Newspapers are in an economic fight for their lives, warned David Boardman, Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of The Seattle Times.

In a lecture titled “The Promises and Perils of Journalism in the 21st Century,” Boardman, who delivered the 2012 Hosokawa Journalism Lecture, discussed how The Seattle Times is evolving to cope with the economic realities and the ever-changing media environment affecting the journalism industry.

At a time when there is “more valuable information available as well as more noise,” Boardman asked if the future of newspapers really matters.

His answer: yes.

“Other than the military, we are the only institution mentioned in the Constitution,” Boardman said, insisting the Founding Fathers understood that freedom of the press was essential to the success of our democracy.

Boardman then proceeded to prove his argument by revealing to the audience how his staff covered investigative news stories that earned three Pulitzer Prizes and six Pulitzer Prize finalist awards.

Boardman pointed out that first and foremost he and his staff ask the question, “What good does this story do?” as litmus test to decide whether or not The Seattle Times pursues a story.

Karah Kemmerly ’14, a news editor for Whitman’s student newspaper, The Pioneer, appreciated that Boardman provided insight into the inner workings of a major newspaper.

“The Pioneer staff has been focusing on improving the quality of our investigative stories, so it was interesting to hear about the investigative process of a professional newspaper,” said the German studies major.

“Seeing just how much time and effort goes into longer, investigative stories encourages us to put the same time and effort into our own work,” Kemmerly said.

Prior to the lecture, Boardman met students and offered an inside look into the world of journalism. He engaged with students in the popular State of the State class, taught by Judge and Mrs. Timothy A. Paul Chair of Political Science Professor Paul Apostolidis. Boardman also had lunch with editors from The Pioneer and led a question-and-answer session with reporters from the student newspaper.

Mentioning the importance of social media as a tool for journalists, Boardman tweeted: "Just met with @whitmanpio editors. Impressive, inspiring team!"

Boardman’s visit, and his tweet, offered The Pioneer’s editors and reporters his belief that there’s a future to be had in journalism.

“We really appreciated his interest in our newspaper and his words of support,” said Patricia Vanderbilt ’12, The Pioneer editor. “It's great to get that kind of affirmation from someone who has achieved so much in the field and to see that he truly loves his work and believes in its value.”

The penultimate event on Boardman’s schedule was a celebratory dinner at The Baker Faculty Center, where he and President George Bridges presented awards to the winners of the 2012 Hosokawa Journalism Contest.

For the contest, students submitted stories that had been published in The Pioneer. Journalists from around the country judged the entries. Winners received a cash prize of $500 made possible by the Hosokawa endowment.

The winners of the five categories are as follows:

  • Opinion/Editorial – Rachel Alexander ’13
  • Photography – Allison Felt ’14
  • Feature – Rachel Alexander ’13 and Shelly Le ’14 (tie)
  • Sports – Sylvie Luiten ’12
  • News – Josh Goodman ’12

The contest is part of an endowment established at Whitman College by David and Beverly Hosokawa and the Hosokawa Family Foundation in 2000. The endowment, intended to be a celebration of journalistic excellence, includes the annual contest and a lecture. It honors alumnus Robert R. Hosokawa ’40, David’s father, and brings a noted journalist to campus. The endowment also established the Hosokawa Prize to be awarded each year in recognition of outstanding achievement and excellence as demonstrated by student journalists and photojournalists of The Pioneer. Robert Hosokawa, a Whitman Alumnus of Merit, Class of 1940, was a reporter for several papers in Missouri, New York, Iowa and Minnesota. He held journalism professorships at the University of Missouri and the University of Central Florida and has been a mentor to many young journalists.

The panel of judges included:

  • Terry Tang – The New York Times
  • Larry Gordon – Los Angeles Times
  • Shannon Dininny – Associated Press
  • Katherine Long – The Seattle Times
  • Jim Vesely – The Seattle Times (retired)
  • Don Shelton – The Seattle Times
  • Sara Blask – Wall Street Journal (Corporate Communications)
  • Bart Cameron – Reykjavik Grapevine (former editor)
  • Krista Mahr – Time South Asia
  • Rick Eskil – Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
  • Brett Rankin – Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
  • Jeff Horner – Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
  • Matt Zimmerman Banderas ’04 – Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
  • Paul Erikson – Tri-City Herald

— By Edward Weinman

Award winners
From left: David Boardman, Allison Felt ’14, Sylvie Luiten ’12, Shelly Le ’14, Josh Goodman ’12, Rachel Alexander ’13 and President George Bridges.