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The Cronkite School is rescinding the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism given to Charlie Rose in 2015.
This unprecedented action is taken with the utmost seriousness and deliberation. We are not in the business of trying to rewrite history. The Cronkite Award is bestowed each year to celebrate a great journalist, our school, our students, our alumni and our profession. It is a lifetime achievement award. It does not come with term limits. It is given in perpetuity. The idea of “taking back” a Cronkite Award is so foreign that the possibility was never even considered when the award was first created by Walter, the school and the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees more than 30 years ago.
We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.
I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.
We also understand that this action is largely symbolic: The fact is this award was given to Mr. Rose in 2015. But we think the message is important – to our current students, past students, future students, and all of journalism. And that is why we are taking this unprecedented action today.
This decision was reached with input from scores of Cronkite School stakeholders: students, alumni, faculty, staff, news industry leaders and the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees. In conversations with dozens of these individuals, the overwhelming view was that the 2015 award should be rescinded. Conversations with students and young alumni were particularly powerful. I also convened a special ad hoc committee representing senior faculty, school leaders, the Endowment Board, alumni and students. The committee members’ advice, overwhelmingly, was to rescind the award. And today, after a thorough conversation, the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees voted unanimously to recommend rescinding the award.
All of these thoughtful and thorough discussions were tremendously helpful in the decision-making process, as well as an uplifting reminder of the integrity, passion and leadership within our school community – from students and faculty to supporters, alumni and the Board of Trustees. But please know that while many voices were heard in discussions throughout the week, this is a decision by the dean, and therefore any criticism of the decision, or the decision-making process, should be directed exclusively toward me.
Founding Dean and Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University