Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inducts seven legendary journalists

Kathy Barks Hoffman was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Peter Brown was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Mary Conway was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Sylvia Rector was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
John Schneider was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Mary Schroeder was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Vickie Thomas was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

Preserving the First Amendment and celebrating the craft of journalism was a common theme among the seven distinguished journalists who were inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame on April 14.

The induction ceremony was held at Kellogg Center and was hosted by Ron Dzwonkowski, a former Detroit Free Press editor and 2010 Hall of Fame inductee.

These are the 2019 honorees:

Kathy Barks Hoffman spent 17 years as the Associated Press' Lansing correspondent, where she supervised the bureau and covered daily stories. She was named 2001 Michigan AP Staffer of the Year.

Hoffman previously worked at four Indiana newspapers before joining the Lansing State Journal, where she won awards for her investigative and public affairs reporting.

"I loved being a journalist. I loved learning from journalists," Hoffman said. "I cheer everyday for the great job that many of you still do. Be honest, be fair, be accurate, have integrity, and tell a good story."

Peter Brown worked at Crain Communications for 28 years, where he served as Editor of Crain's Detroit Business and Automotive News. He was later promoted to Publisher, before retiring in 2013.

Brown also worked at the Marquette Mining Journal, the Mining Gazette in Houghton, the Ann Arbor News and Detroit Free Press.

"An algorithm cannot really separate the truth from falsehood," Brown said. "It takes dedication to ferret out the truth. The critical role of media is to report the facts and hold the powerful accountable."

Mary Conway was the automotive reporter for 29 years at Channel 7, WXYZ-TV, in Detroit. Conway blazed trails as a female automotive reporter in a field dominated by men.

"Journalism isn't something you do, it's something you live, and by God we have fun living it," Conway said. "How lucky am I?"

Conway said it is imperative to support programs that teach good journalism through mentoring and scholarships.

"We need to teach good students and bring them into the profession," Conway said. "It is so important that we foster good journalism and keep it happening. We have the power to help people every day."

Sylvia Rector was the Detroit Free Press food writer and restaurant critic for 17 years, where she helped establish the Restaurant of the Year story in 1999. Rector previously had held editor roles at the Free Press, and in Minneapolis and Dallas.

Charles Hill accepted the award on behalf of Rector, who passed away from cancer in 2016. Hill shared praise from her colleagues.

"Sylvia was a trailblazer for a generation of journalists," Hill said, weaving together kind words from many of Rector's colleagues. "She was a mentor for a generation of Free Press journalists. She wasn't a celebrity, she was a reporter's reporter who wrote about the food business."

John Schneider was a reporter and columnist at the Lansing State Journal, chronicling the lives of mid-Michigan readers for 35 years.

Schneider told the audience of a story he wrote in 1980, when a man came into the newsroom and told him he had been wrongly put in a facility for 15 years at the age of 6 for people who were deemed uneducable. Schneider's coverage led Michigan Governor William Milliken to create a job classification specifically for the man, allowing him to work for the state, where he became a productive citizen and an advocate for the developmentally disabled.

The man was a guest of Schneider's at the induction ceremony.

Mary Schroeder worked at the Detroit Free Press for 40 years, where she was a photographer and picture editor.

Schroeder is known for taking the iconic photo of Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. Schroeder also broke gender barriers with her role as a plaintiff in a victorious 1985 lawsuit requesting females have the same access to the Detroit Lions locker room as males.

"Don't pity me because I have MS (multiple sclerosis), I see life from a different perspective," Schroeder said. "At work I was not seen as handicapped at all. We (photographers) use our talents to show you the world."

Vickie Thomas is the City Beat Reporter for WWJ-AM (950) in Detroit, where she has worked since 1991. Thomas in an active and influential member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), where she helped bring the annual convention to Detroit in 2018.

Thomas accepted her award by singing the first couple verses of "We Are Family," then introducing her biological, WWJ, and NABJ families in attendance.

"I wanted to share those lyrics because they have meaning for me tonight," Thomas said. "When I talk about families I think it is significant because I am a representation of all these people and it is important for me to acknowledge them."

Thomas is a champion of newsroom diversity, noting she is the first African-American female broadcaster to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"I am happy to speak up for my co-workers," Thomas said. "I believe in fairness and doing what's right. I am led by the Spirit to do what the Spirit wants me do to."

The Hall of Fame, which is hosted by the Michigan State University School of Journalism, recognizes journalists and educators who have established their professional careers primarily in the state of Michigan. To learn more, and to view previous winners, visit https://mijournalismhalloffame.org/