Six to be inducted into the TN Journalism Hall of Fame

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Luther Masingill is the world's longest-serving radio announcer working at the same station, marking more than 70 years at WDEF-FM 92.3, complemented by 60 years at WDEF-TV in Chattanooga.

Six outstanding journalists comprise the second class to be inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame located at Middle Tennessee State University.

Induction ceremonies for the 2014 class will take place at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, during the 60th annual conference of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters at Murfreesboro's Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

The TJHOF is an independent partner with MTSU's College of Mass Communication, which houses the hall in its Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building on the MTSU campus.


The 2014 honorees are:

  • Joe Birch, co-anchor, WMV-TV Action News 5, Memphis.
  • Bob Johnson, co-anchor of WTVC-TV News, Chattanooga.
  • Alex S. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner, The New York Times.
  • Luther Masingill, WDEF Radio/TV, Chattanooga.
  • Otis Sanford, editor, columnist, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis.
  • Sam Venable, columnist, Knoxville News Sentinel.

The Hall of Fame's bylaws note that its inductees represent "those who have made significant and substantial contributions to the journalism profession." Honorees may be living or deceased native Tennesseans who spent much of their career in state or out of state, or non-natives who spent a substantial part of their career in Tennessee.


WSMV-TV Channel 4 anchor Demetria Kalodimos will serve as master of ceremonies for the 2014 induction ceremony. Kalodimos, the longest continuous evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate, has won many national journalism awards, including the Edward R. Murray award for investigative reporting.

More details about each of the honorees follow:

• Joe Birch

A veteran lead anchor for 35 years with WMC-TV, Birch is as well-known in Memphis as CBS's Walter Cronkite was to the nation. Devoted to his craft, his community and his family, Birch exposed sex dens being operated in abandoned schools, became a hero of and for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a prolific fundraising advocate, convinced actor Michael Douglas to openly talk about his personal life on camera, and, less than two weeks after an automobile accident that broke his neck, was back on the job to continue serving the community with compassion, experience and influence. The Emmy Award-winning journalist also has been recognized for his community work: The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association created the Joe Birch Media Award in 2007 to recognize communicators who help publicize its services and to thank Birch, who's delivered Meals on Wheels for the organization weekly since 1997.

• Bob Johnson

Johnson, a veteran journalist of 45 years, began his career spinning records at a small radio station in his Marietta, Georgia, hometown, but he found his niche in TV, moving up the ranks to become the anchor for WTVC-TV Channel 9's evening newscasts as well as co-host of yearly telethons for various causes. Before he retired in 2007, Johnson reported from the scene of stories as diverse as the 1988 Moscow summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev just before the fall of communism and the Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch of the space shuttle's first flight after the 1986 Challenger explosion. Among his favorite projects was his long-running "Wednesday's Child" feature, which helped place children with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

• Alex S. Jones

A Pulitzer Prize winner, author, National Public Radio host and lecturer, Jones is the director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and also holds the school's Laurence M. Lombard Chair in the Press and Public Policy. His family owns the Greeneville Sun in Greeneville, Tennessee, which is part of the Jones Media Network. While covering the newspaper industry for The New York Times, Jones' 1987 story on the sale of the Bingham family media empire in Louisville, Kentucky, "The Fall of the House of Bingham," won the Pulitzer Prize for Specialized Reporting.

• Luther Masingill

Masingill is the world's longest-serving radio announcer working at the same station, marking more than 70 years at WDEF-FM 92.3, complemented by 60 years at WDEF-TV in Chattanooga. He is the only announcer to have reported on-air both the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, and he's won honors ranging from the national Marconi Award to the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters' Broadcaster of the Year Award. Masingill, who began his career in radio in 1940 and served with the 13th Airborne Signal Corps in the South Pacific in World War II, continues a busy broadcast schedule today: a renowned early-morning drive show, a daily calendar with WDEF-TV's morning program and a daily noon radio show. His extensive community service includes his ongoing efforts to reunite lost pets with their families, working with creatures ranging from dogs and cats to snakes and llamas.

• Otis Sanford

Sanford, a longtime editor with The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, now holds the Helen and Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economics/Managerial Journalism in the Department of Journalism at the University of Memphis. The Mississippi native joined The Commercial Appeal in 1977 and was part of the reporting team that covered the 1977 death of Elvis Presley, rising through the newsroom to become managing editor and editor of opinions and editorials before moving into academia in 2011. A nationally recognized speaker on journalism ethics, education and the First Amendment, Sanford is the recipient of the Silver Em Award from his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, and the annual print journalism award at the University of Memphis was named in his honor.

• Sam Venable

Venable, a writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel and a news columnist since 1985, also has written 12 books featuring his wit and unique look at life and contributed to many other books as well. The Knoxville native began his career with the News Sentinel as an outdoor editor in 1970 after earning his journalism degree from the University of Tennessee and working as a police reporter and feature writer for the Knoxville Journal and Chattanooga Free Press. The winner of more than three dozen national and regional writing awards, Venable has recently become popular on the stand-up comedy stage.

The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame's inaugural honorees, inducted in April 2013, were Chris Clark, retired chief news anchor for WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5; Anne Holt, a 30-year veteran and three-time Emmy winner at WKRN-TV News 2; the late Dan Miller, longtime chief news anchor and multiple Emmy Award winner at Nashville's WSMV-TV Channel 4; the late John Seigenthaler, chairman emeritus of The Tennessean and founding editorial director of USA Today; Dean Stone, editor of The Daily Times in Maryville and former president of the Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors; and William Bryant "Bill" Williams Jr., publisher emeritus of the Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer.

To be considered by the Hall of Fame's board for induction, individuals must have distinguished themselves through news or business management, leadership in the industry, or in the ordinary practice of journalism. Those whose contributions have been recognized by their peers in other venues also may be considered. Inductees can include reporters, writers, editors, publishers, news directors and other managers, as well as those who have excelled in advertising or public relations and journalism, advertising and PR education.

For more information about the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, visit its website at

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Chattanooga radio, longest radio host, Luther Masingill, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro news, Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, WGNS, WGNS News
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