s impact and the role of journalism in society.
His speech centered on his career in broadcast journalism and on the impact of television.
“Television has done so much for this country,” Matthews said.
“The reason we don’t have Jim Crow [laws] in the South anymore is because of television,” Matthews said. He added that if it weren’t for TV cameras capturing the injustice occurring against African Americans in the South, many would have remained uninformed and therefore accepting of segregation practices.
He also discussed recent national news, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to Matthews, the pictures aired on TV allowed the truth to be told about what was really happening in New Orleans, especially with African Americans.
As a result, he said, only 2 percent of African Americans now support President Bush. Nevertheless, Matthews commended journalists for their hard work in covering the disaster. He said the coverage matched up with the pictures.
“Pictures matter. … TV proved itself,” he said.
Matthews said “Journalism needs to realize that just because a position is not popular with power, [it] doesn’t mean it is a partisan position.”
“You got to find truth … it’s called reporting,” he said.
In addition to honoring Matthews, SCT celebrated alumni by inducting them into the SCT Hall of Fame.
Radio personality and South Philadelphia Review columnist Tom Cardella was one of the 2005 inductees.
Cardella, who graduated with a degree in communications from SCT in 1960 and has worked in media for more than 20 years, said “I never thought I would be honored like this.
“[As a student here] I couldn’t look past my first job, like a typical kid,” Cardella said.
He stressed the importance of the college experience and credited the school for helping him develop skills that allowed him to be versatile in his career.
Cardella said, “The verbal skills that Temple University taught me … I was able to use in many facets of my career.”
He advised students to “Take as broad of an educational background as possible. … Keep your options open,” he said because “you never know where the opportunities can crop up.”
Gene Shay, a Folk music host and producer at WXPN, and founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Shay said jokingly as he accepted his award that he always told his parents that his success was eminent.
“Someday, I would amount to something. Well, here’s the proof Mom and Dad,” Shay said.
Victoria Lim, ’91 – one of Temple Update’s original anchors – said, as tears welled in her eyes, of the honor, “I have received greater value than my worth.” Lim is now a senior consumer investigative reporter for WFLA News Channel 8, an NBC affiliate in Tampa, Fla.
The Lew Klein Excellence in Media Awards is in its third year. It was established through a fund supported by H.F. and Marguerite Lenfest and Walter and Lenore Annenberg through the Annenberg Foundation.
The award “honors distinguished members of the media whose outstanding achievements and commitment to service bring honor to the profession,” according to the event’s program bill.
Past inductees into SCT’s Hall of Fame have included actor Jason George, best known for his starring role on the UPN network’s sitcom Eve, actor Bob Saget of Full House fame and former Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ed Wade.
Philadelphia’s NBC 10 weekend sports anchor John Clark, ’98, hosted the event.
Charmie R. Snetter can be reached at email@example.com.