UWEC holds its annual Ann Devroy Memorial Forum

The forum announces the winner of the Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship


Photo by Toby Mohr

Sharif Durhams was featured as a guest speaker at the Ann Devroy Memorial Forum

The annual Ann Devroy Memorial Forum returned and was held in person for the first time in two years on Thursday night. 

The Ann Devroy Memorial Forum honors legendary national journalist, White House reporter and UW-Eau Claire alumni, Ann Devroy. 

Each year the forum features a prominent journalist as a guest speaker and announces the winner of the Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship awarded to one outstanding journalism student at UW-Eau Claire.

The 2022 Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship was awarded to Lea Kopke, fourth-year journalism and German student.

The fellowship includes a scholarship, a three-week internship with The Washington Post in Washington D.C., and eligibility for a paid internship at a Wisconsin-based daily news organization. 

Kopke said it is an honor to receive the fellowship commemorating Devroy and her legacy.

“She was a feisty woman,” Kopke said about Devroy. “She wasn’t afraid to make government officials answer her questions and it’s amazing to follow in those footsteps and learn from her.”

Kopke plans to graduate in the fall before heading to Washington D.C. for the fellowship at The Washington Post. She said while she is not sure what the future holds after graduation, the fellowship is a great experience and opportunity for her.

“I would love to report about education or local government,” Kopke said. “I think it’s important for towns no matter their size to be writing about local news.”

This year’s event also featured Sharif Durhams as a guest speaker.

Durhams is deputy managing editor of The Washington Post and president of Board President of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. 

Durhams has previously served in editor positions in news organizations across the country, including CNN, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the North Carolina News and Observer. 

Durhams emphasized the importance of journalism in American democracy and said there is a need for greater diversity in the journalism industry. 

“The questions about diversity in our industry are nothing new,” he said. “These issues have been talked about for a long time by journalists who have been denied access to jobs in newsrooms.”

Durhams said truth and independence are values of the journalism industry and the industry needs to invest in valuing diversity. 

“I would argue that if we want a future as a business and a future audience, diversity and inclusion need to be elevated in the same way as the other journalistic values,” he said. 

Durhams said diversity in journalism starts with hiring journalists from a diverse variety of backgrounds to bring in underrepresented perspectives.

Durhams said he is hopeful the future of journalism will reflect the whole of America.

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many young journalists,” he said. “I find it wonderful that young journalists are not going to tolerate the state of our industry today.”

Durhams said that events like the Ann Devroy Memorial Forum are important in sustaining the importance of journalism in the present and in the future.

“Days like this give me hope in the idea that journalism will last,” he said. 

Mohr can be reached at [email protected].