On Lifetime Achievement Award winner Steve Dorsey — motivated, creative, smart, optimistic, an inspiration

The Society for News Design recognized Steve Dorsey of the Austin American-Statesman with its Lifetime Achievement Award on the final evening of its 37th Annual Workshop in Washington, D.C.

How to measure the impact of Steve Dorsey? The breadth of his service to SND is hard to match. The depth of his commitment to mentoring, teaching and forwarding the craft equally so. His work in Detroit continues to be an inspiration. Now, of course, he brings his immense talent to new work in Austin.

Dorsey was officially honored at an awards gala on Saturday, April 11, at the Newseum. He is the 24th Lifetime recipient.

The award, the Society’s highest individual honor, is presented for a significant body of work that has had lasting influence on the field of visual journalism; extraordinary service to SND and its members; or a combination of both.

In his own words

How others honored him

Dorsey’s co-workers and fellow SND volunteers use these words: Motivated, creative, smart, optimistic, an inspiration.

Presenting Dorsey his award in Washington were Lifetime Achievement recipients Bill Gaspard, the design director of China Daily, and Deborah Withey, the influential designer, art director and artist.

Here are highlights of what those who know Dorsey had to say:

Mario Garcia, founder and CEO of Garcia, and the first winner of SND’s Lifetime Achievement Award:

“I first met Steve Dorsey at a Poynter Fellowship Program when he was a college student.  It was obvious then that we were in the presence of a highly motivated, smart and creative person who would be a tremendous asset to our industry.  We were not wrong. I have watched Steve’s career closely and he is still climbing, creating and changing our craft for the better. What a well deserved accolade.  Lifetime Achievement for someone who still has a half life to continue to achieve. Grand.”

Bill Gaspard and Deborah Withey present the award to Steve Dorsey in Washington. (Photos by Kenney Marlatt)
Bill Gaspard and Deborah Withey present the award to Steve Dorsey in Washington. (Photos by Kenney Marlatt)

Rick Nease, formerly an artist with the Detroit Free Press:

“Working with Steve has been one of the greatest privileges I’ve experienced in my art career. His boundless optimism and creative talent remains a true inspiration. Plus, he’s funny as hell.”

Gayle Grin, former SND president and managing editor for design, National Post:

“Steve is a true champion of SND.  He has been our rock in good times and bad. And always an honest inspiration.”

Rolf Rehe, longtime Design Journal typography columnists and Design Research International:

“It was a pleasure to work with Steve, especially when he was editor of ‘Design’ magazine and I had the privilege of contributing my ‘Talking Type’ column. He was – and I am sure he still is – a bundle of energy and encouragement, always full of new ideas. When, at times, my stories on typography were not only of a purist nature but occasionally bordered on the dogmatic, he never requested any modification. His support made my writing even more enjoyable. It is hard for me to imagine what direction SND might have taken if Steve had not always been there in the midst of all activities. Recognizing him with the coveted ‘SND Lifetime Achievement Award’ is an honor he richly deserves.”

Jim Jennings, former SND president, who first hired Steve at the Lexington Herald-Leader
“I first met Steve while doing one of the competitions at Syracuse. I was in the final stages of looking for a slot at the Herald-Leader and had just about made-up my mind on an individual from Missouri. But Marshall Matlock pressed me to spend a couple of minutes with Steve.

“His portfolio wasn’t much, but his attitude and willingness to work was impressive. He had the job by the end of the conversation and proved to be one of the best hires I ever made. He was the perfect team player in a newsroom that was very suspicious of the growing influence of ‘those visual types.’ ”

Deborah Withey, former SND president, designer, art director and artist:

“Once upon a time, Steve and I both worked for a company called Knight-Ridder Newspapers, which did have some pretty spectacular moments in its day. It also loved to put creative people together in a room to “innovate.”

“One day, I was asked to pull a team together of talented journalists from all corners of the company, I’d heard that in Lexington, KY, some great things were happening and Steve was the man making the magic, so I invited him to join us in Detroit and from that moment on I have had a name for Steve that I’ve never actually uttered to anybody until now  . . .

“Mr. Can-Do! A more engaged, enthusiastic, and giving man you will not find! Thank you, Steve!”

Hans-Peter Janisch, longtime director of SND Dach, representing German-speaking countries and PressDesign International:

“Steve is one of the few visual journalists that really made a perfect transition from print to multimedia.  Without losing his style and his roots. And he will always be one of my favorite SND-buddies to share a refreshment after a long meeting…”

Michael Whitley, longtime SND volunteer and AME, Los Angeles Times:

“Steve showed me through the competition that a commitment to the well-being of the Society was less about getting credit and more about a willingness to do all the gritty work that needed to be done. Steve may be grittiest of us all.”

Carole Leigh Hutton, former editor and publisher Detroit Free Press:

“Steve is that rare newsroom leader who loves the chase but also loves the bigger challenge of keeping the business going.  And he brought all that to Detroit when he was so damn young it used to make me feel so damn old.”

David Kordalski, immediate past president of SND, AME/Visuals at the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“Steve Dorsey and the Society are so synonymous, so in synch, that it’s a wonder he didn’t change his middle name to Norman or Nathan — just to make his initials SND!”

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