Penny Muse Abernathy wins a well-deserved honor

I’m pleased to see that my friend Penny Muse Abernathy has been named the winner of the 2019 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize by the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business at the Columbia Journalism School.

(I couldn’t in good conscience fit Penny’s title into that sentence. She is the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina. Please let it be noted that academic titles are more wordy and pretentious than government titles. And I say that, knowing full well that my official title is Stembler Professional in Residence.)

The prize was awarded for her ground-breaking work in News Deserts. It’s well-deserved. Her research is being quoted everywhere. It also should frighten citizens who care about good government everywhere.

Raju Narisetti, director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship, said: “Her singular body of research on the state of local news as well as her studies on potential business models that could sustain future local news endeavors has driven real-world change and conversations among foundations, national news outlets, policy makers and the tech industry in America.”

I’m proud that I have been able to call her a friend for a long while and now can call her a colleague at UNC. I had the privilege in teaching one of her signature courses while she was working on the research. That course, “Leadership in a Time of Change,” was different for me and stretched my abilities. I’m grateful she asked me to teach it, and I’m grateful for the guidance she gave me.

Full disclosure: In exchange for talking with one of her other classes about journalism, she let me use her two Carolina basketball season tickets for a game. I told her I’d step in anytime.

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