Saluting Investigative Reporting in Sweet Home Alabama

I was back in Alabama this year in time to watch the 2016 Academy Awards  with my late husband Tim Robinson’s brother Mike, a retired Air Force Colonel and his wife Carolyn, a talented editor and retired teacher.  I had flown in to visit with Tim’s amazing Southern family and friends, as well as attend an annual journalism Forum in my late husband’s honor (http://www.samford.edu/arts-and-sciences/robinson-forum) that was featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Brad Schrade, an investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  So it was not only a great surprise, but a special moment that Sunday night for us when the winner of this year’s Oscars for best picture went to “Spotlight,” which chronicles a  Boston Globe Pulitzer Prize–winning investigation ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotlight_(film)).

Two days later, Brad Schrade told the assembled audience for the Timothy Sumner Robinson Forum at Samford University in Birmingham that “we’re at a moment again where popular culture has deemed investigative work important and even pretty cool,” citing Spotlight’s wins as Best Picture and Best Writing (Original Screenplay), coming 39 years after the four Oscar wins for All the President’s Men, a film about the Washington Post’s famous investigation of the Watergate break-in.  That failed political espionage eventually caused President Nixon’s resignation and the conviction of many of his top officials.   Schrade went on to tell the assembled students in the audience that while newspapers and other printed media were struggling, he hoped this film would inspire a new generation of journalists to “take up this flag.”

What Schrade didn’t know and what I enjoyed telling him later was that the last footage in the film All the Presidents’ Men shows the coverage of the Watergate trials coming off the newsroom tickertape, flashing my late husband’s byline over and over.  Schrade also didn’t realize that Tim was a city editor on the desk when his favorite reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were put on special assignment.  He was proud to join them on the investigative team as the White House conspiracy unraveled.  Tim did such a brilliant job of reporting on the convictions stemming from the Watergate break in that he went on to receive a Ford Fellowship to Yale Law School and become a distinguished legal columnist for the Post.  He was recruited to be Editor in Chief of a new publication in New York called the National Law Journal and thus blazed a pioneering trail in the field of legal journalism.  My gratitude goes to everyone at Tim’s alma mater Samford University for their support of the Forum and Scholarship program in Tim’s honor, which includes an internship each year at the Washington Post.  And I am will always feel grateful for such a special Southern family, which also includes Tim’s sister Terah’s family in Jasper, his brother Nelson’s family in the hometown of Dora and sister-in-law Martha in Fresno, California.

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