ATLANTA — The Atlanta community paused Friday to celebrate the works of four legendary journalists who were inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame.
Tom Brokaw, Celestine Sibley, Claude Sitton and Brenda Wood were inducted as part of the Atlanta Press Club’s fourth class into the hall during a dinner ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead.
“The Hall of Fame recognizes Atlanta journalists whose life’s work embodies the best in our business,” former WSB-TV anchor Monica Pearson, a 2013 inductee into the Hall of Fame, told the audience. “Tonight we honor some of the greatest journalists whose impact on Atlanta and the country literally will be felt forever.”
Before he joined NBC News in 1966, Brokaw worked in Atlanta for WSB-TV. During his career, Brokaw has won numerous awards, including two DuPonts, a Peabody and several Emmys.
“There is virtually no honor in this profession of ours that he has not earned,” said Tom Johnson, former CNN president and 2011 Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame Inductee, who inducted Brokaw. “He did it by hard work, by perseverance and maintaining standards of the highest integrity along the way. He’s a journalist’s journalist, going where the new breaks.”
While with NBC News, Brokaw served as White House correspondent during the Watergate scandal and later anchored “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.” He was the only American journalist on the scene in Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell, and later, he coined the phrase “The Greatest Generation” in reference to World War II veterans, Johnson said.
“I was a minor league reporter when I got here, but I worked with the major leaguers,” Brokaw said, reflecting on his tenure in Atlanta.
“I am deeply touched by this honor,” Brokaw said. “I have always been attached to Atlanta.”
Sitton joined The New York Times in 1958 as the newspaper’s Southern correspondent. In that role, he established himself as one of the leading reporters on the Civil Rights movement.
“It’s hard to imagine there was once a time when covering a story inside the United States carried the same perils as covering a war,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, who inducted Sitton. “But, that was the South Claude Sitton covered for six years.”
Sitton was honored in 1983 with a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary while with The News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C.
During her career, which spanned six decades, Sibley penned more than 10,000 columns and news stories and also authored more than 30 books. Sibley, who died in 1999, was a reporter and columnist for The Atlanta Constitution from 1941 until 1999.
“There was never a journalist with a stronger work ethic than Celestine Sibley,” said Kathy Trocheck, a bestselling author better known by her pen name Mary Kay Andrews. “One of her newspaper colleagues famously remarked that she could turn out a column in the time it took him to adjust the margins on his typewriter. We all knew that was an understatement.
“In that same time, Celestine would not only have written a column, she would have fed the dog, knit a sweater and gotten an innocent convict paroled from prison,” Trocheck added.
Wood joined WXIA-TV in 1997 after stints in Huntsville, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Nashville, Tenn.
“Brenda always seems to hit a home run,” said noted journalist and 2012 Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame Inductee Xernona Clayton, who inducted Wood. “We watch her every night, and the way she delivers the news, you believe her. When you look at her, you know she’s speaking the truth.”
Among her many awards are 15 Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), six awards from the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists (AABJ) and three honors from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters (GAB).
“Not ever in my wildest imaginations could I have dreamed of this moment,” Wood told the crowd. “To be even mentioned in the same paragraph with Celestine Sibley and Claude Sitton and Tom Brokaw … who would have thought? It is the ultimate compliment and extraordinarily humbling.”
50 Years As Journalistic Organization
In addition to inducting the four honorees into the Hall of Fame, the Atlanta Press Club on Friday also toasted to its 50th anniversary.
The Atlanta Press Club was founded in 1964. Today, the organization has more than members, making it one of the largest in the country.
“It’s been a great ride; let’s look forward to the next 50” years, Maria Saporta, editor of The Saporta Report, said at the conclusion of Thursday’s ceremony.