Robin Roberts accepts ASU Cronkite Award

Robin Roberts interviewed on stage by two ASU journalism students

Award-winning journalist Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” extolled the importance of living life with optimism and faith as she accepted the 2014 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Oct. 6, from Arizona State University.

ASU Provost Robert E. Page, Jr. presented Roberts with the 31st annual award, given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to recognize a distinguished journalist who embodies the values of the school’s namesake.

Roberts was honored at a luncheon attended by 1,100 students, media leaders, business executives, civic leaders and Cronkite School supporters at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

In lieu of a traditional acceptance speech, Roberts was interviewed on stage by Cronkite students Analise Ortiz of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Megan Thompson of Gilbert, Arizona, both reporters at Cronkite News, the school’s award-winning newscast that reaches 1.9 million households on Eight, Arizona PBS.

During the luncheon, Roberts discussed her career path from local television news to ESPN and “Good Morning America.” She touched on her coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the emotional struggle to cover a story that hit so close to home. She also talked about her personal battles with breast cancer and the rare bone marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome, saying faith can help during adverse times.

“There is a very slight difference between fear and faith. They both are unseen, unknown. We’re fearful of things that may never happen,” Roberts said. “... I’m just so grateful that I’ve been taught to have faith and to know that when fear knocks to let faith answer the door.”

During her two-day visit, Roberts toured the Cronkite School and talked with more than 200 students during a special Q&A session hosted by Mark Lodato, Cronkite School assistant dean and news director. She fielded questions on women in sports journalism and the current state of the news industry.

Roberts also offered career advice to students, encouraging them to be fearless and optimistic in the pursuit of their dreams. She praised the Cronkite School’s state-of-the-art facility as well as the professional journalism training experiences available to students.

“I had a quick tour of the facility – wow – you are so blessed, so fortunate,” Roberts said during her Oct. 5 talk with students. “I hope you know that. It’s incredible, the opportunities. I saw a little bit of your newscast, and to have the hands-on experience that you are receiving is paramount.”

Roberts was named co-anchor of “Good Morning America” in 2005, leading the broadcast to three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Morning Program. A 30-year veteran of television news, Roberts has covered major breaking stories and interviewed prominent newsmakers, including President Barack Obama. Prior to joining “GMA,” she was a longtime commentator at ESPN, contributing to the network’s “SportsCenter” and “NFL Primetime” programs.

Walter Cronkite presented the first award bearing his name in 1984 to CBS leaders William Paley and Frank Stanton. Cronkite was a fixture at the luncheons until his death in 2009. Previous Cronkite Award recipients include television journalists Tom Brokaw, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward; television executives Frank Stanton and Ted Turner; and newspaper publishers Katharine Graham and Otis Chandler. Last year’s winner was CBS newscaster Bob Schieffer.

“The Cronkite School is designed around the journalistic standards that people such as Robin and Walter have embodied for so many years – coupled with a deep focus on the digital media future,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “And today, nearly a decade after President (Michael M.) Crow made Cronkite an independent college, (we believe) that the Cronkite School is the very best and most innovative professional program in the country.”