For Bob Hosokawa, freedom and a career waited in Independence, Missouri
Six decades ago in wartime America, when Robert Hosokawa, '40, took his first newspaper reporting job in Independence, Missouri, it was hard to miss the symbolism. His new job, located for him by one of his former Whitman College professors, meant freedom for Hosokawa and his new bride, Yoshi. By going to Independence, they were allowed to leave Idaho and an internment camp for
Preparation for that step to freedom, and a career, began several years earlier, near the end of Hosokawa's sophomore year at Whitman. President Walter Bratton asked him to fill in temporarily as director of the College's news service. Hosokawa handled the position well enough, working with newspapers and radio on behalf of the College, that he retained the job for two more years, earning his tuition.
Hosokawa also had written for the Pioneer and was president of his class when he graduated in 1940 with honors in English. Because of his ethnic background, he was unable to find a newspaper willing to hire him. He was thinking about law school when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. government forced Japanese-Americans on the West Coast into the internment camps.
"I wrote to Tom Howells, one of my favorite professors at Whitman, for help," Hosokawa recalls. "He was kind enough, and he cared enough about me, to start contacting as many newspaper editors and publishers as he could. My wife and I were not security risks of any kind, but we could not leave the camp unless there was a job waiting for me somewhere in inland America. Professor Howells finally found a weekly newspaper in Independence, Missouri, that was willing to take me, sight unseen."
Hosokawa, who eventually earned a master's degree at the University
of Wisconsin School of Journalism, later held staff positions at the Winona Daily News, Des Moines Register, Minneapolis Tribune, and the Syracuse Post-Standard. He also was managing editor of the World Book Science News Service in Houston, Texas, which covered the space program and other science news.
Rounding out his life's work were teaching positions at Winona State University, Syracuse University, and the University of Missouri, in addition to various forays into the corporate sector. He served as director of corporate magazines and newspapers for the Honeywell Corporation, based in Minneapolis, and as vice president of corporate relations for the Super-Valu Stores of Minneapolis. His last position prior to retirement was as professor of journalism at the University of Central Florida. For him, teaching in the Florida sunshine was the perfect ending to a career that has been blessed from the beginning. "I had opportunities to do so many things.
"I look back at my Whitman education as the experience that shaped my life more than any other. I remember the people who first welcomed me at Whitman, and I remember what Professor Howells did for me during the war. My debt to Professor Howells and the others is incalculable."
New journalism prizes reward students, honor Bob Hosokawa
In May, Bob Hosokawa returned to Whitman, the college that helped launch his long career in journalism, corporate communications, and education, to hand out new $500 student journalism awards that will be given annually in his name.
Hosokawa, a native of Seattle who lives in Winter Springs, Florida, presented awards to students who worked for the Pioneer during the 1999-2000 year. The first recipients of the Robert R. Hosokawa Awards for Journalism Excellence are Tracy Dahl, '01, managing editor of the Pioneer, who won for Best Editorial/Opinion Piece; Alex Morrison, '03, who received the award for the Best News Story and shared a $500 prize for Best Feature Story with Neil Kornze, '00; and Adam Hardtke, '03, who was cited for Best Photo Journalism.
The endowment funding the Hosokawa awards was established by Hosokawa's son David, a retired executive of TMP Worldwide, a major advertising and communications agency headquartered in New York City. "My son came to me last year and said he wanted to do something to honor me and to help others at the same time," Robert Hosokawa said. "He knew how much affection I have for Whitman. He and [president] Tom Cronin began talking about journalism awards. What they decided upon pleases me very much. The objective is to recognize and encourage excellence in student journalism."
Hosokawa said he hopes the new awards will encourage more students to write for the Pioneer, either as a form of career exploration or simply to sharpen their academic skills. "Working for a campus newspaper is a great experience for any student, regardless of what they might want to do professionally," he said. "When you write for a newspaper, you learn to research your subject and to think about it clearly. You learn to differentiate between fact and fiction, to make decisions about what is important, or newsworthy, and what is not. You learn to be dispassionate, to guard against allowing yourself to be swayed by the prejudice of others."
Beginning with Edward P. Morgan, a 1932 graduate whose career as one of America's top journalists spanned the emergence of both radio and television, Whitman has produced a long line of very capable and successful news reporters and editors, Hosokawa said. "The record shows that Whitman as a small liberal arts college can and does serve as a stepping stone into the world of journalism, even though it doesn't have a formal journalism program."