The Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics Award

Veteran Journalist Tom Bier wins UW’s First Journalism Ethics Award

Madison, Wisc. -- The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will honor television broadcaster Tom Bier, vice president and station manager of WISC-TV, Channel 3000.com, with its first Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics Award on April 30.

Bier, a 39-year veteran of the television, radio and web broadcast industry, will be recognized for his lifelong practice of the highest ethical standards.

Despite the recent downturn in media industry profits, Bier didn’t cut corners, co-workers said. They pointed to his tireless work to uphold ethical standards as a reporter, news director, station manager and news executive.

“To work with Tom is to see an ethical journalist in action,” said Neil Heinen, WISC-TV editorial director, who works with Bier and nominated him for the award.

A committee of working and retired journalists considered Bier’s tenure as a member of the Radio TV News Directors Association (RTNDA) Board of Directors, including a stint as chair in 1989-90. He helped re-write that organization’s ethics code and developed a program, “You Be The News Director,” that allowed audiences to learn how to make ethical decisions based on real-life news programs.

Bier was the committee’s unanimous choice.

A native of Janesville, Wisc., Bier is a Vietnam veteran and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in speech communications.

He is married to Kathy Bier. They live in Madison and have two grown daughters.

Judges included Herman Baumann, principal, Green Line Strategies, of Palatine, Ill.; Dan Flannery, executive editor of The Post Crescent in Appleton, Wisc.; Ellen Foley, executive assistant and director of development at Madison Area Technical College; Judy Frankel, project manager at Putnam Roby Williamson Communications in Madison; Jack Mitchell, professor emeritus of journalism at UW; and John Smalley, editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. Foley was the committee’s chair. Foley was editor of the Wisconsin State Journal for five years. She has also worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, the Kansas City Star, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and The Detroit News.

The Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics seeks those who have acted with integrity without compromising or ignoring ethical principles, said Stephen J. A. Ward, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics. When faced with a tough judgment call, an ethical dilemma, or pressure to ignore ethical values, the honorees have made firm decisions with clarity and according to ethical principles, added Ward, who is also Burgess Professor of Journalism Ethics.

The committee will give Bier the award midmorning at the Second Annual Journalism Ethics Conference, April 30, 2010, sponsored by the Center for Journalism Ethics. The center is in the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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Biography

With almost 40-years of tenure, Tom Bier is regarded by many as the dean of Madison journalists. Bier, vice president and station manager of WISC-TV, Channel 3000.com and TVW, located in Madison, Wisc. , has been a tireless fighter for local First Amendment freedoms and has been prominent in efforts to improve Freedom of Information laws.

He has devoted many hours to the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) and the WBA’s Broadcast News Council. He served as a regional director of the  Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and was a board member for the Northwest Broadcast News Association, a six-state news group. He is president of We the People, a regional project that unites news outlets in joint civic journalism efforts.

Nationally, he was a member of the RTNDA board and was its chair in 1989-90. He currently is a board member of the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation.

A native of Janesville, Wisc., Bier is a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army, serving in Long Binh, Vietnam, in 1969-70. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 1969 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in speech communications with an emphasis in Radio and television.

He and Kathy Bier have been married since 1970. They live in Madison and have two grown daughters.

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The Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics Award

The award

The Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics Award honors journalists who, individually or as a team, have acted with integrity without compromising or ignoring ethical principles. When faced with a tough judgment call, an ethical dilemma, or pressure to ignore ethical values, they have made firm decisions with clarity and according to ethical principles.

The award also considers journalists who have displayed an inspiring, on-going commitment to journalism in the public interest.

Who presents the award?

The award is an initiative of the Center for Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The center directs the award process, selects the judges, and presents the award at its annual journalism ethics conference.

Why an ethics award?

The award recognizes and supports great journalism at a time when economic, social and technological forces threaten to undermine quality journalism and diminish the ability of journalists to practice their craft ethically. The award and the ethics center act as a counter-balancing force for ethical, democratic journalism.

How are winners chosen?

Since the award is new, the process for selecting candidates is evolving. For the first award, presented on April 30 to journalist Tom Bier, a committee of working and retired journalists considered candidates from two sources.

The first source was submissions sent to the award feature on the ethics web site. 

The second source was candidates identified through inquiries by committee members. The members reviewed the past year of journalism and contacted editors to encourage nominations and identify candidates.

After nominations were collected, the committee evaluated the candidates according to award criteria.

In the years ahead, the plan is to expand the submission process to include submissions from both journalists and the public. The center hopes to develop the award into a national ethics award.

Who were the judges for the first award (2010)?

The committee was led by Ellen Foley, former editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and now executive assistant and director of development at Madison Area Technical College.

The other committee members were:

  • Herman Baumann, principal, Green Line Strategies, of Palatine, Ill.
  • Dan Flannery, executive editor of The Post Crescent in Appleton, Wisc.
  • Judy Frankel, project manager at Putnam Roby Williamson Communications in Madison
  • Jack Mitchell, professor emeritus of journalism at UW
  • John Smalley, editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison




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