In recognition of his commitment to excellence in journalism as well as his work as a newsroom leader and role model for young journalists, Nieman Fellows in the class of 2017 at Harvard University have selected Lewis W. Diuguid for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.
During his nearly 40-year career as a reporter, editor, columnist and editorial board member at The Kansas City Star, Diuguid distinguished himself as a relentless advocate for newsroom diversity. He tirelessly used his voice to draw attention to societal inequities, write about civil rights and highlight systemic injustices.
He also served as The Star’s vice president of community resources and was a founding member of the Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, where he currently serves as president. He had co-chaired the diversity initiative at The Star and starting in 1993, has facilitated diversity workshops for Star Co. staffers, colleges and community organizations.
Diuguid had been one of the few African-Americans at The Star and the only one on the editorial board, which he joined in 1999. He resigned from that position in October 2016 after the only other current editorial board writer was let go in a round of cutbacks.
“Diuguid has been a model of what’s right about American journalism, doing the important regional work that exemplifies why local journalism still matters,” said Katherine Goldstein, a 2017 Nieman Fellow and New York City-based digital journalist who was most recently editor of vanityfair.com. “He has given a platform to the often overlooked local stories and even created a summer camp for minority youth to study journalism. He has set a wonderful example for our industry, one we hope others can learn from and replicate throughout the country.”
In selecting Diuguid for the Lyons Award, members of the Nieman class of 2017 noted that he remained steadfast in his dedication to quality reporting during some of journalism’s toughest moments including layoffs, shrinking resources and growing competition for the public’s attention.
The decision to honor Diuguid comes at a moment of increased polarization and division along racial, ethnic and religious lines in the United States and beyond. The class of 2017 wanted to recognize a journalist with a history of working toward easing those separations.
In the newsroom, Diuguid mentored women, minorities and younger staff members, helping to guide their careers and ensure their development and growth. With his writing, he often called attention to the discrimination African-Americans and Latinos in the Midwest face and focused on educational inequities. Most recently, he wrote about the concerns of minority communities that were sparked by the candidacy of Donald Trump.
He has written two books: “A Teacher’s Cry: Expose the Truth About Education Today” offers ways to improve public schools, particularly in urban areas. The book is based on his studies with the Kansas City Washington High School Class of 1999. Diuguid spent time with the students from their freshman year until graduation and wrote more than 100 columns for The Star chronicling what it is like to be a teenager and teacher. His second book “Discovering the Real America: Toward a More Perfect Union” is about diversity, the subject of many of his columns.
To raise awareness about the growing problem of homelessness, Diuguid dressed as a homeless man and joined that population on the streets, interviewing economically deprived residents about their experiences and writing about it from a firsthand perspective. In his free time, he also has supported minority communities by serving at and donating to the Lord’s Table, a local soup kitchen in Kansas City. He additionally has personally supported the efforts of an African-centered charter school in Kansas City.
Last year, he was recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists with its Angelo B. Henderson Community Service Award. Among his many other awards is the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism given by the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Journalism, his alma mater. He also lectures widely.
Following the Lyons Award presentation at the Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, Mass., in February, Diuguid will spend time at Harvard as a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow and while on campus, will pursue his passion for fostering diversity and equity. He’ll specifically explore how early childhood education might be used as a catalyst to encourage children to become lifelong newspaper readers, thereby helping them to engage more deeply in their communities.
Diuguid was selected for the Louis M. Lyons Award by the 23 members of the current Nieman class, including journalists from Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Sweden, the U.K., Nigeria, Malawi, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Mexico and the United States.
The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press. While he was curator of the Nieman Foundation, he broke new ground by diversifying the class of fellows to include women, minorities and international fellows. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,500 journalists from 94 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.