Silurians’ Lifetime Achievement Award

Will Go to Steve Kroft of ‘60 Minutes’

Steve Kroft

THE CLOCK MAY HAVE STOPPED ticking for Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes,” but that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last from the veteran CBS correspondent. Last May, after 30 years and some 500 stories, Kroft retired from the nation’s top television news show, but he’ll be talking exclusively to us in October when he receives the Silurians’ Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala dinner at the National Arts Club. The date is Wednesday, Oct. 16, but make your reservations now (see instructions below) because we expect a big turnout for this one.

When Kroft joined the “60 Minutes” team, he was already a veteran of nine years with CBS News, including reporting from the Caribbean and Latin America and six years as part of the London bureau. He had traveled all over the world covering stories about international terrorism and sectarian violence: hijackings, bombings and the like. He won an Emmy for his coverage of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. In 1986, CBS brought him back to the U.S. and asked him to become a principal correspondent on a new magazine show called “West 57th.” That program was cancelled in 1989, but it seemed to be a natural progression at that point for Kroft to move on to “60 Minutes.” In September 1989, he did just that, becoming the new kid on a block populated by such giants as Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer and Harry Reasoner. He told Lesley Stahl he felt like “the junior partner in a law firm.” When Kroft retired in May, he had become the longest-tenured correspondent on the program, a position now occupied by Stahl.

“From the moment Steve Kroft arrived at CBS News in 1980, he has been shot out of a cannon and wherever he landed his stories broke news, had depth, and a strong sense of humanity” said Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News. “From Central America to a tour of duty in London, and back to New York, his destiny was clear — Kroft’s investigative instincts and ability to unravel the most complex stories  made him a perfect fit for the ‘60 Minutes’ team.”

In a lifetime of journalism, Kroft has amassed an impressive array of professional honors. They include: 11 Emmys, 5 Peabodys, 3 Gerald Loeb Awards, 2 Columbia University DuPont Awards, and honorary doctorates at three universities. His three decades at “60 Minutes” were marked by some of the show’s most memorable moments, especially his Jan. 16, 1992 sit-down during the presidential campaign with Bill and Hilary Clinton after the then-Governor of Arkansas had been faced with allegations of infidelity. That chat, which drew an audience of 34 million viewers, aired right after that year’s Super Bowl. It became a defining episode not only in the campaign, but in the public’s perception of Hilary Clinton, then relatively unknown to most people. When she told Kroft, “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him,” people took notice. It was 40 minutes into that same interview when a heavy wall-mounted lighting rig came loose, almost striking the future first lady as it smacked into the back of the couch on which the Clintons were sitting. “It was like an artillery round going off,” said Kroft.

Another memorable “60 Minutes” assignment, this one during the first year of Kroft’s tenure, was when he became the first American to be given extensive access to the contaminated grounds of the Russian nuclear facility at Chernobyl. His reporting, including from places where the radiation levels were 100 times normal, got him another Emmy. His most frequent interview subject was Barack Obama, with whom he talked 16 times.

“I think he knew we were not gonna burn him,” Kroft once said. “That we were gonna ask him tough questions, but we were gonna let him answer them.”

The 73-year-old Kroft, a native of Kokomo, Ind., became a journalist while a member of the U.S. Army serving in Vietnam. He was drafted shortly after his graduation from Syracuse University in 1967, reported on the invasion of Cambodia for the Armed Forces Network and was later reassigned to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes as a correspondent and photographer before his honorable discharge in 1971. He launched his professional career in Syracuse, as a reporter for WSYR-TV, then enrolled in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, earning his master’s degree in 1975. He moved to Florida and worked for two television stations, including WJXT in Jacksonville, where his reports on local corruption led to several grand jury probes and established his reputation. In 1977, he moved to Miami’s WPLG-TV, where his work was noticed by CBS News, which hired him in 1980. Nine years later, it was on to “60 Minutes” and the clock began ticking.

The date: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019
The time: Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., dinner at 7:15 p.m.
The place: The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South

Prices for the three-course dinner and open bar are $115 each for members and $130 for guests. Members are entitled to bring one guest at the member price. No one will be admitted without a reservation, all tickets must be paid for in advance, and all reservations must be made by Oct. 7. Tickets are expected to go quickly, so it’s best to reserve early. Here’s how.

  1. Through Eventbrite. You may purchase tickets by credit card through Eventbrite by clicking on the following link:

Please send an email to dinner chair Aileen Jacobson or to co-chair Scotti Williston, telling either of them how many tickets you are purchasing and listing the names of your guests. And please include any special seating requests. Concerns about hackers keep us from putting Aileen’s or Scotti’s email addresses on the website, but you will find those addresses when you click on the Eventbrite link shown above, as well as in the email invitation sent to all members by president David A. Andelman on Monday, Sept. 23. Their contact information, of course, can also be found in the Membership Directory that was sent to all members in January and again in July.

