Public opinion surveys nationwide have consistently reported Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the voices most Americans trust and seek out for timely information during the pandemic. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the annual William Randolph Hearst Award to be held virtually, it was fitting that Dr. Fauci was honored with the award for excellence in mass communication.
San José State University and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JMC School) presented the award to Dr. Fauci on Tuesday. More than 2,500 SJSU students, faculty, staff and community members took part in the virtual ceremony, which included remarks from Dr. Fauci and a short Q&A session.
“It is an extraordinary honor to be chosen by the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to receive this William Randolph Hearst Award, and I thank you so much for this recognition,” Dr. Fauci said. “Knowing that great communicators have received this award before me, people I have long respected, such as Dan Rather (2019 recipient) and Jim Acosta (2018 recipient), makes this day extra special with me.
“To be honored by your great JMC School and to now be a small part of your long legacy of excellence is very meaningful to me,” Dr. Fauci said.
Dr. Fauci discussed the commonalities he has found between being a renowned public health official and a journalist, including the need to always ask questions and the importance of accurately sharing information. He added that communicating to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced lessons he learned while managing several public health crises in a career that has spanned six presidential administrations.
“People need to hear the truth as it is, rather than as they might want it to be,” said Dr. Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID) since 1984. “Over time, truth telling builds credibility. We must always tell the truth, even if it means ‘I just do not know.’ Consistency in truth telling is critical because consistency means integrity.”
During the virtual ceremony, President Mary A. Papazian also shared remarks, expressing appreciation for Dr. Fauci’s leadership during a time of great stress and pressure.
“We are all thankful to have had you with us throughout this global pandemic, helping us to understand this virus, and explaining how we can best deal with it in a way that keeps us and our loved ones safe,” Papazian said.
The JMC School announced that they are in the early planning stages of an endowed scholarship in Dr. Fauci’s name that would attract students with a strong interest in science, public health and journalism. The school also announced that it is in the beginning stages of developing a new interdisciplinary curriculum between the JMC School and the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Before his work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci was best known for his groundbreaking work in HIV-AIDS research, helping to develop effective drugs to scale back its mortality rate. Dr. Fauci has also spearheaded the federal government’s public response to combat West Nile Virus, SARS and Ebola.
“Dr. Fauci’s unparalleled commitment to science, public health and saving human lives has been documented over 40 years of service to his country, and it would be his tireless moonlighting in media that would assure and calm millions of people across generations and secure his legacy in American history,” said Bob Rucker, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and host of the virtual event.
History of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award
In the 1990s, the SJSU Journalism School received a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Endowment for Visiting Professionals. It established the creation of a special honor for outstanding professional media service in journalism, public relations, advertising and mass communications. Each year, an honoree’s work is showcased for students and celebrated for efforts that meet the expectations and high standards for public service by a free press, as provided in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The School of Journalism and Mass Communications was founded in 1936 and is the largest of its kind in Northern California. It remains dedicated to the proposition that the free flow of ideas, together with accurate and timely information, is vital to developing and improving democratic societies. Today, the school is recognized worldwide for producing outstanding graduates who become leaders in global communications.