"Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts receives Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism

Robin Roberts accepts the 31st Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from ASU provost Dr. Robert Page during a luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2014. Roberts has worked in television news for over 30 years and currently co-hosts ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” (Photo by Ben Moffat) Robin Roberts accepts the 31st Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from ASU provost Dr. Robert Page during a luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2014. Roberts has worked in television news for over 30 years and currently co-hosts ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” (Photo by Ben Moffat)

Nearly a thousand guests from local media outlets, current and former Cronkite School students and sponsors gathered in the Phoenix Ballroom at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel to commemorate Robin Roberts, the 31st recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Roberts, an award-winning anchor of ABC News’ morning show “Good Morning America,” told attendees that reporting is the same for all journalists .

“Journalism is journalism," Roberts said. “The subject matter may be different, but how you approach it as young journalists with the background that you do, the research that you do, how you approach a story is absolutely the same.”

Her humble introduction to television news began in 1983 when Roberts found her first job as a local sports anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for WDAM-TV.

She reported for ESPN in 1990 and stayed there for 15 years, leaving in 2005. Roberts’ assignments included anchoring “SportsCenter” and contributing to “NFL Primetime.”

Roberts was then named co-anchor of ABC News’s “Good Morning America” and led the program to the top spot in morning show rankings and earn three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Morning Program.

She also faced a public battle with breast cancer in 2007 and a rare bone marrow disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome.

Roberts now joins in the distinguished company of other journalists to receive the award, such as Bob Costas, current host of “Football Night in America,” and Diane Sawyer, former anchor “ABC News’ “World News."

(Left to right) Cronkite Endowment Board President David Bodney, journalism senior Analise Ortiz and journalism senior Megan Thompson watch Robin Roberts give her acceptance speech the 31st Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism during a luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2014. Roberts has worked in television news for over 30 years and currently co-hosts ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” (Photo by Ben Moffat) (Left to right) Cronkite Endowment Board President David Bodney, journalism senior Analise Ortiz and journalism senior Megan Thompson watch Robin Roberts give her acceptance speech the 31st Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism during a luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2014. Roberts has worked in television news for over 30 years and currently co-hosts ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” (Photo by Ben Moffat)

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and university vice provost of the Downtown campus, started the luncheon by congratulating Roberts and recognizing her persistence and dedication.

“In addition to both being great broadcast journalists, Walter and Robin share something else in common — both started their careers in sports broadcasting,” Callahan said. “And I can tell you Walter would have absolutely loved the scene yesterday in our First Amendment Forum, where Robin talked with hundreds of energized Cronkite students.”

Journalism and mass communication senior Analise Ortiz introduced Roberts before she accepted the award.

“Since 2005, we’ve started out days with her warm smile and compelling nature while watching ABC’s Good Morning America,” Ortiz said. “She is a fighter an advocate for donation of bone marrow and a symbol of hope, faith and courage to millions.”

Roberts then said a few words upon receiving the award, expressing her gratitude for those who have helped her throughout her life.

“Sally (Roberts’ sister) was my first mentor. She allowed me to tag along with her at the station and asked stupid questions to not make me feel like I was stupid and gave me the desire, and the hope and the belief that I could do what I do now,” Roberts said. “Then to be my bone marrow donor, to give me life, is just the most amazing thing. As we said about family, ‘We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all.’”

Roberts ended the interview and the luncheon by sharing a story saying why receiving the award was “in some way poetic.”

When Roberts was in the hospital, in a really bad state, she was hallucinating because of the medication she was taking. She told her girlfriend, Amber, and her family to leave the room because she needed to be alone.

“The next day, my family and friends came in and the nurse came in laughing," Roberts said. “Then we asked, ‘What’s so funny?’ and she said, ‘Well you missed it, Robin was hallucinating last night and she was at the foot of her bed interviewing someone.’ And we said, ‘Really? Who was I interviewing?’ ‘Walter Cronkite.’”

Reach the reporter at anicla@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @andrewniclaASU

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