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Cronkite School Names Theater in Honor of Murphy Burns Family

October 25, 2017
Morgan Murphy Media / Elizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns TheaterElizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns of Morgan Murphy Media celebrate the dedication of the Cronkite School's largest teaching space in their names.


Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication dedicated its largest teaching space in honor of Elizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns of Morgan Murphy Media, the pioneering media company headquartered in Wisconsin.

The couple, along with family and executives from Morgan Murphy Media, were on hand Tuesday for the dedication of the Morgan Murphy Media / Elizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns Theater, a 141-seat technologically advanced classroom at the Cronkite School. The couple contributed a seven-figure gift in support of the school.

“The Cronkite School is the best journalism school in the country, without a doubt,” Murphy Burns said. “The school does such wonderful work. It’s just so amazing what the students do here. It’s a remarkable place.”

At the ceremony, Murphy Burns traced the origins of her company, founded in 1890 by her grandfather, John T. Murphy, who acquired a newspaper in Superior, Wisconsin. She talked about her father, Morgan Murphy, who took the company into the broadcast age by helping to build the first FM radio station in northern Minnesota.

“We’re here to celebrate the family,” she said. “This is a family company. It’s always been a family company, and it will continue to be a family company.”

Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said the Burns family’s gift is critical in helping to educate the next generation of journalists at the Cronkite School. He said the family’s generous donation is the school’s lead contribution in ASU’s capital campaign.

“Both Liz and Richard have been great friends to the school, great supporters of the school and great advisers to the school,” Callahan said. “That has really manifested itself today. We are just so appreciative of that in all of its dimensions.”

With three high definition broadcast cameras, full audio and visual integration and a control room, the Elizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns Theater is one of the most technologically advanced learning spaces.

Callahan said the theater serves as the center of teaching and learning at the school. All first-year Cronkite students take their very first class, the Principles and History of Journalism, in the theater.

The room also serves as a space for special events. In 2010, the theater was the center of a special ABC News-Facebook town hall election event, featuring then correspondent David Muir and Cronkite student Natalie Podgorski.

“The space breeds opportunity for our students and for our school,” said Cronkite Associate Dean Mark Lodato at the ceremony.

Morgan Murphy Media operates television stations in Madison and La Crosse, Wisconsin (WISC-TV and My Network TV in Madison and WKBT-TV and My Network TV in La Crosse). The company also has television stations in three cities in Washington (KXLY-TV, Spokane; KAPP-TV, Yakima; KVEW-TV, Kennewick). In addition, the company operates five radio stations in Grant County in southwest Wisconsin and seven radio stations in and around Spokane, Washington. 

Morgan Murphy Media also recently acquired stations in the Joplin, Missouri/Pittsburg, Kansas market (KOAM-TV) and Victoria, Texas, (KAVU-TV, KMOL-TV, KXTS-TV, KUNU-TV, KVTX-TV and CrossroadsToday.com).

Murphy Burns has been responsible for moving this media company forward into the digital age. The company has been the market leader in embracing convergence journalism and convergence sales efforts.

Murphy Burns also has been a longtime supporter of the Cronkite School, serving on the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees, composed of top media leaders who advise the school on a wide array of issues.