The Atlanta Press Club inducted six new members to the Hall of Fame at a dinner on Nov. 10, including National Public Radio’s Mary Louise Kelly and the late WSB news anchor Jovita Moore, who died last October after a seven-month battle with brain cancer.
Other inductees included Loranzo “Lo” Jelks, the first Black television news reporter hired in Atlanta, news anchor Russ Spenser, and veteran journalist Dick and his wife, Rebecca Chase Williams, an ABC news correspondent who was known as the founding mother of Brookhaven.
The Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame, an annual event that recognizes journalists for their lifetime achievements, was hosted by popular news personality Jeff Hullinger.
In making opening remarks about Kelly, presenter Hank Klibanoff, the former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Pulitzer Prize winning author, said the co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” morning show “outran the big dogs,” citing her recent interview of former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“She came up through the ranks and did the hard work,” Klibanoff said.
Kelly said her time in Atlanta, first as a reporter for the AJC, provided life lessons that she has retained throughout her career.
“We may not remember the stories, but we do remember what we have learned from them,” she said. “I learned so many lessons about how to be a journalist right here in Atlanta.”
Kelly brought to the podium the newspaper containing her first bylined story from 1996, that detailed an event that occurred a few hours before a matchup between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. A massive fire broke out in the press room at Fulton County Stadium that caused more than $1.5 million in damages. In addition to the drama, the night was also thought to be the catalyst for the then-struggling Atlanta Braves. The team’s most recent acquisition, Fred McGriff, sparked a rally that pushed the Braves past the Cardinals and served as a touchpoint for their comeback season.
Kelly said as an inexperienced reporter, she was a bit lost in her first assignments at the AJC but hung onto some advice from her editor – “say what we know, and how we know it, and then keep on going.”
Fellow journalists remembered Moore, who died at 54, as a journalist known for her “beauty, kindness and heart.”
Fred Blankenship, morning anchor of WSB’s Channel 2 Action News, said Moore was a “mentor to so many young journalists.”
“I still find it so hard to believe today that Jovita Moore is gone,” Blankenship said. “She was our leader and we miss her to this day.”
Moore’s son, Josh, accepted the award on the family’s behalf.
Jelk’s presenter, longtime veteran radio/tv journalist Alexis Scott, said she had “been an admirer of him for a very long time.”
Scott praised Jelk’s for his continued commitment to mentoring young journalists through his affiliation with AUC Digest, a newspaper serving the Atlanta University Center.
Spencer, who has anchored the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news on Fox 5 since 1995, was called a “gifted writer and master storyteller” by Budd McEntee, his former boss.
“He tells his stories with compassion, and most important, he is an outstanding listener,” McEntee said. “When news is breaking, Russ Spencer is at his best.”
When Spencer reached the podium, he joked to McEntee, “that guy you were describing sounds like a real nice guy.”
Instead of reminiscing on his career, Spencer told several stories about the other inductees, and concluded with a heartfelt thanks to Fox 5 for their faith in him.
Longtime political commentator Jeff Dickerson, who made remarks prior to the induction of Williams and his wife, called the pair “media royalty in Atlanta.” Chase Williams, an Emmy -award winning journalist and former mayor of Brookhaven, died in 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Williams, former AJC editor, longtime host of the Georgia Gang, and owner of the Dunwoody Crier, died in early 2022, also as a result of cancer.
The couple’s daughters, Chase Cooper and Clare Stevens, accepted the awards on behalf of their parents.
“They were beautiful people inside and out,” Cooper said. “They made (having a career and a family) seem normal and made it seem easy.”