By David Stevens: Editor for Freedom New Mexico
Greg Southard doesn’t have to guess what his father the editor might say if he’d been here Tuesday to award the annual Bill Southard Scholarship to a communications student at Eastern New Mexico University.
“Since I worked at the paper for him as a kid, I know what he would say,” Greg Southard said.
“He would talk about the integrity of searching for the truth in a story. What he would say is the same thing he said to me and every other reporter who worked for him:
‘“Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, don’t be afraid to search for the truth. Report it accurately so you can be proud of what you do.”’
James Jiang, a photographer for Eastern’s student newspaper, The Chase, is the winner of the $1,000 Southard scholarship awarded annually by Freedom New Mexico.
The award was presented in ceremonies Tuesday in the Campus Union Ballroom on the ENMU campus.
Southard was editor of the Clovis News Journal from 1970 to 1984, when he died from cancer.
Greg Southard, president of Clovis’ Leslie Candy Co., said his father was friends with many of the community’s leading citizens. But he never let them forget he was a newspaper editor — and community watchdog — first.
“There was not one of those people who ever doubted, if they were caught doing something unethical, he would expose them in a heartbeat, like he didn’t know them,” Greg Southard said.
Greg said he remembers going deer hunting with his dad and then-Police Chief Nelson Worley after the men had feuded publicly over a city issue.
“They were sitting around the campfire, laughing about it, but not about to concede their positions to each other,” Greg Southard said. “Both understood there was a difference between friendship and their jobs. That always impressed me that both guys understood the line.”
The journalism world Jiang knows — the show-me-now, multi-media world of the Internet — is quite a bit different from Southard’s deadline-driven world of the daily printed product. That’s good in some ways, bad in some ways.
But both generations share responsibilities.
Gary Mitchell, now dean of Wayland Baptist University’s campus in Clovis, said Bill Southard hired him to be the CNJ sports editor in 1978.
Like Greg Southard, Mitchell is confident he knows what Bill Southard would have said to young Jiang if they had met Tuesday:
‘“Be fair and accurate with any story you write. … Do the right thing in dealing with people, and don’t back down when people try to sway the facts or try to get you to do the wrong thing.
‘“You’ve gotta be the community’s watchdog, ever vigilant for any instance of governmental corruption, acts of injustice, or shady politics and business deals. You have a role to play, and it’s a key role to the health and vitality of any community that thrives on honesty and fair play.”’
Good luck in your career, James Jiang. Follow Bill Southard’s advice, and you’ll do fine.
David Stevens is editor for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org