The following are the prepared remarks from the newest member of the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame, Laurence J. Sasso, Jr. Sasso was inducted into the hall of fame at the annual Rhode Island Press Association Banquet, held Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Quonset "O" Club in North Kingstown, RI.
I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
At this time I would like to express my deep appreciation to Rick Wilson who nominated me, to the committee who voted on his nomination, to Cynthia, my partner in everything, to my daughter and her mother, and to my family, including those who have passed on. My mother and father would be so proud.
In my own turn I feel deep pride and humility at becoming part of the Hall of Fame circle which includes many of my mentors and example setters such as Rick Wilson, Dorothy Burgess and Kimball Burgess, who were my former employers at Observer Publications; my former colleagues there, Ellen Hall and John Ford, as well as so many other true luminaries in our field, such as Rudy Hempe, John Howell, Gerry Goldstein, Ken Weber, Linda Levin, and Marcia O’Brien, who was a columnist at our magazine near the end of her career, and who became a friend.
I also want to mention my gratitude to Ron Scopelliti, my partner in your Smithfield Magazine, and all the amazing writers and photographers who worked with us.
There are so many others who I wish to name, but I have already ventured on to the slippery slope of citing individuals even though I know it is impossible to recognize everyone I wish to. There are many people in the Hall of Fame and in this room whose names are always in my heart even though they might not have passed my lips right now.
To be inducted into the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame is an honor which I never imagined would be bestowed upon me when I began my career.
Now that it is happening I am humbled and truly grateful to the Press Association and all those who voted to extend this recognition to a person who began his life-long involvement with journalism at the age of 13 by publishing, writing, and editing a mimeographed single page paper called The Neighborhood News which I delivered on my bicycle.
We lived on a farm in the country and circulation was about 20. I think I charged a nickel for a copy. My last venture, Your Smithfield Magazine did a little better, (or did it)? We had a circulation of ten or twelve thousand, but we didn’t charge ANYTHING for a copy.
In between those two mileposts, there was a career which encompassed a gamut of writing and editing responsibilities, including the job of managing three weeklies at the same time for Observer Publications, and at one time being poetry editor of the Providence Sunday Journal magazine The Rhode Islander.
A lot has changed about journalism over the span of my working life. More recently the transformations in our profession have challenged some of the fundamental assumptions we all made starting out.
Being a journalist today makes demands on those who embrace the work which no-one could have imagined when I was delivering my home spun sheet on my Columbia bike all those years ago.
Yet now, when reporters and editors are asked to do so much, there has never been such a need for the talents and values that true journalists possess. Every newsperson in this room has the potential to make a difference.
In the often trying environment of 2015, the time-tested fundamental principles of accurate, fact-based, responsibly sourced and reported news is more crucially important than ever. And the gold standard of our work, the first amendment, the bedrock foundation of our form of government must be defended and protected. We lag from this critical responsibility at everyone’s peril. I couldn’t be more passionate about this.
Awhile ago to show solidarity with the martyred cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, who died for expressing their views, thousands marched in the streets with signs and banners, chanting the slogan “Je suis Charlie.”
Perhaps we ought to broaden that watchword and extend it to encompass all future assaults on freedom of expression. Maybe we need to say with pride and defiance – JE SUIS UN JOURNALISTE.
Pardon my accent, and thank you again.
Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
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