Larry Hobbs receives 2020 McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism

Larry Hobbs, a feature writer and reporter at The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Georgia) has been named the recipient of the 2020 Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism.

This award, presented during Grady Salutes on Friday, April 29, recognizes Hobbs for his initial and subsequent reporting on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. 

“I am thrilled that Larry Hobbs is this year’s recipient of the local journalism award endowed in my name by Grady Thrasher and Kathy Prescott,” said Pete McCommons, the publisher and editor of Flagpole Magazine in Athens. “Larry is a great example of the local reporter who doggedly follows a difficult story in spite of all the other assignments that compete for his time and attention.”

A Lower Alabama native and 1984 graduate of Troy University, Hobbs spent the bulk of his early career working for Florida newspapers, including the Palm Beach Daily News and the Palm Beach Post, among others. He started writing for The Brunswick News in 2014, roughly six years before the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. 

“Larry Hobbs and his colleagues at The Brunswick News did what journalists do: they heard of a potential misjustice, they investigated it, they demanded accountability from those in charge, and they ultimately saw one of Brunswick’s, and Georgia’s, most horrific acts to its conclusion. They performed journalism, at its finest,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. 

Larry Hobbs accepts the 2020 Pete McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism on the stage next to Charles Davis, dean of Grady College.
Larry Hobbs (left) accepts the 2020 Pete McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism on the stage next to Charles Davis (right), dean of Grady College. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Each year, the McCommons Award, sponsored by Grady College, honors outstanding leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism in community journalism. It highlights the substantial contributions of community journalism to civic life and inspires students to pursue careers in community journalism.

In this case, Hobbs began reporting on the Amhaud Arbery shooting the day Arbery died. Hobbs’ relentless reporting was picked up by national media organizations, including Time, CNN and Poynter, among others, and depicted as a catalyst for the Amhaud Arbery trial. 

“Larry’s reporting was important in many ways, and we are glad to have this opportunity to honor him for the work he did,” explained Kyser Lough, the chair of the McCommons Award Committee and an assistant professor in Grady’s Department of Journalism.

“Even before this award, I have been using Larry’s reporting on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in my classes as an example of the importance of local, community journalism, and I know other journalism professors have been too,” Lough added. “While this year the award went to a reporter in our home state, it’s important to remember that this is a national award and we accept nominations from across the country.”

Larry Hobbs (right) stands nest to Kyser Lough (left), the chair of the McCommons Award Committee and an assistant professor in Grady’s Department of Journalism.
Larry Hobbs (right) stands next to Kyser Lough (left), the chair of the McCommons Award Committee and an assistant professor in Grady’s Department of Journalism. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

In Hobbs’ comments accepting the award, he gave credit to his team at The Brunswick News for fueling their publication. He also made a point that he doesn’t consider himself or his colleagues heroes — just people “doing their jobs.”

“Truth more often thrives in communities where newspapers abide,” Hobbs continued. “Those in positions of public trust are held accountable when newspapers simply do their jobs. When an ugly truth hid behind the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery, The Brunswick News did its job. We covered this sad story relentlessly from the day it occurred right up until justice was served in both state and federal courts. We owed that to our community, and to Ahmaud and to his family.”

This sentiment was also expressed by Janice Hume, the head of the Department of Journalism, while introducing Hobbs. 

“It was Mr. Hobbs’ attention to detail and dogged reporting that brought the story of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder first to local and then national attention,” said Hume. “Without the work of a local journalist who understood and cared about his community, there would have been no justice for Mr. Arbery’s family. Local journalism matters, and Mr. Hobbs’ work is a fine example of why. We are grateful for his service to the Brunswick community and beyond.” 

More details and a form to nominate a community journalist for a future McCommons Award can be found on the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism webpage.

Gagliano receives 2019 McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism

Katie Gagliano, a breaking news and education reporter for The Acadiana Advocate (Lafayette, Louisiana), has been named the recipient of the 2019 Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism.

The award is presented by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and was given to Gagliano in a ceremony at Grady College on Oct. 22, 2019.

Gagliano received the honor based on her coverage of a series of church arsons in the Louisiana communities of St. Landry Parish in April 2019.

Gagliano and McCommons participated in a short question and answer session following the award presentation.

Gagliano, who is a 2018 graduate of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication, had worked at the paper for two weeks when the arsons occurred.

In her acceptance speech, Gagliano said her length of tenure at the paper was a lesson in itself. “It really shows, for students especially, you don’t have to live in a community forever to have an impact there or to care about people you are reporting on and serving.”

A committee of Grady College students and faculty from the Department of Journalism reviewed the nominations and selected Gagliano as the recipient.

The nomination for Gagliano’s coverage in The Acadiana Advocate described: “Katie’s consistent coverage of this series of events of an arsonist burning down three black churches in Louisiana showcases how a community can rally together to support one another. Her coverage spoke to national journalists, who also encouraged folks to donate. Through viral tweets and politician visits, this community was able to raise $2.1 million in under a week to go toward the rebuilding of these churches.”

Gagliano was interviewed by several news organizations about her coverage, including NPR.

In Gagliano’s comments following the acceptance of the award, she said that her work in community journalism is about the people in the community and keeping them at the heart of the journalism. “We are the ones who are still there when the sensationalism has ended,” Gagilano said. “We are the ones who are going to keep telling the stories for these people.”

The inaugural McCommons Award was presented to its namesake, Pete McCommons, editor of the Flagpole Magazine in 2018.

The McCommons Award honors outstanding leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism in community journalism. Supported by an endowment, the annual award was created to recognize professional journalists, students or faculty who produce community journalism of consequence. The award highlights the substantial contributions of community journalism to civic life and inspires students to pursue careers in community journalism.

Links to a few of Gagliano’s features from
The Acadiana Advocate about the church arsons can be found here:

More details and a form to nominate a community journalist for a future McCommons Award can be found on the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism webpage.