President Trump is too extreme in his criticism of the news media, says Matt Breen, the 2018 Jack Shelley Award winner.
“I understand the First Amendment allows him to speak about us just as it allows us to have freedom to report,” Breen, KTIV anchor and reporter in Sioux City, said. “But to call us an enemy of the people goes too far.”
The president, Breen says, has millions of supporters who will believe what he says even without any evidence.
Local stations across the country have been fair and accurate in their reporting, Breen said. It’s a small number of news outlets “from the fringes of our industry who sort of shout into the wind to get attention” that have biased reporting, he said. He’s always tried to be objective in his 23 years of reporting, and hasn’t worked with any journalists who don’t follow the basic tenets of accuracy and fairness, Breen said.
Those are reasons that led KTIV News Director Keith Bliven to nominate Breen for the Jack Shelley Award. Bliven says Breen is also a mentor. “He takes time to help the young journalists at KTIV get better. Not just by showing them their mistakes but how to keep from making them in the future, thereby helping them grow.”
Breen received the Shelley Award at the 2018 IBNA convention for “outstanding contributions to the field of broadcast journalism.” The award is the highest honor a broadcast journalist in Iowa can receive and has been presented annually since 1972 by the association. (See a full list of past winners.)
The name of the winner is kept secret until the announcement at the annual banquet. Breen said he was “in utter shock and disbelief” when he heard his name. He says he is honored to receive the award named after Iowa’s legendary newsman. “If there was a Mt. Rushmore for Iowa journalists, Jack Shelley would be the first likeness on it,” he said.
Breen says journalists make a difference in people’s lives and are “absolutely essential.” Citing coverage of the 2011 Missouri River flood as an example, Breen said news outlets, including KTIV, provided invaluable information to people displaced by the flood. It was a major commitment to reporting as the flood and clean-up went on for two and a half months that summer. It was by far the biggest story he has covered, Breen said.
Breen’s commitment has often come at a “great sacrifice to his family,” Bliven wrote in his nomination of Breen for the award. “He has missed ballgames and many other important dates in his family’s lives to be at work to make sure the news was delivered,” Bliven said.
Somehow he balances it all though. “Matt is a family man, husband and dad,” Bliven says. “He is the type of father I would like to be someday.”
While Breen is a serious journalist, his career has had its lighter moments. Early in his career, Breen was a weatherman as well as a reporter at KTTC in Rochester, Minnesota. He recalled a letter from a viewer who said she appreciated his weather reports, but thought he delivered them with a bit too much enthusiasm.
“You look like one of those wind-up monkey toys,” she wrote. “I’ll never forget that, he chuckled. “I might have toned it down since then.”
Watch a tribute video to Matt Breen.