Observers believed STJ earned Pulitzer

Published 11:01pm Friday, January 25, 2013

Much of what can be said about Roswell Falkenberry, former editor and publisher of The Selma Times-Journal, can be summed up by what others thought of him. Some said he should have won the Pulitzer Prize for leading the newspaper’s coverage of the 1965 civil rights struggles in Selma, and others learned from him in the newsroom.

Journalist Jack Nelson, who in the late 1980s was the Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, knew Falkenberry well when he reported along side him during the civil rights marches.

Nelson was in Selma when he was the Atlanta bureau chief for the Times.

“I came to Selma and was on the front page almost everyday week after week,” Nelson told The Birmingham News in 1989. “The only other guy getting on the front page that much was the guy covering the war in Vietnam.”

Nelson was given the America Award by the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and when he returned for the award he said something of Falkenberry who attended the ceremony.

“[Falkenberry’s] paper covered the marches and demonstrations straight,” Nelson said. “They did a good job and should have won a Pulitzer Prize.”

In 1966, Falkenberry received Outstanding Daily Journalist Award from the Alabama Press Association for his coverage in the movement in Selma.

In a telegraph, Arlie Schardt with Time Magazine praised Falkenberry and recommended him for the award.

“Its impossible to imagine anyone in Alabama better qualified for the Journalist of the Year Award that Roswell Falkenberry,” Schardt wrote in 1965. “I spent several months in Selma during the demonstrations early this year, and was consistently impressed with the intelligent, thorough and well written coverage of those events in The Selma Times-Journal.

“Many members of the national and world press were in Selma during the 1965 marches, and it was a common occurrence to hear them discuss the Times-Journal in very complimentary and flattering terms,” Schardt continued. “Not only was the news coverage of the highest caliber, but I also distinctly remember several editorials which were notable for their calm, reasonable and thoughtful approach.”

Schardt’s praise continued as he, along with news organizations from around the nation sent in recommendations for Falkenberry and his leadership.

“Although Mr. Falkenberry surely realized there was a risk in carrying the editorials, he did what he knew was best for Selma,” Shardt wrote.

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