APSE Red Smith Hall of Fame unveiled at IU National Sports Journalism Center. Plaschke: “It’s still about the reader. It’s still about the words.”

INDIANAPOLIS – The Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award now has its own home.

The APSE Red Smith Hall of Fame was unveiled Saturday evening in the Student Media Center inside the Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis Campus Center in downtown Indianapolis.

The Hall of Fame was created through the combined efforts of APSE, the nation’s largest professional sports journalism organization, and the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center, which is based at IUPUI and includes programs in Bloomington.

The Red Smith Award, which is given annually be APSE for “those who have made major contributions to sports journalism,” is widely considered the Pulitzer Prize of sports journalism.

Kit O’Meara, daughter of the late Red Smith, at the unveiling of the APSE Red Smith Hall of Fame at IUPUI
Zachary Hetrick/Photo
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“Red Smith’s name is synonymous with great sports journalism,” said Tim Franklin, director of the IU National Sports Journalism Center and Louis A. Weil, Jr. Endowed Chair at the School of Journalism. “He was certainly the best of his era, and maybe the best of any era, so having the Red Smith Hall of Fame as part of our National Sports Journalism Center is a great honor. It will serve as an inspiration for all of the sports journalism students that come through this place over the years.”

Nearly 100 sports news executives from across the nation, other leading journalists, IU academics and administrators, and students attended a reception in the new APSE Red Smith Hall of Fame room and a dinner that followed.

Smith, a University of Notre Dame graduate and a long-time sports columnist for The New York Times, was the first recipient of the eponymous award in 1981. In 1976, Smith became the first sports writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1976.

Detroit Free Press columnist and best-selling author Mitch Albom was the 2010 recipient of the Red Smith Award.

“I want to thank Indiana University for creating a place for sports journalists that doesn’t involve a rickety chair and a cold press box with a tiny elevator and sporadic wireless and an interview with (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick,” said Los Angeles Times columnist and ESPN commentator Bill Plaschke, who served as the keynote speaker.

Kit O’Meara, daughter of the late Red Smith
Zachary Hetrick/Photo

“I want to thank the National Sports Journalism Center for recognizing sports journalists in a way that doesn’t involve threats or curses or finger pointing,” Plaschke joked.

Plaschke also spoke directly to sports journalism students about the need to carry on the legacy of great sports journalism embodied by Smith, despite the rapid changes in the sports media industry.

“The Red Smith Hall of Fame is not a museum,” Plaschke said. “It’s a classroom. It’s not just about them or us. It’s about you. It’s a living, breathing challenge to those who still want to work in a business that has been battered by the bankers and kicked by the economists and at times that has seemed to be abandoned by everyone except the most important person of all – the reader.

“The mediums are changing and the job descriptions are evolving, but for those of us who want to follow in the paths of the greats in the Red Smith Hall of Famek there is still a place for us here. It’s still about the reader. It’s still about the words.”

(His speech can be read here).

The event was attended by past Red Smith Award winners Dave Kindred (1991), Ed Storin (1992), George Solomon (2003) and Vince Doria (2009).

Smith’s daughter, Kit O’Meara, attended the event, as did Linda McCoy Murray, widow of the late Jim Murray, the 1982 recipient of the Red Smith Award.

“Pop used to say, ‘People go to a sporting event, they go to a ball game, to have fun, then when they get their newspapers the next morning, they open it to find out what happened, but also to have fun again – they want to stretch the fun out.”’ O’Meara said, addressing the attendees.

”So, thanks to all of you for keeping the fun going.”

O’Meara said her father would have been surprised that nearly 30 years after his death he is still remembered and honored.

“That would just astound him,” O’Meara said. “He was truly proud of being a newspaper man. He used to say he wanted to be remembered only as a good reporter, and he has been.”

Franklin said the idea for the Hall of Fame came from APSE President and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Editor Garry D. Howard.

“It’s such an illustrious history of sports journalism,” Howard said. “The legacy of Red Smith and of everyone else who has won this award should be sustained. It’s a piece of Americana. Having it displayed in an atmosphere where college students can see it and learn about their history can only manifest itself in better journalism, better students.
“If they can learn from it and be inspired by it, then that is our hope.”

Howard and Franklin each spoke of the importance of having a home for Smith Award winners beyond a list on the APSE Web site.

“The Red Smith award existed on-line,” Franklin said. “Not to diminish on-line, but it didn’t exist anywhere else. It is the Pulitzer Prize of sports journalism, so to now have this tribute to the winners permanently in the Student Media Center here I think is incredible, and I’m proud to have IU associated with it. Because the APSE is based here, I think this is the perfect home for it.”

Wall honoring past Red Smith Award winners at Red Smith Hall of Fame at IUPUI
Zachary Hetrick/Photo

Pam Laucella, assistant professor and National Sports Journalism Center academic director, said,the Hall of Fame will “bring attention to the program and the center, and the legacy obviously of someone like Red Smith.

“Bringing advisory members and key sports journalists will showcase what we have here in Indianapolis, which is one of pioneering programs in sports journalism,” she said.

The National Sports Journalism Center includes undergraduate courses on the Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses, and this fall it will offer the nation’s first master of arts degree in sports journalism. The center also includes internships for students, a speaker series of nationally prominent sports media members and professional training programs for current sports journalists.

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