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Andrew Heyward, a longtime CBS News executive, encouraged the Cronkite School’s newest class of graduates to shape their own destinies and seize every opportunity that comes their way as they leave Arizona State University to embark on their journalism careers.
Heyward, who served as president of CBS News for nearly a decade after guiding a number of high-profile news programs including “60 Minutes” and “Face the Nation,” delivered his remarks as the keynote convocation speaker Tuesday night for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The ceremony, where about 320 graduates were recognized, was at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. About 1,400 guests were in attendance.
As a broadcast veteran who oversaw coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and three presidential elections, Heyward reminded graduates that they are starting journalism careers at an extraordinary time.
“Accurate journalism and ethical communication are vital to our democracy and our place in the world, but today, the free press is under siege on multiple fronts,” he said. "And it’s not just the overt attacks that demonize legitimate news as fake, as alarming as those are. Too much of the news we get is shallow, exploitative, formulaic and even misleading.”
Heyward, a senior researcher at ASU leading a project to promote local TV news innovation, cited the success of recent Cronkite graduates who have found ways to exercise creativity and unconventional reporting methods to bring stories to life. Today’s media outlets require authentic yet disruptive storytelling in order to remain relevant with readers and viewers, he said.
“The digital age has brought with it an amazing array of choices for people with your talent and training,” he said. “More than any generation that came before you, you have multiple ways to navigate your own professional path. Call it control, or power or agency — you get to chart your way forward with unprecedented freedom.”
Of the school’s more than 300 graduates, 270 received bachelor’s degrees, with 89 earning a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication and 38 earning a Bachelor of Arts in sports journalism. Ten students earned a Bachelor of Science in digital audiences degree, and 133 received a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication and media studies.
The Cronkite School also graduated 56 master’s degree students. Of those, 16 earned a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication, 19 received a Master of Arts in sports journalism, seven a Master of Science in business journalism and 14 a Master of Science in digital audience strategy.
Student speaker Megan Marples assured her fellow graduates that they were more than prepared for the pressures and stresses that await them as they transition from students to professionals.
“In this career, there will be plenty of times where you don’t get the job you want or someone tells you ‘no,’” she said. “You will be successful in spite of all of that because, if Cronkite has taught me anything, it’s to not give up on a story. And the most important story you’ll ever work on is your own.”
She encouraged her peers to use rejections and failures as motivation, to continue to ask questions, to push boundaries and to remember all they have achieved as Cronkite graduates.
“When you’re terrified walking into that big job interview, know that you are not alone,” she said. “You have the support of every single person that helped you along the way.”
About 27% of the graduating class earned high academic honors. More than three dozen students graduated summa cum laude with grade point averages of at least 3.8; another 27 graduated magna cum laude with GPAs of 3.6 to 3.79; and 24 graduated cum laude with GPAs of 3.4 to 3.59.
In addition, 15 students were inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honors society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism.
Six students were recognized for receiving the ASU Alumni Association’s Moeur Award, which is presented to graduates with the highest academic standing who have completed their degrees.
Outstanding Graduate Student
Outstanding Online Graduate Student
Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Outstanding Online Undergraduate Student
Miguel Romero Hernandez
Highest Grade Point Average (Digital Audiences or Mass Communication and Media Studies)
Highest Grade Point Average (Journalism and Mass Communication or Sports Journalism)
Top Innovator Award
Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society