2003 News: SABEW 2003 Distinguished Achievement Award

Sharing the 2003 award are James K. Gentry, dean and professor at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas, and Randall D. Smith, an assistant managing editor at the Kansas City Star.

Gentry was the first executive director of the SABEW from 1985 to 1991, a period when the organization was struggling to survive after moving its headquarters to the Missouri journalism school where he was a member of the faculty; during this period, membership rose from 130 to more than 1,000. Smith, as president of the society in 1992-93, launched the successful drive to raise $1.1 million for the SABEW-Missouri Endowed Chair of Business and Financial Journalism; his continuing efforts helped bring in the two largest donations to the endowment.

“SABEW, whose some 3,000 members are celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, would never have been what it is today without these two journalists and their nurturing influence on others in the field,” said Byron Calame, chairman of the award selection committee and a deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. “Jimmy Gentry labored long hours with no pay to keep SABEW alive and helped it put down solid roots at Missouri at a time when it could have perished. Randy Smith not only launched the idea of an endowed chair, but was heavily involved beyond his SABEW presidency in arranging two of the largest contributions.”

Established in 1993, the Distinguished Achievement Award singles out individuals who have made a significant impact on the field of business journalism and who have served as a nurturing influence on others in the profession. The award will be presented to Smith and Gentry during SABEW’s April 27-29 annual conference in Boston.

Before Gentry joined the University of Kansas in 1997, he had been dean of the School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, for five years and a member of the faculty at Missouri for 14 years. He received his Ph.D. from Missouri in 1993.

The SABEW award takes special note of the almost two decades that Gentry has worked with business reporters and editors to improve the quality of business journalism. While on the faculty at Missouri, he was director of the Business Journalism Program there from 1984 to 1992. In addition, he ran the four-week Davenport Fellowship Program at Missouri and, later, the two-week Ford Fellowship Program at Reno and the University of Kansas. The programs gave business reporters and editors intensive training in accounting, finance, economics and current business issues.

Gentry has presented workshops to hundreds of business reporters, including accounting and finance workshops for organizations such as the San Jose Mercury and Bloomberg. He is a senior fellow at The Media Center at the American Press Institute and speaks frequently at API programs.

Smith currently oversees the metropolitan and state coverage for the Star and supervises a staff of 60 editors and reporters. In addition, he is the coordinator for several newspaper internship programs, including the 25-year-old Knight Ridder rotating program for minority journalists. He is a 1974 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.

During his 23 years at the Star, Smith has served in several capacities. He was day city editor for six years before being named business editor in 1985. As business editor, Smith grew his staff from 12 to 25 journalists, established the weekly Business Tuesday section, and started an annual section that ranks the area’s top businesses. He was a member of the team that won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for spot news for coverage of the Hyatt skywalk collapse in Kansas City.

The SABEW award especially acknowledges Smith’s crucial role in the establishment of the SABEW endowed chair. Besides contributing to the chair personally, he convinced the Star and its parent company at the time, Capital Cities ABC, to contribute $200,000 to the project. He was deeply involved in securing a number of other donations, including $200,000 from the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. Once the $1.1 million was raised by SABEW, Smith served on the selection committee for the chair.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Inc., headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism, is an association of more than 3,200 business journalists in North America. Formed in 1964 to promote superior coverage of business and economic events and issues, it is the only business journalism association for editors and writers.



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