Crusading newspaper publisher Brandt Ayers receives lifetime award
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATHENS, Ohio — Crusading community newspaper publisher H. Brandt Ayers of The Anniston (Ala.) Star is the most recent recipient of the prestigious Carr Van Anda Award given by the faculty of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. The award recognizes distinguished journalists for their lifetime contributions to the profession and society.
Ayers will be presented the award and will give a public lecture September 26 at 7 p.m., Baker Center Theatre. The program will be open to the public.
Under the leadership of Ayers, The Anniston Star has become one of the most storied and influential small newspapers in the U.S., having been profiled by trade publications and the popular press on numerous occasions. Time Magazine twice named The Anniston Star one of the “best small newspapers in the United States” and has described Ayers one of the top newspaper publishers in America.
The Anniston Star is noted for its aggressive watchdog reporting of state and local issues. The newspaper also is renowned for taking strong editorial stances against social injustices, most famously for its opposition to segregation during the civil rights movement of the 1960s — an unpopular position at the time for a small-town newspaper in the South. All of that was pushed by Ayers in his role as publisher of The Star and five other community newspapers in east-central Alabama; today, he is among only 100 living Alabamians to be inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, and has received numerous awards and honors within his home state.
“[Brandt Ayers] is that breed of newspaper publisher that grows more rare by the day – the sort who believe revenue’s highest and best use is to serve the cause of journalism,” Star editor Bob Davis wrote about his publisher. “In the world of remote corporate journalism, Brandy calls home the place where his newspaper is produced.”
Dr. Robert Stewart, Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, heralded the decision of the School’s faculty to honor Ayers with the Carr Van Anda Award. “This award is a way for us to recognize Mr. Ayers’ lifetime of service in journalism, and to draw attention to commitment to his community.”
In addition to his distinguished career as a publisher, Ayers is an accomplished journalism scholar, having served both as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and as a Gannett Fellow at Columbia University. He has lectured at numerous universities, including Harvard and Princeton in the U.S. and several universities in Africa. He was awarded the Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1996. He writes a syndicated opinion column and has written articles and commentary for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, NPR and The International Herald Tribune, among others.
Ayers also is an internationalist, having traveled extensively on journalistic and governmental missions to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a former trustee of the American Committee of the International Press Institute based in Austria; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations based in New York; a trustee of the Southern Center for International Studies; and a member of the advisory board of the The Ditchley Foundation in England, a prestigious organization that brings world leaders together for conferences related to international affairs.
In 2002, the Ayers family created the Ayers Institute, which is set up to convert The Star into a non-profit newspaper with a mission of journalism education. The organization has partnered with the University of Alabama to offer a master’s degree in community journalism, with The Star serving as a practice center for students in the program. Ayers referred to The Star as “the teaching newspaper,” patterned on the system of teaching hospitals that serve as the backbone for training new physicians.
Ayers will be the 72nd recipient of the Carr Van Anda Award. The award was created in 1968 to recognize Van Anda, who studied at Ohio University in the 1880s and went on to have a distinguished career in newspaper journalism, primarily as an influential managing editor who helped The New York Times become a newspaper of record. Recent past recipients include Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, Dith Pran of The New York Times, and Nina Totenberg of NPR.