- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) - With the death of media mogul Al Neuharth, the award named for the University of South Dakota alumnus will continue but in a different format, a USD official says.

Neuharth, who founded USA TODAY, died in 2013 at the age of 89.

This year, ESPN sports broadcaster Chris Berman will become the 30th person - and the first sports journalist - to receive the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media. Berman will receive the honor June 21 at the Newseum in Washington, founded by Neuharth.

The event was formerly held on the USD campus during Dakota Days homecoming weekend, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (https://bit.ly/20VLSVg ) reported. Neuharth and the award recipient(s) would offer remarks and take questions during an afternoon press conference and an evening awards ceremony.

The change in dates and venue represent the start of a new format following Neuharth’s death, said Michelle Van Maanen, chair of the USD Media and Journalism Department.

“Going forward, the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media will be awarded at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. But, USD will still be involved. We definitely will invite future recipients to campus,” she said.

“This year’s honoree, Chris Berman, has already indicated that he is excited about visiting USD during the next academic year. We are not ready to announce specific dates at this time. Plans are in the works for him to interact with our students in a series of conversations during the visit, as well as a possible event that will be open to the public.”

USD students are eagerly awaiting Berman’s visit the Vermillion campus, Van Maanen said.

“As you might expect, our students are extremely excited about meeting Chris Berman,” she said.

Holding the awards ceremony at the Newseum is not unprecedented, Van Maanen said.

“Gwen Ifill of PBS’s ‘Newshour’ received the honor at the Newseum in June 2014. Last year, John Seigenthaler was honored here on campus with the 2015 award,” she said. “Future award winners will also be invited to visit campus to interact with our students, but those events will be scheduled around their availability.”

Ifill’s presentation was held at the Newseum and at a different time of year because of a scheduling conflict, Van Maanen said.

“As for Gwen, the week that she was to receive the award was also the week she started her work as the main host for the ‘PBS Newshour,’” Van Maanen said.

The original October timing also came during heavy campaign coverage leading up to the November 2014 elections, Van Maanen said.

However, Van Maanen still holds out hope of bringing the veteran journalist to the USD campus. Ifill and Judy Woodruff - also a past Neuharth Award recipient - recently made history as the first all-female moderator panel for a presidential debate.

“It would be fantastic to have (Ifill) on campus to interact with students,” Van Maanen said. “I’ve had the opportunity to speak with her on more than one occasion (when I worked for South Dakota Public Television), and she is incredible. It would be an inspiration for students to hear her speak about her passion for our business.”

In past years, the Neuharth Award presentation was broadcast live and then rebroadcast at a later date on South Dakota Public Television. Van Maanen has pursued the possibility of continuing some type of South Dakota broadcast for the future Washington ceremonies.

The USD homecoming weekend will still shine a spotlight on the university’s media program, Van Maanen said.

“Our Dakota Days celebration will continue but will now focus on Media and Journalism alumni visiting campus, much like the gatherings of other USD departments,” she said.

In addition, the Neuharth Award will continue honoring its namesake and his lifetime of contributions. Neuharth didn’t forget his South Dakota roots, as he often returned to the state and the USD campus.

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/


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