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SPJ mourns death of 72nd President Paul M. Davis


Matthew T. Hall, SPJ National President, 619-987-7786, mhall@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is mourning a former national president, long-time broadcast journalist and friend today as it grieves the passing of Paul M. Davis, 82.

“My deepest condolences go out to Paul’s family and extended family, to all the friends and journalists he knew, mentored and coached as a leader over decades in our industry,” said SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall. “His impact on it remains today in all the journalists who will continue to carry the torch in his name.”

In addition to being honored with the Wells Memorial Key for Outstanding Service to the Society, SPJ’s highest honor for a member, in 1997, Davis was former general chairman of the 1987 SPJ National Convention in Chicago; and a member of the SPJ Jane Pauley Task Force on Mass Communication Education. He helped produce the first decade of the Sol Taishoff professional development programs and co-authored the Jane Pauley task force’s report on the preparedness of college graduates to be hired as broadcast journalists. He was a member of the SPJ Pro Chapters in Chicago and Los Angeles and served on the SDX Foundation Board from 1985 to 2001, when he first was elected to the SPJ Board.

Steve Geimann, SPJ president, 1996-97 and SDX Foundation president 2006-2012, said, “Paul’s influence on journalism is enormous. From serving as national president (and inventing the single-clap to speed-up lengthy banquets) to the one-on-one mentoring, he was unfailingly dedicated to our profession. I loved hearing his deep, mellifluous voice at the other end of a phone line while I was president and even for years after my term ended. I also relished hearing his stories about the news, the characters in our business and the future. That voice may be gone, but the lessons he imparted — to me, to SPJ and to hundreds of others — will survive.”

Reginald Stuart, SPJ president in 1994-95, said Davis was “an open ear, open mind and open heart. He was very good working with colleagues. He would hear differing points of view, civilly discuss differences and always work toward a resolution, never losing sight of a goal. He did every job with a rich sense of confidence and a rich sense of humor. His absence will be felt by many.”

Howard S. Dubin, SPJ Foundation treasurer, said Davis was a close friend and a great teacher.

“At SPJ conventions he worked several days with students critiquing their work to improve them as journalists,” Dubin said. “But then we always had time to explore the convention cities with his great curiosity. He enjoyed doing the New York Times crossword puzzles and would compete with my wife on flights home and on Sundays by phone.”

When Davis was honored by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation in 2001, then-president Paul K. McMasters said, “His booming voice, good sense and institutional memory are assets we simply won’t be able to replace.”

His voice was heard all over the country throughout his career, including during an interview with Jim Bohannon in 2014 on the Jim Bohannon Show.

Bill McCloskey, 2008 Wells Key honoree, said "Paul preceded me as parliamentarian for the National convention. I asked him what I needed to know. He responded, 'speak loudly and authoritatively.' I could not match Paul at either skill, but I muddled through. He and his booming voice will be missed."

Carolyn Carlson served with Davis as officers and national SPJ board members in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and remained friends from then on.

"Paul was national president the year before I was," Carlson said. "I marveled at his skills as a presiding officer and particularly envied his quick wit. In a room full of smart people, Paul was usually the smartest of the lot, so little got past him. Should someone try, he'd call a halt to that with a ready quip that minimized embarrassment and kept things moving."

Davis’ service to the media profession includes: president of the Radio & Television News Directors Association in 1979; a founding member of the First Amendment Congress and the congress’ vice chair for eight years (1979-1987); president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association in 1966; membership on the World Press Freedom Committee; membership on the RTNDF Committee on Diversity; past chair of the United Press International Broadcast Advisory Board (1983-1988); membership on the UPI Editorial Review Committee; more than 10 years of membership on the Board of Governors of the Chicago Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, receiving the prestigious NATAS Governor’s Award in 1994; membership on the Task Force on the Profession in the Millennium of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC); 10 years of membership of the American Bar Association Media-Law Committee; and past chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association Media-Law Committee.

Davis’ professional career includes senior vice president of FACs, the Foundation for American Communications in Los Angeles; news director and broadcast consultant for Tribune Broadcasting’s Boston acquisition, WLVI-TV; 13 years as news director at WGN-TV, Chicago, which also served a North American cable audience by satellite; and three years as news director of WGN Radio, overseeing the development of separate award-winning radio and TV news departments. During his tenure, WGN-TV won awards and honors, including Emmys from the Chicago Television Academy and Lisagor awards from the SPJ Chicago Headline Club. During his years with WGN, he created an hour-long highly rated Midday News and started Chicago’s first Weekend Morning News. In 1990, he established a Washington Bureau for the Tribune stations (Tribnet) and was its first president.

Davis is survived by two sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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