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UC Journalism Scholarship Receives Permanent Endowment

The award for investigative journalism is nascent department’s fourth to be fully funded.

Date: 5/3/2017 12:00:00 AM
By: Jonathan Goolsby
Other Contact: Julie Campbell
Other Contact Phone: (513) 509-1114
Photos By: Gretchen Semancik, UC Photojournalism Student

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati’s Department of Journalism — just five years old — has been unusually successful in attracting new scholarship funding. Of its eight scholarships, three were permanently endowed when the 2016-17 school year began. A fourth will now join them.

In December 2016, departmental benefactors David and Michael Altman permanently endowed the award that bears their names, announced Journalism chair Dr. Jeff Blevins. The award will now exist in perpetuity, consistently generating income that will be awarded annually to qualified students.

“This came at a time when journalism needed support more than ever before,” Blevins emphasized. “In this age of austerity, David and Michael’s gift meant so much to us.”

David Altman graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government in 1968. After earning his JD from the UC College of Law in 1974, he founded an environmental law practice, which he continues to serve as president.

His son, Michael, graduated from UC in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Journalism certificate. The younger Altman has worked as a digital content producer for both WLWT-TV and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The David & Michael Altman Scholarship for Investigative Journalism is given annually to a Journalism undergrad in good standing with a demonstrable talent for investigative reporting on topics of significant societal concern — particularly, but not limited to, environmental issues.

Environmental law, “is essentially investigative journalism,” David Altman said. “So, I appreciate the need for the public to understand what these stories are outside the confines of a courtroom.”

The senior Altman served as editor-in-chief of The News Record during the tumultuous 1967-68 school year. During his tenure, the student paper attracted citywide attention — and controversy — for its rigorous coverage of local riots and Civil Rights issues.

Some people in the community were angry with The News Record for covering off-campus social issues at all, while others were disappointed that its editorial board continued to advocate for non-violent resistance even as movements for violent, radical resistance were gaining traction.

“We began to influence the whole debate in the city on racial understanding and non-violence,” the elder Altman remembered. “To do that, we moved social issues to the front page and we moved Homecoming back a little bit. Some people got upset about that.”

He sees a role for student journalists as checks and balances on the powerful and commercial media alike.

“Students can think thoughts that are not connected to money. And as irritating as that might be to older generations, it is absolutely the ideal time to keep democratic institutions honest,” he emphasized. “I don’t think [students] realize the power they have; therefore, they don’t visualize it.”

“When you assemble the facts and put them together in a compelling way,” Altman said, “you will have an impact, and it doesn’t matter how old or young you are.”

This year’s Altman Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Sikora, whose study emphasis is in magazine journalism. Sikora has interned at WCPO-TV, studied abroad in Italy and, earlier this year, participated in a faculty-led learning excursion to Cuba. She has an interest in reporting on social issues and causes, Blevins said.
Photography of Michael Altman, student Sarah Sikora, and David Altman.
Sarah Sikora, 2017 recipient of the Altman Scholarship for Investigative Journalism, with Michael Altman (left) and David Altman (right)

The Altmans were motivated to permanently endow the scholarship because they wanted to ensure UC would continue to produce conscientious professionals with the skills to help the public critically and rationally examine the issues and people shaping our society.

“There are facts, and there is truth. And I think Arts & Sciences is the place where people come to get educated — not just trained,” David Altman said.

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