Lifetime Achievement Award, Deb Withey: Inspirational voice for storytelling, communities

The recipients of SND’s Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2012 are Roger Black and Deborah Withey. The awards were presented at SND’s annual workshop and exhibition in Cleveland this fall. Before Black and Withey, only 19 have received the honor.

Withey’s award was presented by Denis Finley, editor of the Virginian-Pilot and Jonathon Berlin, SND president and graphics editor at the Chicago Tribune

Here is a transcript of the presentation.

For her art, her passion, her teaching, her dedication to small newspapers, and the communities they cover. For her devotion to storytelling and constant pushing of the boundaries of our craft.

SND is proud to present tonight, Deb Withey with SND’s lifetime Achievement Award.

Deb’s art and passion are constant through all her experiences, and through what people who have worked with her, learned from her say.

Deb graduated from Syracuse University. She was born in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. Her news design career started at her hometown paper the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre.

That is where she worked when she first attended the SND workshop, the Society’s third, hosted in New York City.

Deb’s impact on smaller papers is unmatched. It was demonstrated in the first quick courses that hop-scotched across the country and around the world in the following years, in her redesign work.
Deb was a staff illustrator and later, assistant art director at the Dallas Times Herald. She joined the Detroit Free Press in 1987 and became design director.

In 1995, Deb became design consultant for Knight Ridder Newspapers, where she was able to bring her energy, her unique vision to KR publications across the country. Transforming not just newspapers, but newsrooms, designers and in a sense communities.

She redesigned most of the KR’s 36 newspapers. Four were chosen as SND’s World’s Best Designed over those years.

Deb was president of SND in 1995. She taught design all over the U.S. and world. She was a founding judge at the Malofiej workshop in Pamplona and a visiting teacher at University of Navarra there and a visiting scholar at Ball State, University of Missouri, Syracuse and Michigan State.

In 2004, Deb joined the Virginian-Pilot as deputy managing editor for presentation. Her stunning daily work and redesign of the Pilot set a new bar for what news design can be inspiring a newsroom and a generation of new designers.

In 2009 Deb solidified her efforts as a community artist, illustrator and printmaker, founding Cheese + Pickles studio in Wales. She teaches young and old and inspires students to discover the power of their own creativity. She had her first solo exhibit in March 2011.

For the incredible storytelling and passion she has brought to newspapers large and small, for the reinforcement of SND’s role as a teacher, for a lifetime of inspiration to so many, SND would like to honor Deb with the Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest individual award the Society can bestow.

About Jonathon Berlin

is graphics editor of the Chicago Tribune and a past president of the Society For News Design.

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