Joi Spencer, Dean of UCR’s School of Education, conducts a Q & A with Kevin Merida, Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Times, during the 54th Annual Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture
June 2, 2023

Going Behind the Headlines

The donor-supported Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture Series brings leaders in print, broadcast, and digital media to campus each year.

Author: Devlin Smith
June 2, 2023
 Fund Stories

In early May, members of the UC Riverside community gathered at the University Theatre for an evening with Kevin Merida, executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, to learn about his career in journalism and his insights into the future of media.

“Hearing Kevin Merida talk about his encounters as a journalist and their rewarding moments was inspiring,” said Jaelyn Gonzalez a fourth-year political science major at UCR and Radar editor for The Highlander student newspaper who attended the event. “Inviting working editors and journalists to campus has been one of my most valuable experiences as a student at UCR.”

Merida’s appearance at UCR was part of the annual Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture Series, established in 1966 by Howard H “Tim” Hays Jr., chairman emeritus of the Press-Enterprise and a civic leader who was instrumental in UCR’s establishment. During Hays’s 51-year career with the paper, the Press-Enterprise was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service and won two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. During his lifetime, Hays received numerous honors including the 2003 Media Law Resource Center's William J. Brennan Jr. Defense of Freedom Award, the Edward Willis Scripps Award for Service to the First Amendment, and induction into the California Press Foundation Hall of Fame.

““The goal of this free public lecture is to bring someone of exceptional achievement in journalism to Riverside to address important topics related to the news media,” said Jorge Ancona, assistant vice chancellor, alumni engagement at UCR. “The lecture underscores UCR’s commitment to civic engagement and serves as a forum for public discourse.”

Joi Spencer with Kevin Merida during the 54th Annual Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture

Ongoing support for the lecture series comes from the donor-supported Hays Endowment for the Hays/Press-Enterprise Lecture Series, established in 1999 by the Hays family to honor the journalistic legacy of the late newspaperman. Thanks to the commitment of the Hays family, UCR has hosted an impressive array of editors, reporters, and publishers from the worlds of print, broadcast, and digital media. Past lecturers include publisher Katharine Graham, food critic Jonathan Gold, and “1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, all Pulitzer Prize winners.

“The Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture has brought some of the most iconic and influential people in American journalism to the UCR campus for more than a half-century,” said Johnny Cruz, associate vice chancellor and chief communications and marketing officer at UCR. “As a result, our campus and community have an opportunity to gain exposure to and participate in discussions that advance our standing as one of the country’s most important institutions.”

Through the lecture series, UCR community members are educated not only on the mechanics of journalistic work but provided insights into what it takes to cover breaking news and controversial issues.

Audience during the 54th Annual Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture

“The Hays Press-Enterprise Lectures have always been informative, thoughtful, and well presented,” said Kathy Wright ’81 M.A. and Dwight Tate ’71 T.C., UCR alumni and long-time supporters of the university. “The speakers are tops in their field and provide insights and updates on important and timely topics for the audience. We look forward to the scheduled lectures and try to attend whenever possible.”

For students, the lecture series provides the opportunity to learn from and build connections with leaders in a profession they’re planning to enter.

“This was the perfect chance to hear someone who I relate to as a Black person in such a prominent role in journalism,” said Lauryn Dingle, a fourth-year media and cultural studies major at UCR who attended the Merida lecture. “I think this was a great networking opportunity for me personally to meet other journalists there. This was something that was helpful and provided amazing insight from the journalism field.”

The lecture series is just one of the many contributions Hays made to the UCR campus. He endowed the chair in the University Honors program, endowed a scholarship in memory of his father, was influential in moving the university’s photo museum to Downtown Riverside to become the California Museum of Photography, and was a founding member of the U.C. Riverside Foundation board of trustees.


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