Wayne State University’s Department of Communication will honor Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and Lynette Clemetson, founding managing editor of theRoot.com, with 2009 Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Awards.

Three local media professionals will be honored for their work “In the Spirit of Diversity.” They are Walter Middlebrook, assistant managing editor of The Detroit News; Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle.

The Helen Thomas Awards reception will be held Friday, April 16, from 6 to 9 p.m., at St. Andrews Hall in downtown Detroit. The awards honor Detroit native Helen Thomas, WSU ’42, the first woman chief of UPI’s White House Bureau and now a columnist for Hearst News Service.

Thomas, dean of the White House Press Corps and one of journalism‘s living legends, has covered ten presidents beginning with the Kennedy administration. She is a trailblazer for women and journalists of Arab descent. The award was established to recognize her leadership role in promoting diversity in the media and the issues of race in America.

Pitts won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Twice each week millions of readers around the country read his syndicated column, run locally in the Detroit Free Press. The author’s newest book is “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood.”

Clemetson is a veteran journalist and a current Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. She helped establish the Washington Post’s daily online new-media magazine, theRoot.com, after an award-winning career as a national and foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine and the New York Times.

“This year we have an absolutely stellar array of journalists who represent the best in the profession and demonstrate the value of having experienced and diverse voices in the media,” said Ben Burns, WSU journalism professor and chair of the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Awards committee. “Traditionally, this event has been instrumental in raising thousands of dollars to support our students in the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.”
Tickets are $125 for professionals, $50 for students and alumni of the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.

Call Reni Gresham at (313) 577-2627 for details and reservations. For more information about this event, contact Alicia Nails at 313-577-6304 or anails@wayne.edu.

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