2016 Mike Quinn Awards Luncheon

Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle with Foundation Chair Mark Morrison

The best attendance in recent memory. Acclaim for a new endowed scholarship. Presentation of annual scholarships to some of Texas’ brightest journalism students. Insight by four of the state’s best opinion journalists about how they engage today’s audiences. Recognition of 15 top winners of the annual Headliners Foundation journalism competition. Those were among the highlights of the 2016 Mike Quinn Luncheon held Saturday, September 17, in a packed Granger Suite.

“Participation was extremely strong this year,” said Foundation Chair Mark Morrison. “We were especially gratified that so many Headliners Club members attended to honor this year’s scholarship and award winners and to help us thank Sarah and Ernest Butler for their generous funding of a new scholarship bearing their name.”

He told the audience that scholarships and professionals awards surpassed $100,000 and the Foundation launched a newsroom grant pilot program to help small publishers and broadcasters conduct Freedom of Information inquiries.

Morrison then introduced special guests Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler, who endowed the newest Headliners Scholarship.

The first Butler Scholar, Jackie Wang, fall managing editor of The Daily Texan at The University of Texas-Austin, was one of 12 winners recognized at the luncheon. Wang, from El Paso, received $6,000.

Each scholar was invited by Foundation Vice Chair  Patti C. Smith, chair of the Foundation’s Academic Excellence Committee, to share their journalistic aspirations. Perhaps motivated by this year’s campaign drama, several said they wanted to cover politics and government.

“Hearing from each of the students concerning their goals and aspirations was enlightening and left all those in attendance feeling that the future of journalism is in good hands,” Smith said afterward.

The Quinn Luncheon’s keynote presentation featured a conversation with four Texas opinion journalists. Foundation Vice Chair John Lumpkin, as moderator, explained that the subject was chosen because news organizations are exploring new ways to engage audiences and because the Charles E. Green Headliner Awards created a new competition for “Texas Opinion Journalist of the Year.”

The first winner of the new Green competition, Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle, was a keynote presenter, in addition to Tara Doolittle, Viewpoints Editor of the Austin American-Statesman, and Jacquielynn Floyd and Mike Hashimoto, columnists for The Dallas Morning Newsas well as spouses sometimes writing left and right of center, respectively.

Falkenberg, the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, called what she does “perspective journalism.” She said, “Labeled properly, it can actually provide a more comprehensive story in view of an issue.”

Floyd, who like Falkenberg started out as a reporter, addressed consumers’ allegiance to media organizations that tended to reflect one side of the political spectrum or the other. She noted, “A great deal hangs in the balance on the ability of American news consumers to distinguish fact from opinion.” The panelists’ presentations are in a video on the Foundation website at headlinersfoundation.org, which also has a “virtual conversation” of their written remarks prior to the luncheon.

Lumpkin and Foundation Governor Fred Zipp concluded the 2016 Quinn luncheon with the introduction of the winners of the Showcase Award for Enterprise and Innovation and the Charles E. Green Star Headliner Awards. Brian Rosenthal, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, was both the Gold winner of the Showcase, in which entries are welcome from all Texas media, and the Green Star Reporter of the Year, which is selected in partnership with the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors organization. The Foundation also partners with the Texas AP Broadcasters association for the Green winners in television and radio journalism who were recognized at the luncheon.

Examples of other excellent Texas journalism recognized at the luncheon included KRGV-TV in Weslaco documenting victims of sex trafficking, The Dallas Morning News’ investigation of dental patient fatalities, and the Austin American-Statesman and The Texas Tribune’s “Paid to Prosecute,” examining a problematic relationship between an insurance company and the Travis County district attorney’s office. “Paid to Prosecute” won a Showcase Silver Award, the first time two partnering news organization have won.

The Quinn luncheon is named for the late Mike Quinn, long-time Foundation participant, reporter, journalism professor and UT-Austin journalism administrator.

See photos from the event here.

– John Lumpkin

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