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Intellect

BYU's Thomas A. Griffiths wins broadcast journalism education award

Thomas A. Griffiths, an associate professor of communications at Brigham Young University--who over three decades "has influenced thousands of students," says one successful television news anchor--has been named winner of the 2004 Edward L. Bliss Award for Distinguished Broadcast Journalism Education.

The award is conferred annually by the Radio-Television Journalism Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The 22nd winner of this academic distinction, Griffiths was recognized in a ceremony Aug. 5 at the AEJMC convention in Toronto, Canada.

Griffiths has been an effective and inspiring leader and teacher of future professionals since arriving at BYU in 1974 after working as a Salt Lake City TV reporter and anchor. He immediately began establishing a broadcast news program with a live television newscast.

In the years that followed, Griffiths mixed teaching with his role as an aggressive and resourceful news director of KBYU-TV. He also earned a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Mark Phillips, a graduate student at that time, says, "It was an inspiration to me that he could undertake such work while at the same time raising a large family," volunteering for church and community and serving in the Air Force Reserve.

His work at BYU in those days was pioneering. One colleague recalled how Griffiths built the program by cutting equipment-sharing deals with other departments, and by rescuing used cameras from the trash and coaxing engineers to resurrect them. The broadcast program grew through the1970s in enrollment, student engagement, on-air hours and national recognition.

In the 1980s, Griffiths became a full-time communications faculty member and also top executive of BYU broadcast operations. This enabled him to guide the growth of the institution as well as his students, who for years had been dominating regional college journalism awards.

Former students attest to the long-lasting value of Griffiths' gentle but famously unvarnished advice. "Tom was my mentor," says KUTV anchorwoman Michelle King. "He was always there to encourage and 'kindly' correct."

Carlos Amezcua, anchor for KTLA in Los Angeles, remembers being challenged: "He gave us tough current events, taught us how to extract the salient details and then convert the information to understandable broadcast prose. I recall struggling mightily but feeling a true sense of accomplishment when the story was completed to his rigorous standards."

Elmer Lower, former president of ABC News and 1999 Bliss Award winner, praises the Griffiths record of research, production of television projects, and, of course, teaching. "I have sat in his classes at BYU and I have substituted for him at times," says Lower. "A 'Tom Griffiths student' leaves the Provo campus knowing what to expect in the real world of journalism." Many graduates have proved Lower correct by succeeding in television from the start--some rising through the ranks to the network level.

For more information contact: Jim Upshaw, Chair, Bliss Award

Committee, at jupshaw@oregon.uoregon.edu or (541) 346-3745.

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