Monday, May 01, 2006

Penn State Names Malcolm Moran Of USA Today As Inaugural Knight Chair In Sports Journalism and Society

Malcolm Moran, who has nearly 30 years of experience as an award-winning and respected sports journalist at USA Today, the New York Times, Newsday and the Chicago Tribune, has been named the inaugural Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society in the College of Communications at Penn State.

In his distinguished and diversified career as a sports journalist, Moran has covered 26 bowl games with national championship implications, 26 men's basketball Final Fours, 16 World Series, 11 Super Bowls, several NCAA conventions and two Olympic Games.

"These experiences have created a conviction to be passed on to a generation of reporters that will take their skills into a fragmented and uncertain media landscape," Moran said. "Never has the temptation of risk taking in pursuit of the big story been greater than it is in the shrill, niche-seeking environment of competing Internet sites, chat rooms and talk radio.

"But the good news I hope to communicate in courses, sessions with media professionals and athletic administrators is that effective, responsible deadline writers are made more often than they are born."

Some think veteran investigative reporter Tom Witosky of the Des Moines Register was one of six finalists for the position. If true, the outcome isn't all that surprising. This is another example of how difficult it is for folks from such places as Des Moines, Pocatello, Idaho, or Grand Forks, N.D., to get coveted jobs when they're in competition with people from the New York Times-Chicago Tribune-USA Today power structure.

In effect, Moran can now tell the five bridesmaids, "Welcome to the big leagues."

Moran, a graduate of Fordham University, launched his daily newspaper career as a sports reporter at Newsday in 1977, where he covered high school, college and professional sports. He worked at The New York Times from 1979 to 1998 as a reporter and columnist before joining the Chicago Tribune in 1998, where he worked as the Notre Dame football beat reporter while also writing commentaries and providing event and feature coverage on professional and college sports.

In 2000, he moved to USA Today where, in addition to his coverage of college basketball and football, he wrote feature articles on professional and college sports.

"We are elated to announce Malcolm's appointment," said Dean Doug Anderson of the College of Communications. "He brings to his position a wealth of professional experience and a cerebral approach to the issues facing sports journalism. He has all the makings of a thoughtful teacher, and we know he will interact comfortably with academics and working journalists."

Professor John Curley, distinguished professional in residence, chaired the search committee that drew a talented pool of applicants for the Knight Chair. The first editor of USA Today, Curley is the former president, chairman and CEO of the Gannett Co.

"Malcolm seems like a perfect fit for the position," Curley said. "We believe he will be an articulate and thoughtful spokesman for the Center for Sports Journalism. We look forward to having him in the role of the Knight Chair."

Penn State received a $1.5 million endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to establish the position. Knight Foundation president and CEO Alberto Ibarguen said the University had been selected as home of the Knight Chair after a national call for proposals to receive the grant.

"With its enormous influence on our culture, sports are major institutions," Ibarguen said. "Sports bring us together as communities. They unite a diverse nation and do the same for towns, cities and regions. Yet much of sports journalism is devoted to game coverage, personality profiles, statistics and features.

"We hope this high-profile teaching post will spur interest in sports' larger role in society. With its strong intercollegiate athletics values, its solid journalism leadership and its talented sports journalism faculty, Penn State is truly an appropriate home for this effort."

Penn State President Graham Spanier said he respected Moran's varied and wide-ranging journalism background.

"Malcolm will be a terrific role model for all of our students who are committed to careers in sports journalism," Spanier said.

In addition to teaching and working with journalism professionals, Moran will serve as director of the Center for Sports Journalism, housed in the College of Communications and its Department of Journalism. Moran's appointment begins with the fall 2006 semester.

The Center, founded in 2003 with Anderson and Curley as co-directors, explores issues and trends in sports journalism through instruction, programming and research. Four full-semester core courses (sports writing; sports broadcasting; sports information and management; and sports, media and society) comprise the undergraduate classroom portion.

Complementary sponsored programming for the Center includes on-campus lectures, panels and workshops on journalism and the role of sports in society. The Center also conducts regular studies and surveys about trends in sports journalism.

In the future, the Center will issue periodic reports that measure and track trends in hiring, staffing and coverage philosophies of media enterprises as well as media coverage of off-field sports issues.

Professor Marie Hardin serves as the Center's associate director for research.

The Center also emphasizes internships and on-campus media experiences in sports journalism for its undergraduate students. More than 170 students are enrolled in the Center, which is supported by a 23-member advisory board chaired by Anne Riley, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

In 2005, Moran was inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame; in 2002, he earned first place in the loose deadline category of the Football Writers Association of America writing contest; and, in 1999, he received the Jim Murray Outstanding Sportswriter Award, presented by the All-American Football Foundation.

In addition, Moran has displayed a proactive approach to sports journalism, and to bettering sports beyond competition on the field.

When Moran was president of the USBWA in 1989, the organization followed his suggestion to create awards for the male and female basketball players with the highest level of athletic and academic achievement. As a reporter at The New York Times, he was instrumental in that newspaper's decision to include graduation rates when compiling preseason rankings in football and men's basketball.

Moran has made presentations to the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association, the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Sports Management Institute and several major universities.

"I am pleased that Malcolm Moran has agreed to join the faculty,"
said Rodney Erickson, Penn State's executive vice president and provost. "Our students will benefit greatly from their work with this distinguished sports journalist."