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May 2, 2013

NEAL: Journalists still make a difference

A recent survey ranked newspaper reporter as the worst career of 2013, just below meter reader and lumberjack, but you wouldn’t guess it from the stories told by journalists who gathered in Bloomington to see six of their own inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

Journalism “still makes a difference,” said Paul Tash, one of the inductees and chairman of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida. “It still makes a very big difference.”

In an age of 24/7 TV and breaking news via text message and Twitter, it’s good to be reminded of the role print journalism plays in watch-dogging power and watching out for the interests of the poor and vulnerable.

Technology has changed the profession, as we saw after the Boston Marathon bombings when citizens became front-line investigators, scouring cell phones for photos that might contain news.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Good journalism requires skillful research, willingness to ask questions and desire to make a difference.

Those traits distinguished the 2013 Hall of Fame members, who included Melissa Farlow, a photojournalist born in Paoli who’s traveled the globe for National Geographic and other outlets; Jack Ronald, editor and publisher of The Commercial Review in Portland, Ind.; and Tash, a South Bend native who is chairman and CEO of the Times Publishing Company of Tampa.

Three journalists were inducted posthumously: Lowell Mellett of Elwood, Joe Aaron of Evansville and Jerry Lyst of the Indianapolis Star, where he worked as a reporter covering the police beat, government and finance and as head of the editorial pages. Lyst retired in 2000 and died in 2009.

During his award-winning career, Lyst exposed voter fraud, analyzed the collapse of communism, penned columns on the challenges faced by African-American business people and consistently prodded government to be open and accountable to citizens.

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