  1. By Check. Although the cost to you will be essentially the same whether you pay by check or through Eventbrite, and even though using Eventbrite makes life a little easier for our dinner organizers, some members might prefer paying directly by check. Here’s how to do that. Again, please send an email to Aileen Jacobson or to Scotti Williston. Tell either of them how many tickets you wish to purchase, list the names of your guests, and indicate any special seating requests. Send your check, with the names of your guests and any special seating requests, to:

Scotti Williston
143 West 85th Street/Apt. 4
New York, N.Y. 10024

If you have any questions, please contact Aileen or Scotti. We’re looking forward to another gala evening and hope to see you there.

All Silurian Officers Re-elected for 2019-20 Term;
Board of Governors Returns Virtually Intact

VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE SLATE of officers and board members of the Silurians Press Club was re-elected for the 2019-20 term at the June luncheon meeting at the National Arts Club, the final lunch before activities resume in September.

David A. Andelman, president

All officers were re-elected. They are David A. Andelman, president; Michael Serrill, first vice president; Joseph Berger, second vice president; Linda Amster, secretary; and Karen Bedrosian Richardson, treasurer. Serrill also continues as editor of the Silurian News. Silurian presidents generally serve two consecutive one-year terms, then are succeeded by whoever is first vice president.

A former president of the Overseas Press Club, Andelman — a foreign correspondent, author and commentator — has compiled a long and distinguished record that spans print and broadcast media as fluidly as it does national borders. Over the course of his career, he has traveled through and reported from 86 countries. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he is director of The Red Lines Project, and a “Voices” columnist for CNN Opinion. In 2018, he won a Deadline Club award for Best Opinion Writing for his CNN columns and in 2019 the same award a second time for his Reuters commentaries.

Michael Serrill, first vice president

For more than seven years, he was editor and publisher of World Policy Journal. Previously, he was an executive editor of Earlier, he was a New York Times correspondent in New York and Washington; a Southeast Asia bureau chief, based in Bangkok; and East European bureau chief, based in Belgrade. He then moved to CBS News where he served for seven years as Paris correspondent. Subsequent assignments: Washington correspondent for CNBC, news editor of Bloomberg News and business editor of The New York Daily News. He has written or translated four books—most recently “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today”; and, scheduled for July publication, “An Impossible Dream: Reagan, Gorbachev and a World Without the Bomb,” which he translated from the French.

During his inaugural term as president, Andelman presided over a series of monthly lunches featuring an array of outstanding speakers: Linda Greenhouse, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Craig Newmark, Les Hinton, Tony Schwartz, Dan Barry and Keith J. Kelly. Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ken Auletta spoke at a dinner honoring him in November 2018, and Rich Lamb of WCBS Newsradio 880 addressed the club at a luncheon this past April, when he was given the Peter Kihss Award.

Andelman also introduced the idea of having a keynote speaker at the annual Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner, the first of whom was Newsday’s Debby Krenek in May. (All talks are available for viewing by clicking on the link in the box at the top of the panel on the home page’s right side.)

It was also during Andelman’s first year as president that the Society of the Silurians, known by that name since 1924, changed its name to the Silurians Press Club so that it could be more easily found on websites of media organizations.

Returning board members are Betsy Ashton, Jack Deacy, Bill Diehl, Allan Dodds Frank, Tony Guida, Aileen Jacobson; Myron Kandel, Bernard Kirsch, Carol Lawson, David Margolick, Ben Patrusky, Myron Rushetzky, Mort Sheinman and Scotti Williston. The only board change was the resignation of Valerie Komor, who stepped down because of time constraints imposed by her duties at The Associated Press, where she is the founding director of corporate archives.

Despite Budget Woes, Investigative Reporting
Sets the Pace at Silurians Awards Dinner

This one’s for the investigators.

           Today’s press corps, faced with crippling budget cuts that have stripped its ranks of reporters and editors at all forms of major media, and forced to deal with determined and dangerous opposition from governments here and abroad that increasingly puts lives, as well as livelihoods, on the line, continues to produce some of the best and most courageous coverage in the long annals of journalism. For almost three-quarters of a century, the Silurians Press Club (formerly known as the Society of the Silurians) has been honoring the men and women whose work honors all of us. The Silurians Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner, a tradition that began in 1945, continued on May 15, when the outstanding stories and images of 2018 were applauded by an audience of close to 100 members and guests at the National Arts Club in New York.

           For the first time, the format of the Awards Dinner included two key changes. The presentation of the Peter Kihss Award, usually a major component of the evening, was instead shifted to the April lunch, when it was given to Rich Lamb of WCBS Newsradio. An addition to the Awards Dinner was a keynote speaker: Debby Krenek, publisher of the Newsday Media Group and former editor-in-chief of two of New York’s major daily newspapers, Newsday and the New York Daily News. Krenek’s comments, touching on the problems affecting the media’s bottom line but failing to keep it from doing outstanding work, set the tone for the evening.

