2019 - John O'Brien
Former Post-Standard investigative reporter
This year’s Wall of Distinction honoree is a Post-Standard veteran who managed to earn both a reputation as an esteemed investigative reporter and as the “greatest prankster the newsroom ever had.” The Syracuse Press Club selected John O’Brien for its top honor, to be awarded at the 41st Annual Professional Recognition Awards and Scholarship Banquet.
His plaque will be displayed in the Onondaga County Civic Center. O’Brien, who worked at The Post-Standard for nearly 30 years, earned a reputation as a watchdog on the crime and courts beat. His coverage of wrongful convictions and exposure of prison conditions won numerous awards from the Syracuse Press Club, NYS Associated Press Association, New York News Publishers Association and the New York State Bar Association.
In 2017, O’Brien left The Post- Standard to put the investigative skills he honed as a journalist to public service. He works as an investigator at the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Syracuse.
2018 - Dan Cummings
WSYR-TV NewsChannel 9
Born and raised in southern Cayuga County, the broadcasting bug hit Dan Cummings early. He grew up hearing the sounds of 62-WHEN radio over the speakers on the school bus during his daily commutes. Soon thereafter, he would visit his brother at Cornell who worked at the local radio station.
Those early morning bus rides, along with visits to his brother, helped open up a whole new world for Dan. His brush with greatness in broadcasting came early. It was 40 years ago this spring. He was working a shift at WTKO radio in Ithaca when the phone rang. On the other end was then-competitor Bill Carey. At that time he was news director of 62-WHEN, not yet the local news legend and Syracuse Press Club Wall of Distinction member.
The conversation helped change the course of Dan’s life and career. Bill offered him a job and Dan accepted. It was the start of a long friendship and launched Dan into the “big leagues.” He would go onto to work for Bill for a number of years. He was honing his craft. Learning what worked and what didn’t. He, of course, always had to make sure he didn’t indent his copy on the yellow canary paper. Dan later recalled that Bill would often tap his shoulder and say, in his trademark deep voice: “Dan, we don’t indent here.”
Cummings eventually left radio to attend Cornell University and earn his master’s degree, but his time outside of news was short-lived. He took an assignment editor opening at 62-WHEN radio when Bill called a second time in 1983.
2017 - Mike Connor
Formerly Syracuse Post-Standard
Mike Connor grew up in a home where there were always newspapers around. A college student during the Vietnam War, he became a daily reader of The New York Times. He credits his interest in journalism as a career to a passionate lecture by Seymour Hersh,
Upon graduating from Cornell University in 1975, Connor began his journalism career at his hometown radio station, WMBO in Auburn, but his heart was always in newspapers. After a half-year as a stringer with The Post-Standard, covering meetings in Weedsport and nearby communities, Connor was offered a full-time position as a reporter in the paperâ€™s Oneida bureau. It paid $160 a week. He eagerly accepted.
2016 - Art Zimmer
Syracuse New Times
Publisher Art Zimmer purchased the New Times in 1986, rescuing the frequently broke publication from a pending shut down. He set the weekly on a course of commercial, artistic and editorial success. During his 26 years as publisher, The New Times won more than 250 awards from local, state and national groups.
The New Times continued to earn awards for its editorial content and its often innovative design. Art expanded his business interests to reviving a motorcar company that just happened to bear his name. Customers for Zimmers included Shaquille O’Neil and the sons of Saddam Hussein.
In 2010, Art sold The New Times to William Brod. Art remains busy with non-profits and producing a map and business guide for Hamilton, NY.
The Syracuse Press Club is honored this evening to designate Art Zimmer as the 2016 inductee to the Press Club’s Wall of Distinction.
2015 - Carrie Lazarus
WSYR-TV Newschannel 9
Carrie Lazarus is an award-winning anchor and reporter for NewsChannel 9 WSYR-TV and is this year’s inductee into the Syracuse Press Club Wall of Distinction.
A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, Carrie got her start in news as a student reporter at WHEN Radio, hired by legendary Syracuse reporter and Wall of Distinction honoree Bill Carey. After college, she launched her television career at then-powerhouse WTVH-TV Newscenter 5, working alongside legendary anchor Ron Curtis.
But it was at WIXT-TV (now WSYR-TV) where Carrie has made her biggest impact in central New York. Carrie’s Family Healthcast was one of the first daily local health and fitness reports in the nation, bringing viewers the latest in health, fitness, and family news since 1986.
She also hosts the award-winning “Carrie Lazarus Presents: Extraordinary People and Places of Central New York,” which air several times each year on NewsChannel 9.
Carrie and her co-anchor, Rod Wood, are one of the longest-serving news teams in the nation, with more than 25 years as a team. They were inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
Carrie, a resident of Skaneateles, is the mother of two, a frequent public speaker and active in many community activities. Carrie was honored in 2004 with the Syracuse Press Club’s Bliven- Ganley-Rossi Award for Career Achievement.
2014 - Sean Kirst
FORMERLY SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD
Sean Kirst has introduced readers to Central New York’s unsung heroes, celebrated our winters and everything else that’s great about the Syracuse area, and prodded the community to become a better place during his 23 years as a columnist for Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard.
Tonight, he will be inducted onto the Syracuse Press Club’s Wall of Distinction, the highest honor the press club bestows, and a plaque with his image will be hung in the permanent exhibit at the Civic Center.
Kirst has been among the best journalists in Central New York since he was hired in 1988 to work in the Oswego Bureau of The Post-Standard.
From the start, it was apparent he was a gifted writer. His lede crackled in his very first story: When they brought the moon to Melissa Ahart, it was something less than she had expected. But when Kirst became a columnist in 1991, compassion poured through his sentences, whether he was writing about the downtrodden, the successful, or his adopted hometown.
In 2008, the Scripps Howard Foundation awarded Kirst the Ernie Pyle Journalism Award for human interest writing, given to the one newspaper writer nationwide. Kirst won numerous other journalism awards, too.