As Wolf Blitzer is expected to come to Temple this week to accept the Lew Klein award for excellence in the media, last year’s winner Brian Williams still has his name next to the 14th Lew Klein Award, despite recent controversy and his suspension from NBC Nightly News.
Wolf Blitzer will come to Temple Thursday, Oct. 29 at 9:30 a.m. for a Q&A session with students about his career as a news anchor for CNN, a journalist at the Jerusalem Post and his other news experience.
Blitzer was chosen as the 15th Lew Klein Award winner along with five Temple alumni and two Rising Star alumni who will all attend a luncheon to receive their awards. The alumni winners were chosen through nominations and a review process by a board of alumni, administrators and faculty at the School of Media and Communication.
Last year’s winner, Brian Williams, will still have his plaque hung outside Annenberg Hall’s atrium with the rest of the Lew Klein Award winners.
Shortly after receiving the award last year, it was uncovered Williams fabricated the events of a helicopter attack he claimed he was in during the Iraq war in 2003. Williams said on-air he was in a helicopter that was shot down. He was not found to be in that helicopter, but in a different one that was not attacked.
This resulted in his suspension at NBC Nightly News in February. He was eventually reassigned to an anchoring position at MSNBC in mid-August.
Rescinding the award from Williams was discussed in SMC, but the award will stay, Dean David Boardman, said.
“We had a conversation of, ‘Is there anything we should do about this?’ And our feeling was, ‘No, we really don’t need to.’ We were recognizing the great work he had done. None of that was negated,” Boardman said.
“Certainly there were serious questions about some of what he had done, and I would not defend the exaggeration or even fabrication that he did,” Boardman added. “In fact, had that emerged beforehand he probably wouldn’t have won the award. But to rescind it felt like an unnecessary and high-profile and insulting step that we really didn’t need to [take].”
Gabrielle Verzella, a junior media studies and production major and Lew Klein scholarship award winner, will attend this year’s Q&A session with Blitzer.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity to network, meet Wolf Blitzer, get a feel of who he is and what he does,” she said. “I’m not too familiar with political media so it’ll be interesting, broaden my horizons.”
Verzella believes the award for Williams should be rescinded.
“I feel like that probably knocked down his credibility a little bit,” she said. “Being the recipient of something that’s supposed to benefit students of media to be honest and passionate about what they’re doing—as opposed to what he did.”
Senior advertising major Jenny Lyv, however, said she believes the award should still stay with Williams.
“I don’t find any reason for it to be taken away from him,” she said. “He still won it on his own skills and his own efforts and his own hard work.”
Concerning this year’s winner, Boardman said the longtime anchor has had a distinguished career.
“[Blitzer] really has had a remarkable career,” he said. “A guy who has been really in the middle of the biggest news stories in the world for 25 years—just story after story after story, many of them quite controversial. And yet he has emerged with a sparkling, sterling reputation.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.