Ten experienced and respected reporters from across the spectrum of reporting and commentary will enter the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame this spring. The group includes a diverse group of writers who have, in distinctive ways and in distinct “beats”, covered the gamut of politics, culture, sports, weather and other matters in the Sooner State.
Induction for the ten honorees will come at a special 50th anniversary gala which has been set for 6 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the Oklahoma History Center.
The biographies for the ten honorees, provided in a recent press release from the Hall of Fame based at the University of Central Oklahoma, follow:
Clytie Bunyan (1961- ) has seen the business scene change drastically in her 30-plus years in Oklahoma. She started as an entry-level reporter and is now the coordinator of the internship program and staff development at The Oklahoman. She was the first woman and the longest-serving business editor, and in 2012 was named director of Business & Lifestyles. Her responsibilities expanded to being editor of the health, common education and city hall beats.
Al Eschbach (1945- ), considered by some as the father of sports talk radio, heard one listener in 1976 who didn’t think a Jersey City guy would make it as a sports announcer in Oklahoma. Four decades later, his broadcasts are more popular than ever. He worked for the Oklahoma Daily at OU, Norman Transcript, and The Oklahoma Journal. He started at KTOK as sports director in 1976 and worked for various radio and TV stations since. Eschbach is in the Oklahoma Broadcasters Hall of Fame and teaches at OU’s Gaylord College.
Rusty Ferguson (1961- ) comes from a family dedicated to newspapers and their communities. The third-generation publisher of The Cleveland American, The Hominy News-Progress and The Pawnee Chief. He was president of the Oklahoma Press Association in 2012 and served as the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce president three times. He is the fourth member of the Ferguson family to be inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame—his grandfather Jo. O, his uncle D. Jo and his father, Larry.
Lori Fullbright (1966- ) knew at age 12 she would be a TV reporter. The Bolivar, Mo., native followed her dream, starting at Missouri stations before moving to KOTV in Tulsa, where for 27 years, she has specialized in crime reporting. She has dedicated her career to sharing victim stories with sensitivity and telling stories that are fact-based and balanced. Civic work in crime prevention and promoting key women’s issues has earned her many awards. She has reported nationally and internationally on Oklahomans, including American military in Iraq, Bosnia and at sea.
Rochelle Hines (1963- ) covered major Oklahoma tragedies during her media career in the 22 years she worked for The Associated Press. Her work included covering the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1999 tornado, and the execution of several inmates at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Her stories at OU’s Oklahoma Daily about two teenagers on Oklahoma’s death row earned her the Hearst Award.
Michael McNutt (1952- ) has covered all types of stories during his more than 30 years at The Oklahoman. Oklahoma’s governors and lawmakers as well as state agency leaders knew the dedicated reporter who routinely worked 15- to 16-hour days on the capitol beat. He was named to the Washington Post’s list of best state-based political reporters in 2013. And he knows all about rural Oklahoma, venturing to places few residents have heard of. McNutt worked for Gov. Mary Fallin, first as her press secretary and then as communications director. He later became communications director for the juvenile affairs office.
Michael Sims (1954- ) began his TV broadcasting career at KWTV, eventually becoming managing editor. Also, early in his career, he was a street reporter for both the KOMA and WKY radio news stations. Skills gained in Oklahoma took him to the national market, where he helped the industry transition to the digital newsroom. He guided CBS through the change to digital that now includes news coverage for every conceivable platform. Later he joined ABC News as executive director and general manager of the Network News Service, a landmark video cooperative owned and operated by ABC News, CBS News and FOX News.
Tony Stizza (1957- ) worked more than 26 years at KTVY, now KFOR in Oklahoma City, filming documentaries such as “Tapestry” and “Strangers in Their Own Land.” His dedication has earned 16 Emmy Awards, three National Press Photographer’s Association regional photographer of the year, and numerous other awards. He is now video director for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. He’s a member of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Scott Thompson (1961- ), longtime main news anchor at KOTV in Tulsa, is also widely known as the station’s “Oklahoma Traveler” for the long-running series that took him to every continent except Antarctica. He began his career at his hometown Illinois newspaper and worked at KRCG-TV in Jefferson City, Mo. Moving to Tulsa in 1987, he worked at KJRH –TV before joining KOTV. He earned six national Edward R. Murrow Awards, eight regional Emmy Awards and the national Sigma Delta Chi Bronze Medallion for Public Service in Television Journalism.
Yvette Walker (1961- ), former news director at The Oklahoman, is assistant dean for student affairs at OU’s Gaylord College. She has served on the Society of Professional Journalists national board, the FOI Oklahoma advisory board and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. She was the Edith Kinney Gaylord Journalism Ethics Chair at the UCO. She has worked for medium to large news media in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Texas.
“Now more than ever, we need to honor and appreciate the contributions of journalists and the important role they play in our country. Journalists have been and will be on the frontline of protecting our First Amendment freedoms,” said Joe Hight, director of the Hall of Fame.
Hight said a 10-member selection committee, mostly hall of fame members, selected this year’s honorees.
The Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame was founded in 1971 by former UCO Journalism Chairman Dr. Ray Tassin. He was followed by Dennie Hall as director. Hight is the fourth director and succeeded Dr. Terry Clark, who retired three years ago and now serves as a consultant.
This year’s inductees will bring to 468 the total members and six Lifetime Achievement honorees, all of whom are featured on the hall of fame website (okjournalismhalloffame.com). Past honoree plaques are on display at the Hall of Fame.
Also, “Oklahoma’s Greatest Journalists,” a hard-cover coffee table book written with essays, stories, vignettes and photos, will be available to order beforehand for $35 plus shipping, Hight said. Other improvements also will be made to the Hall of Fame in UCO’s Nigh University Center as well as to the website at okjournalismhalloffame.com.
Invitations to the gala will go out by the end of February, and reservations at $50 each must be made by April 3. Because of the larger than usual crowd expected, late reservations may not be able to be honored, Hight said. The public is invited to attend. Send an email to Hight at [email protected] if you are interested in receiving an invitation or attending.
In addition to his work at the Hall of Fame, Hight is Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Journalism Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma.
NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan, publisher/editor of The City Sentinel newspaper and founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2015.