Hussmans give $25 million to journalism school at University of North Carolina

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 159 views 

Walter Hussman Jr. and his wife, Ben Hussman.

Arkansas media executive Walter Hussman, Jr. and his family have given $25 million to the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the school has been named Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

The university announced Tuesday (Sept. 10) the single-largest gift to the university’s journalism and media school will be used to invest in journalism and media professions and reinforce the Hussmans’ newspapers core values: objectivity, impartiality, integrity and truth-seeking. The university is embracing those values as the driving statement behind the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Through the gift, the Hussmans look to restore the trust between the media and the public. Hussman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina in 1968 and is chairman of Little Rock-based WEHCO Media Inc., which owns newspapers, magazines and cable TV stations in six states, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“I believe that by adopting these core values, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s journalism school can be the leader and serve as an example for other journalism schools in America to follow,” Hussman said. “This is a key reason why we enthusiastically support the school and the university. This is a first, but important step, in renewing the public’s trust in our profession and the news media.”

The core values are printed on the second page of each of the 10 daily newspapers that the Hussmans own, and they will be chiseled in granite at the entryway of Carroll Hall at the university.

“This naming gift provides $25 million in endowed funds to build for the future and invest in the people who have made this school a national leader — our professors, our staff, our students and all of the promise they represent,” said Susan King, dean of the Hussman School. “The Hussman family’s passion for journalism is based on unwavering values. Their generosity and vision extend transformational support across all of the media disciplines that we teach and research and serve. Core values are at the root of all we do.”

The Hussman School will become the fifth named school at the university.

“From Edward Kidder Graham’s first journalism course at Carolina to today, UNC’s School of Media and Journalism has prepared thousands of students to discover the truth, foster democracy through dynamic communications and ignite the public conversation across our state and around the world,” said interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. “We are grateful that one of those students, Walter Hussman, is investing to make this school the leading force for good journalism in our state. His core values reflect the priorities and principles of the entire community here at Carolina, and it is a privilege to name our school in honor of his visionary leadership in media.”

In 1924, the university established its journalism program as a department in the College of Arts & Sciences. It became a professional school in 1950.

“It would be difficult to overstate the impact of this gift during this pivotal time of economic dislocation and mounting distrust amid campaigns to discredit reporting, journalism and media institutions,” King said. “The Hussman family’s stalwart belief in the future of journalism, its critical role in a democratic society — and our school as a guardian of its foundational values — is both a signal and calling to remain grounded in principles as we innovate, invent and lead the way through the challenges of this era.”

The Hussman family previously established two endowed professorships at the university — in the journalism school and the school of education.

Hussman was raised in the news business. His grandfather, Clyde Palmer, bought the family’s first newspaper in 1909, and over the next 48 years, he purchased and published five daily newspapers — mostly in Arkansas. Palmer’s daughter, Betty Palmer, met Walter Hussman, Sr. at the journalism school at the University of Missouri and they married in 1931. Hussman, Sr. published the family newspapers for 50 years and also expanded into radio and TV stations and cable TV.

Hussman, Jr. was 10 when he started to work at the Camden News in 1957. After he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1968, he earned a MBA at Columbia University in 1970. He returned to the family business after working as a reporter for Forbes Magazine. His family purchased the Arkansas Democrat in 1974 and he became publisher of the newspaper. He became president of WEHCO Media in 1981. In 1991, the company purchased the Arkansas Gazette and renamed the newspaper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The family acquired the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times, and in 1999, were merged into the Chattanooga Times Free Press. In 2008, the Hussmans purchased the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun and the weekly California Democrat.

Also that year, Editor & Publisher magazine named Hussman, Jr. the Publisher of the Year.

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