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King receives first Downs Award

April 05, 2007

Larry KingLarry King, described as the “Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview” and dubbed “master of the mic” by Time magazine, will receive the Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence this month from ASU.

King – host of CNN's “Larry King Live,” the first worldwide, phone-in television talk show – is celebrating his 50th year in broadcasting. He will be the first recipient of the award for excellence in communication given by ASU's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at a dinner to be held at 6 p.m., April 11, at the Phoenix Ritz-Carlton.

“Communication knowledge and skills are indispensable in the conduct of any human enterprise and they merit more attention and recognition than our culture has given them,” Downs says. “With this award for communication excellence, the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication seeks to honor individuals who have increased public awareness and understanding of the vital role of communication in the achievements of human beings as well as in the achievement of being human.”

Downs, a well-respected broadcast journalist, personally chose King because his work in communication throughout the world embodies the spirit of this award. Downs himself will present the award to King.

“Larry King is an icon of communication,” says professor H.L. “Bud” Goodall Jr., director of the school. “He has enriched so many peoples' lives on his show. And, he's interviewed just about everyone.”

According to CNN, King has done more than 40,000 interviews throughout his half-century in broadcasting, including exclusive “sit-downs” with every U.S. president since Gerald Ford. King's famed North American Free Trade Agreement debate between then-Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot in 1993 smashed cable industry rating records and obtained the highest rating in CNN history, reaching more than 16.3 million viewers.

In 1995, King played host during a historic hour on the Middle East peace process with the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

King has numerous awards for his radio and television shows. He has been inducted into five of the nation's leading broadcasting halls of fame and is the recipient of the prestigious Allen. H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism. Both his radio and television shows have won the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.

King began his career in broadcasting at a small radio station in Miami Beach, Fla., doing odd jobs. In addition to his broadcasting credits, King founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

The idea behind the award came from school alumna Jeanne Lind Herberger, who wanted to honor the school's namesake by establishing an annual award to commemorate Downs' legacy.

Hugh DownsDowns has experience as a television host, producer and author. He is a living legend among American communicators, according to Goodall.

Downs served as anchor of “20/20,” host of the “Today Show,” announcer for the “Tonight Show” with Jack Paar and co-host of the PBS talk show “Not for Women Only.”

The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication exists to advance the understanding of message-related human behavior for the purpose of improving communicative interactions.

“Through the study and critique of human communication, we generate knowledge, creativity and understanding to facilitate healthy relationships and workplaces, civil and secure communities; and constructive intercultural interactions,” Goodall says. “We teach more than 16,000 students per year and we're proud of our top-tier doctoral program.”

Chairs of the award committee include Gary and Jeanne Herberger, Christine Muldoon and Goodall. Honorary chairs are ASU President Michael Crow, his wife, Sybil Francis, and Lattie and Elva Coor. Other members of the committee include Jess Alberts, Alan Artibise, Gene D'Adamo, Hugh and Ruth Downs, Dionne Fedderson, Robby Jackson, Robert H. Karatz, Dottie Kobik, Cheryl Najar, Clark D. Olson, Rachel Sacco, Bill Shover, Angela Trethewey and Kristin B. Valentine.

Proceeds from the award dinner will support the school. For tickets, call (480) 965-4231. More information is online at