LAS VEGAS — Bill Ketter, CNHI’s senior vice president of news, received SPJ’s highest honor Saturday evening in Las Vegas.
The Society of Professional Journalists feted Ketter with the Wells Memorial Key award, recognizing his distinguished career and contributions to the journalism community.
Past SPJ National President Alex Jones said in a prepared statement, “For decades, Bill Ketter has been one of the nation’s most respected and admired journalists,” calling the award a “fitting tribute by an organization he has served and loved throughout that exemplary career.”
Named for Chester C. Wells, the second president of SPJ, the Wells Memorial Key is awarded to a member “who has performed outstanding service to the Society in the preceding year or through a period of years.”
The honoree has been a member of SPJ for 62 years and served in various leadership roles.
Jones called Ketter “a repository of wisdom and principle and someone I consider to be one of the Foundation’s and the Society’s top and most influential leaders.”
Bill Ketter is joined by previous SPJ honorees
As he accepted the award, Ketter told the convention crowd, “I am feeling very humbled.” In his acceptance speech, he talked about the importance of journalism and, in particular, newspapers. “Today, the free and independent press is under fire more than ever before,” he said.
Speaking about the dangers that exist when a community loses its local paper, Ketter said “80 million Americans live in news deserts. At our company (CNHI), we live with a mantra of saving newspapers.”
“Democracy is dying. We are losing the battle for democracy,” he said. “Newspapers and democracy go hand in glove,” urging the journalists in the room to continue fighting for truth and democracy.
CNHI’s CEO Donna Barrett said, “Bill Ketter is the most dedicated news executive I have ever known, and CNHI has benefited greatly from his leadership.
“We could not be more proud of Bill and have been fortunate to have him as part of our company.”
Ketter is no stranger to prestigious journalism awards. While editor of the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Eagle-Tribune the paper won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news.
In addition to numerous other state, regional and national awards, he received the New England Academy of Journalists Quill Award in 1985 for exceptional career contributions to New England journalism. He is a member of the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.
During his storied career, Ketter served as chairman of Boston University’s Journalism School, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and was the inaugural chairman of the International Editors Forum in Vienna, Austria, board member of the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation and chairman emeritus of the New England Academy of Journalists.
Ketter has traveled to more than 25 countries advocating for and championing a free press for various U.S. news organizations. He was a member of Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prize Board from 1995 to 2002 and has been a Pulitzer judge and committee chairman numerous times.
Ketter received the honor at the SPJ 2023 Journalism Conference at the Planet Hollywood resort in Las Vegas during the society’s President’s Award Banquet.