In 2014 the Press Club of Long Island launched the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame. It’s a collection of some of the finest journalists in Long Island history.
For the first year, we inducted all of our previous “Outstanding Journalist of the Year” winners.
This capsule segment will live on PCLI.org and we’ll ask our Hall of Fame inductees about their career, their role as a journalist and their induction to this prestigious hall.
Carolyn James, Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Carolyn James is Executive Editor of ACJ News, the parent company of the Amityville Record, Massapequa Post and Babylon Beacon. James is a former PCLI President, SPJ Region 1 Director, and Chair of PCLI’s Freedom of Information Committee.
1. What does it mean for you to be an inductee of the Long Island journalism hall of fame?
“It is always a great honor to be recognized by your peers and this certainly was for me. When I looked at those honored with me and saw that many were nationally recognized journalists, I was humbled and thankful to the Press Club for recognizing that a lot of us never gain fame and fortune but are in the trenches every day working on behalf of our readers, our communities and those who rely upon our information to empower their lives.”
2. What has been the single greatest moment of your career?
“Wow, this is a tough one. While there have been many “moments,” I think the first one set me on the right path as a journalist. I was a young reporter covering a school district that was in turmoil. The school board was clearly divided and its president was functioning by using intimidation tactics against dissenters, including school employees, by threatening them with civil and criminal lawsuits. I attended every meeting, often staying there until most of the public had left—often past midnight— to get the stories. They gave the public a weekly rundown of what was happening and why. In the end, it was the public that made a decision, voting out the president and his majority. The key here is that I was invited to the “celebration” after the polls closed. I went to get comments from the winners and was warmly welcomed for what they perceived as my preference for them. My journalism antenna went up quickly and I explained I was just doing my job, and telling the truth and left, aware that I could not, ethically, be part of the celebration. I was glad that I understood my role at that time and the lesson has remained with me ever since.”
3. Why did you become a journalist and talk about the privilege/responsibility of a journalist in society?
“I wish I could say that I had a plan to become a journalist, but it was not so. I attended college later in life and joined the college newspaper as I had also joined my high school newspaper more than two decades before. A small ad in a local paper calling for reporters, got me involved at a weekly and I loved it. I continued my schooling, joined the Press Club for collegial support and that was it—I was hooked. I am not the product of J-School, but rather a “graduate” of all that SPJ and PCLI has offered over the years, and I continue to be supportive and active in the organization because of its many benefits.”