The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism selected the class of 2018 inductees for the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame, an honor that recognizes those who either live or work in the state. The inductees include Ken Lowe, Rick French, John Sweeney, Lisa R. Davis and Don Curtis.
Susan King, the dean of the School, said she is proud of this year’s inductees, many of whom have built strong businesses.
“We have people who have really invented some successful media companies, which is a good message in times of change when people are worried about economic change,” said King. “Here are people who are doing excellent work. It gives us a chance to celebrate the business we think is really important.”
Lowe, the creator of Home and Garden Television and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., received his undergraduate degree from UNC-CH in radio, television and motion picture. Lowe said his time at the University taught him the importance of diversity and being a lifelong learner.
“It gave me a whole different view of the world and set me on the path to the success I’ve had, “ Lowe said.
His interest in architecture combined with his passion for media inspired him to create HGTV when he saw a lack of information about home building and remodeling. His original decision to appeal to the baby boomer demographic is one of the reasons he believes the channel took off. Lowe also cited his decision to go all-in with his career on the project as another factor that led to his success.
Rick French, another inductee to the hall of fame, also founded a successful company when he started French West Vaughan, a strategic communications company headquartered in Raleigh. French described the importance of strategic communications in his own company as they advise organizations how to make the best decisions for their publics.
“We often serve as the corporate conscience as a lot of organizations need help and guidance in doing the right thing," French said.
Although French did not attend UNC-CH, he contributed as a guest lecturer and a member of university panels. Lowe still stays in touch with and occasionally visits the University. Lowe said he is proud of the school’s reputation in the field of communications and of the work UNC-CH students do.
“I think the one thing I would say that I miss is not being able to get my Daily Tar Heel," Lowe said. “It was always great students who did great writing and groundbreaking articles.”
John Sweeney, another inductee and distinguished professor in the School of Media and Journalism, also praised the students for the work they put into classes and successful careers they embark on afterward. He started his career working in advertising before taking a position at the University.
“I took a leave of absence from advertising, took a one year appointment, and I liked it," Sweeney said. “I like working with students and the University. When they offered me a long stay, I didn’t go back.”
The North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame was founded by former Dean of the MJ-School, Richard Cole, in 1980 to highlight the School’s strong writers. Today, a committee of alumni and those actively working in the communications industry make their selection on who to induct each year. King said in 2017, the Hall of Fame event raised $100,000 for the School.
“My heroes are in that hall of fame," French said. “The folks who are going in this year are true trailblazers in the media. I am incredibly grateful and also humbled."
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