|2012 Robert G. McGruder Award winners|
Debra Adams Simmons, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, was named the winner of the 2012 Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Guest Lecture Award from the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Kent State University. The award recognizes the accomplishments of media professionals who encourage diversity in the field of journalism.
Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored Simmons at an awards luncheon and lecture Monday, March 26 on the main Kent State campus.
Lydia Esparra, an Emmy award-winning anchor with WOIO 19 Action News, was recognized as the 2012 Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award winner.
The lecture and luncheon was co-sponsored by Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
The event featured Kent State President Lester A. Lefton; Dr. Alfreda Brown, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion; and Dr. Stan Wearden, dean of the College of Communication and Information.
Caesar Andrews, an ethics and diversity faculty member at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, was the recipient of the 2011 Robert G. McGruder Award. Previous award winners include: 2010 – Richard Prince, columnist, Richard Prince’s Journal-isms, Maynard Institute of Journalism Education; 2008 – Dr. Jannette Dates, dean, John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University; 2007 – Michelle Singletary, columnist, The Washington Post; 2006 – Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Miami Herald; 2005 – Albert E. Fitzpatrick, assistant vice president, Akron Beacon Journal; 2004 – David Lawrence, Jr., former publisher, Miami Herald; 2003 – Gregory Moore, editor, Denver Post.
Simmons was named editor of The Plain Dealer in October 2010 after serving as managing editor from 2007-2010. Previously, she was vice president and editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Simmons hails from Hartford, Connecticut, and is a graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, where she completed her bachelor’s degree.
She also graduated from the Advanced Executive Program at Northwestern University’s Media Management Center in the Graduate School of Management.
Simmons serves on the board of directors of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Managing Editors and the ATHENA International board, where she is vice chair. She is a recipient of two Cleveland area awards — the ATHENA Award and Crain’s Cleveland Business 40 Under 40 leading executives in Northeast Ohio.
Simmons was a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes in 2004, 2005 and 2011. She is an active member of the community as board chair of this region’s Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop and vice chair of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
Lydia Esparra is an Emmy award-winning anchor who joined WOIO 19 Action News in September, 2010 as an anchor and general assignments reporter.
She was inducted into the Akron Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004. The Ohio State University graduate and Youngstown native has been in the Cleveland area since 1997.
From November 2000 to December 2008, Esparra worked for Channel 3 News as the weekend anchor and general assignments reporter. There, she won an Emmy for Best Weekend Anchor. She also spent three years as a general assignment reporter for Fox 8 in Cleveland.
Esparra has also worked in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market and in Georgia with Fox-affiliate WFXL-TV and WTVM.
Also a freelance producer, Esparra has worked for the syndicated show Entertainment Tonight and NBC's Today Show. For her freelance work with the Arc of Greater Cleveland, the non-profit won an Ohio Public Image Award; she currently serves as an Honorary Board Member.
More recently, Esparra has taught at Kent State University in the Criminal Justice Department. She was also an instructor for the Kent State Police Academy.
The late Robert G. McGruder was a 1963 graduate of Kent State and a foundational local figure for diversity in journalism.
He was the first black editor of the Daily Kent Stater and the first black reporter at The Plain Dealer.
McGruder marked several other firsts in his career, becoming the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors group and the first black editor of the Detroit Free Press, in 1995 and 1996.
McGruder was a strong proponent for diversity in and out of the newsroom: “Please know that I stand for diversity,” he said once. “I represent the African-Americans, Latinos, Arab-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, women and all others we must see represented in our business offices, newsrooms and newspapers.”