Greg Victor, the Op/Ed and Forum editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was gracious, as usual, when he spoke about receiving the inaugural Ellen Soeteber Award for Mentorship from Alfred Friendly Press Partners.
“I should be giving you an award,” Victor said during the celebration dinner marking the end of the six-month fellowship program run by Alfred Friendly Press Partners. “Having foreign journalists come to Pittsburgh and work in our newsroom has been one of the most meaningful parts of my personal and professional life,” Victor said during the event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 10. “I’ve made so many lifelong friends.”
Victor and his colleagues at the Post-Gazette have been mentoring Alfred Friendly Fellows for 16 years. He always invites Fellows into his home and on outings with his wife, Rekha, and 17-year-old son, Peter.
“He’s grown up with every Friendly Fellow I’ve mentored; they all remember him, even when he was very small, Victor said. “It gives the Fellows an inside look at our family, an American family, and we get to learn about their countries, and their lives and their families. The personal connections and the network and the familial bonds this program creates is really the magic here.”
Victor talked about hosting Fellows who come from countries where there is no effective freedom of the press and where professional journalists sometimes have to worry about being tortured or killed because of the stories they report or edit or post on websites.
“We take so much for granted, the rights and protections we have,” Victor said. “We don’t use them very wisely sometimes but we certainly take them for granted. (The Friendly Fellows) remind us of what an important role we have, especially in a time when we’re kind of depressed in the newspaper industry.
“To have the Friendly Fellows come into our newsroom and talk about their lives and their work and the risks they take to hold people accountable, it reminds us of why we got into journalism, about what our values are. That’s invaluable. I should give you an award. But I didn’t bring one. But I should have. Thank you very much.”
Ellen Soeteber, a top newspaper editor for three decades who died this year in Florida, was a board member of the Alfred Friendly Foundation, and a longtime mentor and supporter of the program.