Keeping the legend alive

The 17th annual Ann Devroy Memorial Forum speaker to feature Washington Post’s Al Kamen



Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

Every year since her death in 1998, the Ann Devroy Memorial Forum – named after the UW-Eau Claire graduate – honors one outstanding journalism student with a three-week unpaid internship at the Washington Post and a paid summer internship at a Wisconsin daily newspaper.

In addition, the Forum hosts a prominent journalist to speak with the Eau Claire campus and community on their areas of expertise.

This year, that speaker is Al Kamen, a friend and colleague of Devroy’s during her time at the Washington Post. Kamen is a reporter and currently writes the “In the Loop” column on politics for the Post.

When Michael Dorsher, an associate professor of communication and journalism at Eau Claire, asked the 2013 Devroy Fellow Rachel Minske who she thought would be a good fit for the 2014 Devroy Forum, she turned to Devroy’s husband Mark Matthews, whom she met while in Washington, D.C.

“It’s tough because everyone at the Post, for the most part, is familiar with the Devroy Forum itself and they recognize Ann Devroy’s name because she is such a legend, but there’s really not too many people left who really worked closely with her,” Minske said.

Matthews suggested Al Kamen, a reporter and columnist for the Washington Post, and so did Minske.
“His desk was sitting right next to hers, and so it was kind of constant conversation between the two of them,” she said. “He knows her really well, and he speaks kindly upon her.”

Because he is well-informed about the political sphere in Washington, D.C., Minske said she thinks there will be a lot to learn from him, and the conversation from the audience will be interesting.

However, she said she was also happy to see they had been able to find someone who knew Devroy so well.

“Every Devroy speaker as far as I know has some sort of relationship with Ann,” Minske said. “It’s great that we can continue this for at least one more year, and who knows how much longer we’ll be able to.”

Dorsher was involved in the selection process of the Devroy Forum speaker and said he wanted someone who had worked closely with Devroy, but Kamen appealed to him because he had a few other qualities to offer.

“He is an excellent reporter with a national reputation and has done great, investigative work,” he said. “But what sets him apart is that, since he writes a column, he has been pulled into the digital age and he has been more active in using Twitter and blog posts.”

Dorsher also said Kamen will  stay an extra day in Eau Claire to speak to a journalism class and have lunch with 10 sophomore students, something many Devroy speakers aren’t able to do.

Kamen said he was very excited to give this speech and get a chance to talk about his work and his good friend, because he doesn’t often give speeches or go on television. While there are exceptions to this, they are few and far between. Ann Devroy is one of those exceptions.

“I was delighted to have been asked,” he said. “I didn’t question it.”

He said he has not written a formal speech yet, but knows he will talk about what made Devroy an exceptional reporter.

“Reporters don’t always get their question answered, they get the answer the government official wants to give them,” Kamen said. “She would get her questions answered.”

He said he will also touch on his work for the Washington Post and the politics that go along with his insider column to the White House, but would prefer more time for the question and answer session to hear what people want to know.