At the 2023 ThreeSixty Journalism Homecoming celebration and annual fundraising gala, two esteemed journalists were honored: Soledad O’Brien and Ruben Rosario.
O’Brien, an award-winning documentarian and philanthropist who has anchored shows on CNN, MSNBC and NBC, was awarded with ThreeSixty Journalism’s inaugural Opening Doors Honor, which spotlights an influential leader who promotes opportunities and successes among diverse voices in media, business or community.
“I am so glad to get this because I do think opening doors is such a nice way to put shoving your foot in and forcing it open and pinning people down and making them do the things that need to be done if we are really going to have honest conversations and real change when it comes to diversity and diverse staffs,” O’Brien said in her opening remarks.
In addition, legendary Pioneer Press columnist Rubén Rosario received the Widening the Circle Award. Rosario, now semiretired, spent nearly 20 years with the Pioneer Press. Prior to the St. Paul paper, he spent just over a decade with the New York Daily News.
“Journalism matters,” Rosario told the approximately 200 attendees. “In a time when we are bombarded 24/7 with misinformation, disinformation and outright lies disguised as truth, it matters more now than ever. Diversifying the newsroom has always been a struggle since I walked into the newsroom of New York Daily News as a copy boy fresh out of Fordham University in 1976.”
Rosario, a longtime ThreeSixty Journalism volunteer who added that journalism “was a calling,” had family members in attendance.
“This past Saturday, my father received what seemed to me to be his millionth award that he’s received in his career – the Widening the Circle Award from ThreeSixty Journalism,” said Jonathan Rosario ’22, an alumnus and admissions counselor at St. Thomas. “My mom calls the countless awards that adorn an oak shelf at home ‘dust collectors.’ To me, my father has collected a lot more than just dust and hardware. He has brought otherwise forgotten stories to the spotlight, elevated voices that were once silenced and changed preconceived notions about his subjects to newfound perspectives of hope. To him, widening the circle is not about increasing viewership, it’s about creating a culture of dynamic and unfettered visibility.”
The event, hosted by WCCO Radio’s Vineeta Sawkar, and held at the Granada Theater in Minneapolis, raised more than $69,000, including an anonymous $25,000 gift as a scholarship for a student to attend St. Thomas.
O’Brien, who anchors and produces the Hearst TV political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien” and is a correspondent for HBO’s “Real Sports,” was the featured guest speaker. As the founder of Soledad O’Brien Productions, which produces documentaries, including “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” she spoke about changes within the journalism industry, such as the growth of podcasting, and gave career tips in response to questions from ThreeSixty alumni.
ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit program of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas, uses the principles of strong writing and reporting to help diverse Minnesota high school students tell the stories of their lives and communities. Students learn the power of voice and storytelling, to help them become more driven, confident, tenacious and passionate in life.
“Newsroom diversity is still a work in progress,” Rosario said, quoting results from a Pew Research Center study. “Fewer than half of journalists in the survey say their organizations make diversity and inclusion a major priority. ... Here’s why programs like ThreeSixty are so important and why I will continue to volunteer my time as long as they are willing to have me.”
ThreeSixty offers multimedia summer journalism camps, as well as school year programming, all on the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. The journalism programming improves writing and communication skills, provides an immersive experience of life on a college campus, and enhances social skills both in and out of the classroom.
WCCO covered the event in its newscast.