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Former Taliban Hostage to Receive Courage in Journalism Award



New York Times Reporter David Rohde wins inaugural McCulloch award

David Rohde, the New York Times reporter who was held captive by the Taliban for seven months before escaping, will be the inaugural recipient of the Frank McCulloch Courage in Journalism Award, the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, announced.

Rohde and two Afghan colleagues had been heading to a meeting with a Taliban commander when armed men surrounded their car and took them hostage in November 2008. After seven months and 10 days in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Rohde and one of the Afghans escaped by climbing over a wall and making their way to a Pakistan Frontier Corps base.

Rohde and his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, have written a critically acclaimed book, “A Rope and a Prayer,” about the kidnapping.  Rohde won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996, when he worked at the Christian Science Monitor, for exposing the slaughter of at least 7,000 Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2009, he shared the Times’ Pulitzer for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Frank McCulloch Courage in Journalism Award is named for the former top news executive of Time Inc., the Los Angeles Times, the McClatchy newspapers and the San Francisco Examiner. McCulloch, 91, is a 1941 journalism graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. He was the Reynolds School’s distinguished alumnus in 2009.

American Journalism Review wrote that in his 50-year career McCulloch “exposed political connections to the Mafia and brushed off death threats from Mob bosses. During the Vietnam War, he aggravated Lyndon Johnson. His editorial leadership transformed the Los Angeles Times, where he went toe-to-toe with Robert F. Kennedy over reporting on the Teamsters. He fought and beat a dozen serious libel actions, establishing legal precedents that still protect journalists.”

“I can’t think of a better combination–a courageous and deeply thoughtful reporter winning an award named for a bold journalistic icon,” said Jerry Ceppos, Reynolds School dean.

“It is an incredible honor to be named the inaugural recipient of the Frank McCulloch ‘Courage in Journalism’ award,” Rohde said. “Over a 50-year career, he never veered from taking the courageous and ethical path. He spoke truth to power and never wavered from his core values. In today’s world, that example is more important than ever.”

McCulloch, who will attend the award ceremony and lecture by Rohde, said that “coverage of three wars and the tortured countries in which they were fought earned David journalism’s highest honors. What impresses me most about his performance in life-threatening environments is distinguished not by some bold, blind fearlessness, but by common good sense. If the story he is working on demands it, he willingly risks whatever the situation requires, including his life. If not, then he adjusts. In my view, that’s a near perfect definition of courage in journalism.”

The Courage in Journalism award was endowed by gifts from The McClatchy Company Foundation and McCulloch’s family and friends.

The Reynolds School is the only accredited journalism school in Nevada.

David Rohde will speak and receive the McCulloch Award at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 3, in the Joe Crowley Student Union Theatre at the University of Nevada, Reno. Reservations are not necessary. Contact Zanny Marsh at the Reynolds School ([email protected]) with questions. The award ceremony and Rohde lecture are part of Bold Faces in Journalism, the Reynolds School’s annual observance of Journalism Week.

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of nearly 17,000 students. The University is home to one the country’s largest study-abroad programs and the state’s medical school, and offers outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.

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