San Jose State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Tuesday honored National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci with its William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award for his efforts to communicate the facts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci rose to prominence after leading the NIAID for 36 years because of the pandemic and his friction with segments of the administration of President Donald Trump over the best course of action to curb the pandemic.
The university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored him with the award for ensuring people across the country know the details of the pandemic as it has continued since March.
“Only by really leaning in, reading, listening, questioning, can you begin to get to the point where you really understand the subject and can effectively communicate what you know to an audience.”Dr. Anthony Fauci
Fauci called it “an extraordinary honor” to receive the award that has, in the past, gone to journalists such as former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.
Fauci also argued that public health and journalism share similar goals of communicating truth to large audiences and continuously learning and asking questions.
“Only by really leaning in, reading, listening, questioning, can you begin to get to the point where you really understand the subject and can effectively communicate what you know to an audience,” Fauci said, accepting the award via video conference.
“I’ve been learning this over many years as a government official who has been called upon over six presidential administrations to communicate complex information and concepts to a wide range of audiences,” he said.
The video ceremony included dozens of journalists, SJSU students and faculty members and Bay Area officials congratulating Fauci on the award as well as his work during the pandemic.
Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer, said Fauci is a model by which local health officers have measured their abilities to communicate the dangers of the pandemic and the need to follow local, state and federal health guidance.
“We watch how you communicate with the public and we try to emulate all of your wonderful qualities,” Cody said. “You’re always so forthright, direct, clear, calm and so very consistent.”
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication also honored Fauci by announcing it would launch an endowment in his name to attract and support students interested in health journalism.
“We plan to guide them with you in mind and create a program that will give them the skills to seek and defend the truth, just like you’ve been doing during this pandemic and in your career,” journalism professor Halima Kazem-Stoianovic said to Fauci.
With the pandemic still raging across much of the country, Fauci encouraged SJSU’s journalism students to continue communicating the facts of the pandemic in the coming months.
“Once again we have formidable communication challenges ahead of us, as we work to convey with honesty, transparency and clarity the benefits of vaccination to sometimes very skeptical audiences,” he said.