Let the learning begin Jack Marsh, executive director of the Al Neuharth Media Center watches from the podium as Neuharth, Gov. Mike Rounds, USD President James Abbott, Charles Overby, chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, and Harvey Jewett, president of the South Dakota Board of Regents, officially unveil the new facility at the conclusion of dedication ceremonies Thursday. by David Lias The diminutive Ruth Ziolkowski, president of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation who oversees the carving of the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture in the Black Hills, bravely stepped to the podium before an audience of over 1,000 people.
There were several prominent individuals before her: former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Sen. Paul Simon, D-IL, former Cherokee Tribal President Wilma Mankiller, author and journalist Robert MacNeil and CNN anchor Judy Woodruff.
They had all gathered Thursday afternoon near what was originally known as the New Armory on the USD campus to participate in its dedication as the Al Neuharth Media Center.
"When I walked in today with Gov. Rounds, I couldn't help but think it's a whole lot easier to work at carving a mountain than it is to stand here with this distinguished group, and address all of you," she said.
The large audience, and the esteemed group of people who spoke at Thursday's dedication ceremonies, reflect the national and global impact of Neuharth, a small-town boy from Eureka who grew up to eventually launch USA Today.
A large photo of Ziolkowski and her late husband, Korzak, hang in the main concourse of the media center, along with photos of other prominent South Dakotans that are called "free spirits."
"I'll never get over it, and I'd like to thank everyone whose responsible for honoring us in that way," she said.
Ziolkowski first met Neuharth in 1948 when Neuharth was working as an intern at the Rapid City Journal. He covered the dedication and the first blast on the mountain.
"What you have here with the Al Neuharth Media Center is not only a wonderful building," she said. "When I walked in this morning and looked at it, all I could think was wow, it's amazing.
"It's going to be wonderful for the students to gather and to learn, and in doing that, it's going to be wonderful for the university and our state," she said.
The dedication was held on newly laid campus sod on the east side of the building. Audience members faced an arched entry, built to duplicate one that existed on its west side when it was originally constructed in the late 1920s.
On one side of the arched entry are the words of the First Amendment. Printed on the stone on the other side is a Neuharth quote: "The First Amendment guarantees a free press. We in the media must make sure it is a fair one."
That theme formed the core of Neuharth's remarks at the dedication.
"Al Neuharth has been such a remarkable man in the life of this state and the life of this country," former U.S. Sen. George McGovern said.
McGovern said he has had the privilege to get to know scores of newspaper publishers and editors across the country throughout the years.
"I don't know one of them that excels above Al in courage, in imagination, and in foresightedness," the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee said. "At a time when major newspapers across this country were failing, that was the moment that Al decided to start a new one � a national newspaper � USA Today."
McGovern said USA Today in some ways resembles Neuharth's first attempt at newspaper publishing � SoDak Sports, which he launched in 1950. The paper folded two years later.
"The make-up of the paper was to have a section where all 67 counties in the state had news every week. Now it's 50 states (in USA Today) but it's the same format, except this one is doing better financially," he said.
McGovern called USA Today "America's newspaper."
"I open a motel door in my room, whether it's Topeka, KS ? or San Diego, and there's, more often than not, USA Today."
Half of the funding for the $5 million renovation of the media center came from donors to the University of South Dakota Foundation.
Susan Tuve, chairman of the foundation, noted that she has many memories of attending basketball games in the building that houses the media center when it served as USD's New Armory.
"Today is not about memories. It's about an important new chapter in the further development of journalism at the University of South Dakota," Tuve said.
She said Neuharth's passion and his loyalty to the university helped make the media center renovation possible.
Tuve also praised the foundation and USD President James Abbott.
"The university, through the leadership of President Abbott, is moving to the next level of academic excellence, and this superb facility will provide an exciting environment for teaching and learning," she said.
Julie Andersen, executive director of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, told the dedication audience that it is a pleasure to finally be settled into a permanent home.
"As many of you know, South Dakota Public Broadcasting has been scattered across Vermillion for the past two years," she said. "Many of our offices were divided between two buildings in downtown Vermillion, and our television and radio operation centers were packed into two mobile home trailers on the south side of the building.
"The difference today is outstanding," she said. "Radio, television and Internet, education and outreach are all back in one building, and the SDPB trailer park is gone."
Andersen said public broadcasting is already feeling the effects of unity with its neighbors in the media center: USD's contemporary media and journalism department, the Freedom Forum, the Native American Journalism Association and USD student-operated media.
"We are part of the University of South Dakota again in a building dedicated solely to communication," she said. "In the coming months and years, this partnership will benefit all of us. The concept of building won't stop with bricks and mortar and new walls and carpet, but will continue through new partnerships with our neighbors."
Neuharth noted that the building is simply brick and mortar.
"Now the USD administration, faculty and students must make sure this center becomes a special spawning ground for print and broadcast journalists of tomorrow," he said.
The greatest threat to the First Amendment, Neuharth said, is that "far too many people think the press is not fair. Far too often, they are right."
Neuharth groups journalists into two camps: skeptics and cynics.
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Skeptics, he said, are nosy, but fair. Cynics are the product of "prestigious Northeastern Ivy League university and a new other snob schools" who "have become decision makers in the media.
"It is my hope this university will turn out a lot of future media skeptics to counterbalance the cynics coming off some other campuses," Neuharth said.
Gov. Mike Rounds hailed the importance of a free press.
"Today as we talk about journalism and about the freedoms that we enjoy it has never been as important as it is today to recognize the role that journalism plays in a free America," he said.
The governor also praised Neuharth's contributions to the newspaper industry and journalism education.
"For a young man from the north central part of South Dakota to stand up and to go out and to use the gifts that the good Lord gave him and then to return," Rounds said, "and to return those benefits so that others may also enjoy them is special, and it should be an example for all of us here today."
Jim Abbott, USD president, challenged the university.
"It is now the responsibility of all of us at USD to continue to build an academic program worthy of the Al Neuharth name," he said.
Patty Talahongva, president of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), which is housed in the new media center, said she became involved with the association because she believes in its mission and goals.
"It's goals are to bring to more native people into the field of journalism, to improve media coverage of Native Americans," Talahongva said, "and to work on free press issues, especially in Indian country.
"These are goals in line with the Freedom Forum and with what Al Neuharth believes in and stands for. A diverse newsroom can only help its news coverage."