The Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame will honor three graduates from the University of Illinois at Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program who have distinguished themselves in the field of journalism. Mary Bohlen, Kevin Finch, and Ray Long will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at The Inn at 835 on Monday, November 17.
The Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame was named in honor of Bill Miller, an award-winning journalist who served as the program's director for 19 years. After a semester of classroom study, students work six months in the Capitol covering state politics while being supervised by professional journalists. Over 550 students have completed the program since the first class graduated in 1973. Illinois Issues, the state's leading public affairs magazine, and WUIS-91.9, the capital city's NPR station, established the bi-annual event in 2006. Both are units of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS.
Mary Bohlen, associate professor and chair of the UIS Communication Department, is in her 25th year of teaching journalism. She supervises nine full faculty members, six adjunct instructors, and nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate students. In 2008 she received the university's Pearson Faculty Award for Teaching, an annual honor given to one faculty member for outstanding teaching. Following her PAR studies, Bohlen was employed by United Press International full time as a Statehouse reporter for five years covering Illinois state government, especially the Illinois Senate; LPGA golf tournaments; Big Ten football; primary and general elections; and federal and state court cases. She also wrote numerous features covering Illinois. Bohlen left UPI in 1982 to become press secretary for the Illinois Senate Democrats and began her teaching career in 1983. She is a co-founder of the Springfield-area Association for Women in Journalism and a past president of the Springfield-area Women in Communications. She received her B.S. in journalism from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1972 and her master's from UIS in 1976.
Kevin Finch is a national Edward R. Murrow Award-winning broadcast journalist with 23 years of experience in radio and TV news. Finch is news director at WISH-TV, the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis, having served as assistant news director there as well. In his tenure as news director, Finch's station has won several national and regional honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award; several regional Emmys; and the Indiana AP Outstanding News and Weather Operation Awards. Prior to WISH-TV, he spent 13 years at the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis. Early in his career, he covered news for radio and TV stations in Morton, Peoria, Springfield, and Champaign. Finch has reported on major political events, serving as executive producer and organizer for 15 election nights and 10 televised political debates for U.S. Senate, governor, and other offices. He has covered four national political conventions, a presidential inauguration, and the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton. Finch guided coverage of 9/11 from Washington and covered the anniversary of that event in New York a year later. He also produced reports from Washington on the start of the current war in Iraq. He is the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. Finch received his bachelor's degree in 1981 from Murray State University and his master's from UIS in 1986.
Ray Long has written about Illinois government and politics for more than 25 years. He is a reporter in the Chicago Tribune's Statehouse bureau, where he has been since 1998. Previously he ran the Associated Press bureau in Springfield. Long covered Mayor Richard M. Daley, City Hall, local courts, Cook County Board, and state government for the Chicago Sun-Times. He worked local, state, and federal beats for the Peoria Journal Star. Currently, he is president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association, a position chosen by colleagues in other news organizations. Long is a founding member of Capitolbeat, formerly known as the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, a nationwide organization promoting excellence in state government coverage. He is the author of a chapter about investigative reporting in the book A Guide to Statehouse Reporting. His experience includes writing about numerous scandals, questionable public spending, massive budgets, ethical lapses of government figures, and major legislative issues under four governors, including one sentenced to prison. He has received local, state, and national awards for spot news, enterprise, investigative reporting, and news analysis from numerous organizations. The Illinois AP awarded Long the 1997 Charles Chamberlain Award, a staff honor recognizing a reporter's storytelling ability. The National Commission Against Drunk Driving presented Long and a Tribune colleague its 2002 media award for a series of articles that led to the revocation of more than 3,000 licenses of drivers whose convictions -- including 67 percent of those reckless homicide offenders in prison or on parole -- had gone unrecorded in state driving records. Long received his bachelor's degree in 1980 from what was then Sangamon State University and is now UIS, and his master's from UIS in 1980.
Christi Parsons, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, will be speaking at the event. Parsons joined the Tribune's Washington bureau two years ago to cover the presidential election. A 19-year veteran of the paper, she covered city and suburban politics before moving to Springfield to write about state government in 1995. She is a 1989 graduate of the University of Alabama, where she was recently named a Distinguished Alumna. She holds a master's in the studies of law from Yale Law School.
The Hall of Fame event at The Conservatory at the Inn at 835 begins with a 5:15 p.m. reception, followed by the program and induction at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, and are available until November 5 by calling Illinois Issues at 206-6084.