National Press Club picks SUU Alumnus as VP

Published: January 16, 2015 | Author: Bailey Bowthorpe | Read Time: 2 minutes

2002 Communication Alumnus Thomas BurrIn February of 2009, 11 journalists stepped into the Roosevelt Room in the White House for a roundtable discussion with the newly inaugurated President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Upon their arrival, each journalist discovered the assigned seats for the meeting, at which point Southern Utah University alumnus and the Salt Lake Tribune’s Washington correspondent, Thomas Burr (’02), realized he would spend the next hour of his life sitting right next to the leader of the free world.

“It was a bit intimidating,” Burr recalled. “He only bumped my knee once.”

Though his first, it would not be Burr’s last time breaking bread with the Commander in Chief as he has progressed in the DC press corps. Burr assumed his new post as vice president of the National Press Club on Jan. 16, a position for which he was unanimously elected by his peers within the organization.

The National Press Club is considered the world’s leading professional organization for journalists and communication professionals. The organization hosts prominent speakers such as the President of the United States, heads of state from dozens of countries, and various politicians. The club also has a non-profit element which hosts trainings and educational sessions as well as honors outstanding journalists for their work.

Burr explained his main responsibilities as vice president are to support the president and fill in such roles as needed to help the club’s goals of promoting journalistic endeavors, protecting press freedoms worldwide and ensuring the club’s century-old history of being ‘the place where news happens.’

“I look forward to continuing to make the National Press Club a go-to place for working journalists and those who want to make news,” he said.

Burr has worked as a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune in Washington, DC since 2005 covering Congress, the White House and federal agencies while paying special attention to issues affecting Utah and the west.

Keeping a level head in such a partisan-fueled atmosphere can be challenging, but Burr maintains a positive attitude toward working in the political environment.

“You’re always going to be on someone’s bad side, especially if you’re doing your job right as a journalist,” he said. “I’ve learned that as long as one is accurate and fair, most people are professional enough to recognize you play a key role in a democracy.”

From small-town, Sevier County to Cedar City, Utah, to Washington, DC, Burr believes his SUU education has helped him to become a successful journalist.

“There’s little that compares to a learning environment with smaller classrooms, attentive professors and opportunities for hands-on experience,” he said. “I lucked into all 3 at SUU.”

Photo Credit: The National Press Club

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