Bret McKeand, president of the Arizona operations of Independent Newsmedia, Inc. USA, recently received The Order of the Silver Key Society from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Valley of the Sun Chapter.
The award pays tribute to journalists from any medium with at least 25 years of experience in the state of Arizona (consecutive or cumulative) whose careers exemplify high standards and consistent, top-quality journalism.
McKeand got his start as a paperboy in Chicago, delivering five daily Chicago metropolitan newspapers. But what really put his career wheels in motion was that he would read those papers from front to back. He loved the style of writing and realized even then that journalism was different than any other sort of writing.
He landed a job at Independent Newspapers in 1983 and has been there ever since! He started out as a reporter for the Sun City Independent. His first editor's job was with the now-defunct Central Phoenix Independent, but he then went back and took over as editor and eventually editor and publisher of the company's West Valley publications (Sun City, Sun City West, Peoria, Surprise and Peoria Independents).
Now he oversees 12 community newspapers and the printing plant.
So Bret, time to share:
I'm really honored to be included in the Silver Key Society, but this is by no means an individual honor or a reflection on anything I've done personally -- credit really belongs to the company I work for and the great people I've had the opportunity to work with over the years.
Like many other journalists of my generation, I was inspired by Watergate and the role the press played in that entire episode. I gained a journalism degree from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill., worked at the local daily for a short time before moving to Arizona in the early '80s.
Journalism is the only career I've ever wanted to pursue. As the publisher of community newspapers, I see firsthand how important good journalism is to the local citizenry. I'm very proud of the work we do at Independent Newspapers and I know our work has meaning and value to those who live and work in the communities we serve.
And regardless of the changes incurred by our industry, good journalism will always remain vital to our society. Whether citizens get their news in the printed format, on their computer, on their mobile device or whatever -- it will always come down to the quality of the content you're delivering.
And good journalism is probably more important today than ever before. We live in a 24/7 news cycle and there's so much "stuff" out there these days. It seems people are drowning in information -- but are starving for real meaning and understanding. Sound bites, headlines and shouting voices just don't add much to the discussion and seem to get in the way of citizens being able to make intelligent decisions about the issues that most impact their lives.
A free and independent press is essential to a democracy. To me, journalism is a higher calling. I still encourage young writers to pursue a career in journalism. You may not get rich, but it remains an exciting, challenging -- and rewarding -- occupation.
And by the way, we work closely with and support students at the Cronkite School at ASU, and I'm very impressed with the quality of today's journalists. Unlike some naysayers, I don't worry about the future of journalism in this country. From what I see, today's journalists are just as committed and dedicated to their craft as I was back when I decided to pursue a journalism degree nearly four decades ago.