New Canaan Library tribute: CBS News veterans receive first Salant awards
Journalism in the digital age has undergone dramatic changes with many news organizations valuing page views over accuracy and substance. But CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley said those striving to preserve the gold standards of journalism have one characteristic in common: integrity.
"The future of our republic depends on quality journalism and I'm afraid there are signs today that are not that promising," he told an audience Friday night at a New Canaan Library honors program. "Integrity is about honesty. Integrity is not something that you're born with, it's something that you build overtime. There are no shortcuts."
Those marquee names in journalism names gathered Friday for a tribute to Schieffer, the CBS News chief Washington correspondent and moderator of "Face the Nation," and Fager, chairman of CBS News and New Canaan resident. The occasion was the inaugural Salant Integrity Award ceremony, which took place at Woodway Country Club in Darien.
The event was sponsored by the New Canaan Library and the Salant family to present the first Salant Integrity Award to Schieffer and a Lifetime Achievement Award to Fager.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Richard Salant Lecture Series and the dedication of the Salant Room at the New Canaan Library. Salant lived in New Canaan for 37 years before his death in 1993. His tenure as a CBS News executive coincided with the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. He was known as a defender of the news media's First Amendment rights and a critic of what he considered the media's excesses and failings. He's also credited with expanding the role of television news and setting industry standards for integrity.
The new award will honor television, radio and print journalists who embody the spirit of integrity and Salant represented, according to the award sponsors.
One of Salant's daughters, Sarah Salant Gleason, who hosted the program Friday, said it was important that the recipients had demonstrated the "rigid" journalistic standards her father championed.
"And here we are tonight, honoring Bob Schieffer with the first-ever Salant Integrity Award, representing what the standards are as seen by the American public through his work in front of the camera," she said. "And Jeff Fager with the Lifetime Achievement Award for tirelessly shepherding CBS and continuing to reinforce the standards of our father."
Kate Burt, a member of the library's board of trustees, said the pair of honorees exemplifies the high standards Salant stood for.
"There are certain codes of ethics that they would never breach in order to bring us the news, unlike other agencies," she said. "This is the gold standard."
In accepting his award, Schieffer said the CBS News staff continues to strive to live by Salant's standards.
"Dick Salant had the idea that news was about the facts, about accurate information that citizens could compare with the government's version of events and then decide what to do about it," he said. "And you know what, he was right. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it's the most successful one."
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