Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters Accepts Distinguished Journalist Prize, Salutes Out-of-Box Editors From Her Past

Miller Mobley; Austin Hargrave

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists also honored Robin Abcarian, Sharon McNary, Miriam Hernandez, Norberto Santana Jr., and Kelly Aviles.

Kim Masters' recent bylines in the #MeToo and Time's Up era have exposed harassment and sexual misconduct claims against top Hollywood names like Harvey Weinstein, John Lasseter and Roy Price

But on Thursday night, while accepting a Distinguished Journalist Award from the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at Omni Los Angeles Hotel, Masters only had imagination on the brain. The editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter and the host of KCRW's The Business looked back on her career and thanked all of the editors and colleagues who helped weave her in and out of new beats by displaying out-of-the-box thinking.

"The thing is that I had only covered law, and they said, 'Why don’t you cover Hollywood?'" said Masters, who has served as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Time and Esquire in addition to staff jobs at The Washington Post. "That was an exercise in imagination that I don’t think you see in editors often enough."

Masters also discussed her first foray into journalism at an education newsletter. "I was very slow," she said. "They told me I might not be right for this profession." But she didn't stop trying, and what made her successful, she believes, were the editors who envisioned a path for her that she didn't see coming. 

At The Washington Post, for instance, she was offered a job in the Style section. “I wouldn’t necessarily have thought, 'Hire me for this,' but they did," she said. “It was this wide-open thing. And it’s kind of the magic of journalism." Then, as a reporter at Marketplace, the process repeated — "eventually someone thought at Marketplace, 'Maybe she could do radio.'"

Masters was one of six honorees to take the stage during SPJ's 42nd annual Distinguished Journalists Awards dinner. Other awards went to L.A. Times columnist Robin Abcarian, KPCC's Sharon McNary, ABC7's Miriam Hernandez, Voice of OC's Norberto Santana Jr., and California Aware's Kelly Aviles. MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff was due to give the keynote address but was still away on assignment at the Mexican border. 

Los Angeles Times columnist Abcarian received multiple rounds of applause during her speech, which referenced the turbulent times in the downtown newsroom. "As you know, this has been a crazy, weird, bizarre, intense, depressing and joyful time at everyone’s favorite local newspaper," said Abcarian of the Times, which was sold to billionaire doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong by Tronc last month at a time when Times publisher Ross Levinsohn faced allegations of sexual misconduct. He has since exited the newspaper. "To say that we have been on a roller coaster ride for the past few years is a shameful understatement."

Abcarian also referenced the Tronc times. "Our corporate overlords at Tronc were on the verge of laying off about a quarter of our staff, when Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong swooped in to buy the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune. We are grateful to him, and we are cautiously optimistic about our future," she continued. "All of us hope he will be able to reverse the death-by-a-thousand-cuts Tronc strategy that has taken us from a robust newsroom of 1,200 to somewhere around 400." 

The shocking statistic is one that has become quite common in the ever consolidating media business, but Abcarian ended her speech on a positive note. "You know, many years ago, a wise person once said that only two things keep Los Angeles connected: the freeways and the Los Angeles Times," she concluded. "I can imagine a world without freeways. But I cannot imagine a world without my beloved Los Angeles Times. I’m really looking forward to what comes next. And I hope you are, too."

Frank Mottek, who anchors the morning drive business reports on CBS station KNX 1070 NewsRadio and KNX Money Hour, served as master of ceremonies, and stepped up to deliver a humorous impromptu keynote in Soboroff's absence, which followed introductory remarks by Stephanie Bluestein, SPJ/LA president. 

Mottek introduced the first presenter of the night, Janice Min, the former co-president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. Min told the ballroom crowd about how she first met Masters, the first person she hired when she took the job to run THR

”I could tell you lots of entertaining, profanity-laced stories about Kim and our discussions about what makes her great beyond the obvious," Min said, instead choosing to reflect on how she and Masters first decided to work together. A mutual friend suggested that they team up, and Masters agreed with a simple note: "[I hear] you’re the real deal and we should work together. So, I’m fine working with you." Min remembered this moment fondly. "It turns out we are both instinct players, and together our instincts luckily said go," Min told the audience.

In honoring Masters, Min also reached out to Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos to get his take on Masters' journalistic talents and how it feels to receive a phone call from her. “Your body tightens up, your breathing becomes more shallow, and your head spins. You need to go through worst case scenarios: what catastrophe has struck the industry, am I in trouble, what has she heard, and from where?” Gianopulos relayed.

Masters, for her part, closed her remarks by naming writers and editors who propelled her career, including current THR editorial director Matthew Belloni, who was seated in the audience. “Thank you to everyone who is here or not here who helped me on this path," Masters said. She offered a special note of appreciation to the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for giving her the award, adding, "My mother is 92 years old and you have made her very happy.”