Dan Kane, an investigative journalist at The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., has been named the 2015 recipient of the Reynolds School of Journalism’s Frank McCulloch Award for Courage in Journalism.
Kane is being honored for his work in uncovering the academic fraud scandal involving the athletics program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His reporting exposed a pattern in which athletes were directed to questionable or nonexistent classes. He was subject to violent threats from UNC fans and a variety of multimedia smear campaigns.
Kane will travel to Reno to receive the award in a University of Nevada, Reno campus ceremony at noon on Oct. 12 in the Wells Fargo Auditorium located on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. He will also discuss his work at a Center for Advanced Media Studies lecture at 4 p.m. in the Joe Crowley Student Union Theater on the third floor of the building. Both events are free and open to the public.
“When I learned I had been selected to receive the McCulloch Award I had an ‘I’m not worthy moment,’” Kane said. “Frank McCulloch is a legendary journalist. To receive an award in his name is a true honor for me.”
This award marks several years of extremely hard work for Kane and a team of dedicated journalists from the News & Observer. Journalists assisting Kane in his effort to uncover the academic fraud scandal include: Jane Stancill, higher education reporter; J. Andrew Curliss, former investigative reporter who is now the state government editor; Andrew Carter, a sports reporter who covers UNC; and executive editor John Drescher who also wrote several strong columns about the scandal. New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall wrote about Kane’s work helping to draw attention to and elevate the story nationwide. Last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education named him one of the 10 most influential people in higher education for his reporting on the UNC scandal.
“Any reporter has the ability to be an investigative journalist,” Kane said. “It’s the public’s right to know what is happening, and I encourage all aspiring and working journalists to conduct research, request records and ask the tough questions when things are not lining up properly.”
Kane, 54, has been a staff writer with The News & Observer since 1997. He covered city hall, higher education and state government beats before joining the investigations team in 2009. His 2010 series that opened up North Carolina’s personnel law won the Associated Press Managing Editors’ top award for First Amendment reporting and the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award. Kane grew up on a small dairy farm in Upstate New York and is a graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. He lives with his wife, Janet, and their son, Jack, in Durham, N.C.
The Frank McCulloch Courage in Journalism Award, established by and named for the distinguished foreign correspondent and newspaper executive who graduated from the Reynolds School in 1941, was first presented in 2011. It was created by McCulloch to honor courageous journalists, who did their work in the face of great risk or pressure.
“Dan Kane’s tenacious and courageous journalism typifies the spirit of the McCulloch Award,” said Reynolds School Dean Al Stavitsky.
McCulloch covered the Vietnam War, interviewed presidents and world leaders, celebrities such as the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and writers Hemingway and Steinbeck. He served as an editor and executive of leading newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
He was known for his courage and toughness as a reporter. In 1966 he reported that the U.S. was preparing for a major buildup of the war in Vietnam, despite denials from the White House. President Lyndon Johnson was so enraged he tried to have McCulloch thrown out of Vietnam and removed from the press corps. Even McCulloch’s co-workers at Time magazine criticized him for going against the president. However, history shows he was exactly right, and he had the story first.
Past McCulloch honorees include David Rohde of Reuters, then of the New York Times, who escaped captivity of the Taliban in Afghanistan; Barbara Davidson, a Los Angeles Times photojournalist who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of victims of street violence; and Adela Navarro Bello, a Tijuana editor whose Zeta newspaper reported aggressively on drug cartels even as several staff members were murdered.