Six accomplished media veterans, including one posthumous honoree, were celebrated by family, friends, colleagues and supporters this week as they were inducted into the latest class of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame.
The seventh annual induction ceremony was held Tuesday, Aug. 6, during the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters annual conference at Murfreesboro’s Embassy Suites Hotel. Housed at Middle Tennessee State University, the hall has now inducted 44 members in recognition of their excellence in the media industry.
This year’s class includes: Memphis television anchor Valerie Calhoun; retired Associated Press Nashville veteran Joe Edwards; retired Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster Fred Freudenberg; the late Nashville Banner columnist Francis “Red” O’Donnell (posthumous); West Tennessee radio executive Paul Tinkle; and retired, longtime Knoxville TV anchor Bill Williams.
This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame co-founder, journalist and author Dan Whittle, who died in April after a lengthy battle with leukemia and was an inductee into last year’s class. He was 74.
Hooper Penuel, a close friend of Whittle’s and also a hall co-founder, told the gathered crowd about how Whittle’s keen sense of humor, love for his community and determination inspired many. Whittle at one time was a columnist for The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro and more recently appeared on WGNS Radio’s The Truman Show.
“I guess you could describe Dan as unique, intelligent and a friend to all,” Penuel said. “He said everyone has a story. … He painted a picture where you could follow it. You could see it. That’s what journalist do.”
With Whittle’s widow, Pat, unable to attend the ceremony, Penuel presented a special plaque to Cannon Courier owner and publisher Ron Fryar, another close friend of Whittle’s who worked with him when Fryar was DNJ publisher.
Ceremony emcee Ken Paulson, director of the MTSU’s Free Speech Center and former dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, applauded this year’s distinguished class and all of the journalists who continue to uphold the First Amendment and serve as advocates “for the sheer nobility of journalism.” He said that message is stressed daily to students by him and Greg Pitts, chair of MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media, who also attended the ceremony.
“You know this is true, and no matter how many times you get called the enemy of the people, you know the work you do is important and is essential to democracy, and we try to impart that to the next generation and one of the best ways to do it is to have role models like the inductees we have this year,” Paulson said.
TENNESSEE JOURNALISM HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2019:
• Valerie Calhoun is a five-time Emmy Award winner and co-host of Good Morning Memphis on WHBQ-TV Fox 13. A native of East Tennessee, the University of Tennessee graduate returned to Tennessee after spending time in South Carolina and Alabama before landing in West Tennessee where she has become an integral recognizable personality part of the community.
• Joe Edwards is a retired 42-year veteran with The Associated Press, all in Nashville, serving as both day and night supervisor. During his career with AP, while covering the music country music beat, Edwards interviewed numerous country stars including Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift. He gained national and worldwide acclaim as a member of a team of Associated Press writers covering the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. As a result of Edwards’ articles about the song “Rocky Top,” the Tennessee General Assembly proclaimed it a state song.
• Earl Freudenberg is a veteran radio and television broadcaster with over 50 years in journalism with Chattanooga radio and television stations. He has deep broadcasting experience, including music, talk shows, news gathering, reporting, public affairs, human interest and charitable fundraising. Freudenberg served in the U.S. Army from 1971-1974 as a broadcaster and radio producer with American Forces Europe in Frankfurt, Germany.
• The late Francis “Red” O’Donnell (posthumous) was a Nashville Banner columnist once selected by the Country Music Association as the journalist of the year. He wrote humor columns and covered music but began his career in journalism in 1932 as a sports reporter. He took leave from the Nashville Banner to serve in the U.S. Marines before returning to his home in Nashville. O’Donnell died in 1973.
• Paul Freeman Tinkle is president and general manager of Thunderbolt Broadcasting and Digital in Martin and Union City, Tennessee. Tinkle began his broadcasting career at age 9, and at 15, he was hired as a radio station janitor — the same station where he now serves as president and GM. A past chairman of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, past president of the Tennessee Press Broadcasters Association, Tinkle is a founding member of the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.
• Bill Williams is retired Anchor Emeritus and special reporter for WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. Williams has worked in the news industry since the 1950s and continues to work with Mission of Hope, an outreach program to aid people in rural Appalachia. He came to WBIR in 1977 where he remained on the anchor desk until he retired.
Longtime MTSU journalism professor Larry Burriss, current president of the hall, reminded the audience that the “heart and soul” of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame “are the journalists who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth in support of American democracy … and to help ensure that people know what their leaders are doing and why they are doing what they’re doing.”
Other supporters of this year’s induction ceremony included the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association.
Hall of Fame inductees are featured in a digital display inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building on the MTSU campus. For more information about the hall, visit www.tnjournalismhof.org, where you can also view previous inductees, or contact Penuel at 615-347-1672 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.