NORMAN — By itself, there's nothing especially remarkable about a major university winning an award. When that award is an Emmy, though, people tend to take notice.
Mike Boettcher, a war correspondent and faculty member in the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, brought two of the awards to OU.
Boettcher won the awards for “American Valor: Home of the Brave,” a news package that focused on the war in Afghanistan. The package was a part of Afghan 101, a cooperative venture between the college and ABCNews.com.
In the project, Boettcher and his son, Carlos Boettcher, spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, delivering lectures to the college's students via Skype.
This marks the first time a university professor also serving as a war correspondent has won an Emmy, OU officials said. At a Tuesday news conference, Boettcher announced he was donating the Emmy statues to the college.
“These aren't my awards,” he said. “I didn't win these on my own. I won them with the help of a lot of people.”
Praise for students
OU President David Boren recognized Boettcher as well as the students who had participated in the project. The project gave students valuable insight into the field in which they'll eventually be working, he said.
Journalism plays a key role in making society function, Boren said.
It informs citizens and gives them the tools they need to participate in government. Because that role is a critical one, he said, it's important that the next generation of journalists are prepared for the responsibility.
“You are doing an exceptional job,” he said. “I really honor what you do.”
During the project, Boettcher and his son also sent back video and photos, which students used to produce stories focusing on the war's effect on those left behind. Under the guidance of journalism professor John Schmeltzer, students spoke with families of deployed troops, including many they interviewed during a trip to Fort Campbell, Ky.
Boettcher said he recognized the effect the project had on the students. One returned home from Fort Campbell having interviewed a woman whose husband had recently been killed in combat.
Interviewing people who had been affected by the war was a good experience for the students, Boettcher said. In an era when fewer than 1 percent of citizens serve in the military, many Americans don't understand the gravity of war.
That lack of understanding makes it easier for the nation to wage war without taking account of the consequences, he said.
“All of the students came back changed and engaged — not just as journalists, but as citizens of this country,” he said. “That, to me, was the greatest gift I could ever receive.”