Celebrating Trailblazers in Media Diversity

Detroit Free Press Editor Peter Bhatia is this Year’s McGruder Award Recipient

Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will honor Peter Bhatia, editor of the Detroit Free Press, with the 2018 Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Award for his accomplishments in media diversity.

Bhatia will visit campus to present a lecture on media diversity and accept the award on Friday, March 2, 2018. The keynote lecture will take place at 1 p.m. in FirstEnergy Auditorium (Room 340) in Franklin Hall at Kent State. The lecture is free and open to the public. An hors d’oeuvres reception will follow.

The McGruder Distinguished Lecture and Award Program, now in its 14th year, is presented in honor of the late Robert G. “Bob” McGruder, the first black editor of the Daily Kent Stater who went on to become the first black reporter at The Plain Dealer, the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors group and first black executive editor at the Detroit Free Press

Learn more about the Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Award

Bhatia, this year’s awardee, became the first journalist of South Asian descent to run a major daily newspaper in the United States when he was named executive editor of The Oregonian in 2010. He worked for The Oregonian for 20 years, starting as managing editor; the paper won six Pulitzer Prizes during his tenure. 

After leaving The Oregonian, Bhatia served as director of the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State’s Cronkite School of Journalism, and then became editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2015. There, under his leadership, the newsroom focused on coverage areas such as addiction, race, higher education and politics. The Enquirer also successfully produced and launched the “Accused” podcast, which drew more than 6 million downloads.

Bhatia joined the Detroit Free Press as editor in September 2017.

“Peter Bhatia is following in the footsteps of Mr. McGruder, not just as editor of the Free Press, but also through his commitment to covering issues of critical importance to the community,” said Jeff Fruit, interim director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “He is a true champion of diversity and of the journalism profession.”


Gene Shelton, professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is this year’s Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership awardee. He will accept the award and deliver brief remarks at the McGruder lecture on March 2.

Shelton’s career spans 46 years in education, media and music. He graduated from Kent State in 1972 and reported for The Cleveland Press and hosted “Here It Is,” a public affairs program on Cleveland’s NBC affiliate WKYC-TV. Serving as a writer and publicist for Motown Records, CBS Records and Epic Records over the years, Shelton’s music career highlights include serving as Michael Jackson’s publicist and writing the official Jackson bio for the multi-platinum LP “Off The Wall”; managing press and artist relations to help launch Lionel Richie’s solo career; publicizing the Emmy Award winning “Motown: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” television special; and promoting Jackson’s “Thriller.” Before returning to Kent State, Shelton was vice-president of media relations for Warner Bros. Records.

At Kent State, Shelton has been recognized for his efforts intersecting media, diversity and education. He received the College of Communication and Information’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2013. He was also honored with Kent State University’s Diversity Trailblazer Award, the university’s highest recognition to a campus, college, school or individual for advocating and advancing diversity.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 10:07am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 3:26pm