UNC journalism school gets largest gift ever, new name
The University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Media has received its largest gift ever and is getting a new name, reports Kate Murphy in The Herald-Sun.
With a $25 million endowed gift, the largest in the school’s history, Carolina alumnus Walter Hussman Jr. and his family are investing in the future of journalism with hopes of restoring the public’s trust in the media.
In honour of the gift, the school will now have the eponymous name University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
“I think the solution is to get back to these bedrock values of journalism,” said Hussman, chairman of WEHCO Media Inc., which owns newspapers, magazines and cable television companies in six states. “To explain to the public this is what we believe and let them know what we believe.”
Hussman’s core values of impartiality, credibility and truth are printed in every issue of the family’s 10 newspapers and will be etched in granite at the entrance of Carroll Hall, home to UNC’s award winning and nationally recognized journalism program.
Susan King, dean of the Hussman School, said this gift means this school will be an “important player on UNC’s campus for generations to come” and rise to the highest ranks of journalism and media schools around the country.
“This name means our values are clear and our commitment to responsible, ethical communications in the digital age are firm,” King said. “And it says our faculty, staff and alumni should have the confidence that despite the challenges, we are up for them. And we are going to persevere in the digital age with values, innovation and determination.”
King also recognized this donation as not just a gift, but also a powerful moment for the school and the profession.
“When the economic challenges facing journalism and even the kind of questions about trust in the profession is at such a high decibel level, to have someone actually invest in our school and the industry says pages and pages about the importance of journalism in a democracy,” King said. “The timing of this one to me is really powerful.”
The endowed funds didn’t come with strings attached, King said, but the money will be invested into the quality of education and values that guide it. That will include recruiting and retaining the best faculty, staff, and resources for students, she said.
Carolina’s journalism program officially began in 1924 as a department in the College of Arts & Sciences, according to UNC. In 1950, it was designated as a professional school and now launches thousands of students into careers in journalism, public relations, advertising and other communications fields.
Hussman majored in journalism and graduated from Carolina in 1968, then earned an MBA at Columbia University in 1970. He built his career in journalism, which was the family business.
Hussman’s grandfather, Clyde Palmer, bought the family’s first newspaper in 1909 and ran that publication and four other daily newspapers for nearly 50 years. Hussman said his parents met at the University of Missouri’s journalism school and continued the tradition of working in the newspaper business and expanded it to radio and television.
Hussman followed suit, working at the Camden News as a 10-year-old, studying journalism at UNC, working as a reporter at Forbes Magazine, becoming publisher of the Arkansas Democrat at 27 and then serving as president of WEHCO Media. In recent decades, the company, which stands for Walter E. Hussman Company, acquired several local newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. The company now owns dozens of media outlets in six states.
Hussman’s children Palmer Hussman, Olivia Ramsey and Eliza Gaines have also contributed to the family business at WEHCO. Olivia and Eliza both graduated from Carolina in 2009 and Eliza returned to earn her master’s degree from the journalism school in 2012.
Hussman told UNC that this gift “honors the four generations of his family who have dedicated their lives to news and journalism.”
(Photo is of Walter Hussman and his wife, Ben, meeting with Susan King (left), the dean of UNC’s School of Media and Journalism, at their home in Carmel, California, on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill.)