WIRT TO RECEIVE 2015 GEORGE MASON AWARD

Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 4, 2015

WIRT TO RECEIVE 2015 GEORGE MASON AWARD

Retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor Wilma Wirt has been selected the recipient of the 2015 George Mason Award from Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter.

The Mason award, established in 1964, is presented annually to an individual for outstanding contributions to Virginia journalism. It is named for the principal author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the forerunner of the Bill of Rights.

Wirt will receive the award at the chapter’s George Mason Award Banquet on Sept. 9, 6 p.m., at Capital Ale House, 623 E. Main St., Richmond. Tickets are $50, and proceeds benefit the Virginia SPJ,SDX Education Foundation, which supports newsroom internships for promising collegiate journalists. For more information, contact Robyn Sidersky at rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

Wirt taught writing, editing and other subjects at VCU from 1987-2006. She mentored a generation of collegiate and high school journalists in her VCU classroom and through the partnerships she forged with the Virginia High School League to train both students and teachers. They included low-cost advanced training for journalism advisors and the annual VHSL Publications Workshop.

She also founded the VCU Capital News Service, with two goals: to give VCU’s journalism students experience covering and writing about the Virginia General Assembly; and provide the state’s non-daily and community newspapers with carefully monitored and edited reporting on the legislature.

“In an age when the number of public relations ‘spin doctors’ vastly outnumbers working journalists, encouraging young people to become career journalists is increasingly difficult and increasingly important. Ms. Wirt’s life work has been to do precisely that.” Wrote John Edwards, publisher of The Smithfield Times, in supporting Wirt’s nomination for the Mason award. “Nothing more directly or positively impacts the First Amendment.”

SPJVA is not the first organization to honor Wirt’s accomplishments in journalism education. She is a two-time recipient of the Media Citation Award from the Journalism Education Association (1981 and 2003), as well as a member of both the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame (2006) and the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame (2002).

A graduate of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and the University of Texas at Austin, Wirt has been a member of SPJ since 1974, not long after women were first welcomed into the organization. Nationally and through local chapters, SPJ fights for freedom of information and First Amendment rights, promotes high ethical standards and professional development, and supports journalism education.
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