Kathy Kiely wins 2024 Mel Carnahan Public Service Award

Kathy Kiely

Missouri School of Journalism alum Lukas Parrish, a former student of Kiely’s, will also receive a scholarship at the ceremony

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Feb. 5, 2024) — Kathy Kiely, the Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, has won the 2024 Mel Carnahan Public Service Award. The award, bestowed by the Carnahan Policy Institute in honor of the former Missouri governor, recognizes those who have made an impact in the state through a commitment to public service.

“Kathy plays a vital role in educating both students and members of the broader community about the importance of journalism in a free society,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism. “From enhancing news literacy in mid-Missouri to supporting journalists in peril worldwide, she truly lives by the ideals of public service that she teaches in the classroom.”

The Institute has announced it will go forward with the award ceremony on Feb. 8 despite the recent loss of Mel Carnahan’s wife, Sen. Jean Carnahan, who became the first woman senator of Missouri in 2001.

Kiely will accept the award at the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City more than five years after joining the Missouri School of Journalism. Previously, she enjoyed a highly successful career as a political reporter, editor and news director in Washington, D.C. At the School, she has worked to promote news literacy and the cause of a free press in Missouri, nationwide and throughout the world.

“It’s great to see journalism rewarded as the public service that it is,” Kiely said. “This is great for me, but it’s more important for what it says about the value of public service journalism.”

It’s great to see journalism rewarded as the public service that it is. This is great for me, but it’s more important for what it says about the value of public service journalism.

Kathy Kiely

In a manner befitting the School of Journalism’s hands-on philosophy — known as the Missouri Method — Kiely has made a point of going beyond teaching ethics and best practices in the classroom, striving to have an immediate, real-world impact on journalists who are facing persecution and oppression around the world.

In 2022, a fellowship through the Lee Hills Chair enabled Afghan journalist Zabihullah Ghazi to train at the School and continue to practice his craft despite a Taliban crackdown in the country on press freedom and civil rights. Later that same year, Kiely hosted Filipina community engagement specialist Jene-Anne Pangue, who assisted with outreach and news literacy efforts in small-town Missouri.

Pangue works at Rappler, a news and investigative journalism website in the Philippines. In August of 2023, as Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa fought legal threats in retaliation for the site’s reporting, Kiely invited Ressa to inaugurate the Olive Lundgren Lecture on Press Freedom, which connected exiled journalists with organizations and civic leaders who could help them carry on their work. Again, sponsorships through the Lee Hills Chair brought journalists to the event from all over the world.

The list goes on: Pakistani reporter Ahmad Noorani, who faced violence and intimidation in his home country, landed a job with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project thanks to a grant provided by Kiely.

“When Kathy was looking for a home in Columbia, she told me that she would be buying someplace with a couple of extra bedrooms so that she could help people in need,” wrote Fritz Cropp, associate dean for global programs at the School of Journalism, in a nomination letter. “That’s just how she’s wired.”

Kathy plays a vital role in educating both students and members of the broader community about the importance of journalism in a free society.

David Kurpius

That willingness to help also extends to her interactions with colleagues. Assistant Professor Kathryn Lucchesi, BJ ’09, MBA ’16, felt seen and valued by the veteran journalist and educator when she returned to the School in 2019.

“Kathy immediately embraced me as a new colleague,” Lucchesi said. “Early and often and even to this day, she has made me feel supported and confident that I have a role here. She would say, ‘Hey, I know your expertise, can you come to my class and talk about this?”

Lucchesi traveled with Kiely and Professor Emeritus Stacey Woelfel to Niger in 2022, where they trained journalists on how to combat misinformation and disinformation. Recalling a moment during the trip when the trio were waiting for the results of the COVID-19 tests they needed to re-enter the U.S., Lucchesi said she saw how irrepressible Kiely’s journalistic instincts really were as Kiely talked to local Nigeriens.

“She wants to meet people wherever she goes,” Lucchesi said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or where they are from — she wants to hear their stories and talk to them about how journalism can make a difference.”

With another semester well underway at the School of Journalism, Kiely is sharing that enthusiasm for journalism as a public service with a new generation of students. But while she can now count herself as a recipient of the Mel Carnahan Public Service Award, she said the award represents more than her own accomplishments.

“When an award from outside the journalism industry goes to someone like me, it sends the message that people in public service see that what we do is important for our society,” Kiely said. “It’s a reminder of how hard we have to work every day to live up to [the School’s founder] Walter Williams and his Journalists’ Creed.”

The student and the master

Lukas Parrish
Lukas Parrish

Kiely won’t be the only School of Journalism representative to be honored at the ceremony. Lukas Parrish, BJ ’23, will receive the Mel Carnahan Public Service Scholarship, which will provide funding for his current assistantship at Mizzou’s Truman School of Public Affairs.

Parrish is working on a Master’s of Public Administration from the Truman School and hopes to one day become a city manager, but he said his experience studying strategic communication at the School of Journalism has proven invaluable for his chosen path.

“Whether you’re working for a PR firm or working in the public sector, marketing is embedded in anything you do,” Parrish said. “One of the most important pieces of being a city manager is being able to effectively communicate a solution to elected city council leaders — making it appealing to all regardless of division and political stances. I can’t imagine a better education for that than a strategic communication degree from the Missouri School of Journalism.”

This won’t be Parrish’s first connection to Kiely, either. During his freshman year, he participated in the Views of the News Honors Tutorial, a 16-week program in which Honors College students discuss how different media organizations are covering stories in the style of “Views of the News,” a program of the School’s NPR member station KBIA-FM. Kiely is typically a panelist on the program.

The tutorial culminates in the students producing a show of their own for “Views of the News.”

In addition, Parrish took one of Kiely’s classes last year, a class he described as “phenomenal” for its overview of journalism’s value within democracy and the field’s intersection with technology.

Now, he will have the rare opportunity to share a stage with his teacher. 

“I’m honored to receive this award, but I’m especially honored to receive it alongside someone like Professor Kiely,” Parrish said.

Updated: February 6, 2024

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