          The awards presentation were made by Silurian president David A. Andelman and two former presidents: Betsy Ashton and Mort Sheinman.

           The New York Times, Newsday and The Record/ were big winners in this year’s competition, with demonstrations of investigative reporting that took time, money and guts. Newsday, for example, captured the President’s Choice Medallion for its extraordinary investigation that exposed a complex web of corruption between politicians and the business, law enforcement and legal communities of Long Island. For more than four years, a battalion of Newsday reporters and researchers conducted hundreds of interviews, pored over thousands of government documents and developed inside sources, the result of which was “Pathway To Power,” a special 48-page, 30,000-word Sunday supplement published in March 2018.

           The central figure in the story was Gary Melius, a onetime street hoodlum who became the owner of Long Island’s unofficial political clubhouse, a grand, Gatsbyesque estate in Huntington called Oheka Castle. Along with hosting celebrity weddings or providing the background for music videos by rock stars, Oheka became the place where high-ranking public officials, political leaders and law enforcement brass huddled over food and drink, played poker, anointed and cross-endorsed candidates and otherwise sliced up the public pie.

           Other winning entries also featured outstanding investigative work, several of them putting a hot light on the Trump business empire.

           The New York Times investigative team of David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner won the Medallion for Investigative Reporting by telling the complex story of the legally dubious financial history of the Trump family business. It demonstrated that Trump received today’s equivalent of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire and that much of it came from questionable tax schemes during the 1990s, including outright fraud.

           On their way to winning  the Medallion for Radio News Reporting, WNYC Radio and ProPublica combined their staffs to produce “Trump Inc.,” a year-long series of podcasts that uncovered wrongdoing and conflicts of interest in the Trump business empire.

           The Associated Press Trump Business Team dug deeply into the business activities of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who continue to serve as White House advisers without divesting their extensive financial holdings, with hard-hitting investigative reporting that exposed glaring conflicts of interest. For their reporting, the AP team won a Merit Award for Business and Financial Reporting.

           The exhaustive research work of James O’Neill, Scott Fallon and photojournalist Chris Padota of The Record/ resulted in “Toxic Secrets: Pollution, Evasion and Fear in New Jersey,” which won the Medallion for Environmental Reporting. The four-part series uncovered how DuPont downplayed the dire health risks posed by cancer-causing groundwater contamination at its now closed munitions manufacturing plant in Pompton Lakes, N.J.

           Newsday reporter Will Van Sant’s “Hands to the Neck” exposé won for Public Service Reporting. It took Van Sant a year to conduct deep research, collecting documents, developing sources and using old fashioned shoe leather to get the story. It revealed scores of non-fatal strangulation attacks in state-run or state-supervised hospital and other medical facilities. Van Sant’s reporting detailed how Patricia Gunning, the former special prosecutor and inspector general at the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, was stymied in her attempt to study and combat the phenomenon, which often involved employees acting against vulnerable individuals under state care. Van Sant’s piece spurred calls for Congressional action.

          Kevin Armstrong won for Sports Reporting for taking a close look at an FBI probe into the way businessmen and coaches schemed to funnel six-figure payments from sneaker companies to the families of star high school basketball players. When Armstrong wrote it, he was working in the sports department of the New York Daily News. When the News let half its editorial staff go in 2018, Armstrong was among the casualties. But he bounced back and now covers the Mets for The New York Times.

           The Medallion for Sports Photography went to J. Conrad Williams Jr. of Newsday for his emotion-filled series of pictures spotlighting an irate Serena Williams confronting chair umpire Carlos Ramos  after some controversial calls in the finals of the U.S. Tennis Open that likely cost her the title.

           Strong investigative and research skills were also at work at the Norwood News, a community weekly that covers the Northwest Bronx. The paper’s Housing Matters series, written by editor David Cruz, won a Merit Award for Feature Writing when it found that the city’s plans for creating affordable housing may be beyond the means of many Bronx residents.

          In the Reporting on Minority Issues category, Christine Veiga and Samuel Park of Chalkbeat, a non-profit editorial website covering education, won the Medallion for a series of articles on community pushback against the proposed integration of middle schools on New York’s Upper West Side.

           Extraordinary reporting and writing were abundant.

          In “The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail,” Dan Barry and Jeffrey Singer of The New York Times won the Medallion for Feature Reporting by telling the tragic life-and-death story of a young Chinese woman caught up in the illicit massage/prostitution trade that was a big business along one street in the Chinatown area of Flushing, Queens.

          Jim Dwyer of The New York Times won the Medallion for Commentary by bringing the lives of everyday, working New Yorkers to life in his columns, digging deep to uncover wrongdoing that sent innocent men and women to prison.      

           The New York Times garnered five Medallion and three Merit Awards; Newsday won three Medallions and five Merit Awards and The Record/ won four Medallions. 

For a full list of the 2019 Excellence in Journalism Award winners, Click here