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Jack Clifford, a veteran TV executive who created the Food Network, is giving $500,000 to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to create an endowment for the school’s award-winning broadcast journalism program. In addition, Clifford will spearhead a $5 million fund-raising campaign for the program.
“Jack Clifford has been a champion of Arizona State University and the Cronkite School for many years,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This generous gift demonstrates his commitment to higher education in Arizona and his passion for broadcast journalism. We are very grateful to Jack and his wife Marguerite for their continued leadership and support.”
The gift, which is the largest from an individual donor in the school’s history, will be announced Tuesday at the 23rd annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Cronkite, the long-time CBS News anchor, is giving this year’s award to former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.
“I believe that we have a great opportunity to develop for Arizona State University the finest journalism school in the country,” Clifford said. “With President Crow and Dean Callahan at the helm, I know that the Cronkite School will become number one. I am glad to help in that effort and look forward to raising $5 million for the school.”
The Cronkite School’s broadcast journalism program ranks among the best in the country. The school placed first in the nation for broadcast journalism two of the last three years in the Hearst Journalism Awards, which are often called the collegiate Pulitzer Prizes. In addition, the Society of Professional Journalists named “NewsWatch,” the school’s student-produced newscast, the best college newscast in the nation earlier this year.
The Cronkite School continues to expand its broadcast news program. This year the school expanded NewsWatch to two nights a week, with plans to make the newscast a nightly program. Cronkite students have their best TV work featured on MSNBC under a new partnership that started last month with the national news network. And on election night last week, broadcast students provided nearly three hours of live election coverage on cable channels in the Valley.
“The Cronkite School already has a top-flight broadcast journalism program,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “With Jack Clifford’s generous donation and his leadership in our upcoming campaign, I have no doubt that the Cronkite School will become widely known as the best broadcast journalism program in the country.”
Clifford, who got his start in the broadcast industry during college, worked in Phoenix in the early days of his career, starting as the first sports anchorman at KTVK-TV in 1957 before switching to sales the next year. In 1962 he began working at KTAR-TV in Phoenix in the sales department and became the station’s president and general manager eight years later.
Clifford then worked in several media markets until he landed in Rhode Island with the Providence Journal Co., where he was executive vice president. Clifford developed the company’s electronic media business into one of the nation’s largest broadcast TV, cable television and TV programming companies. He founded and was chairman of both the Food Network and Northwest Cable News.
Clifford is a member of both the ASU Foundation Board of Trustees and the Cronkite Endowment Board. He and his wife, Marguerite, live in Scottsdale and are nationally competitive ballroom dancers.