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Alumna Kim Lawton `85 shapes PBS’ religion coverage

At the Reunion Celebration Banquet during Homecoming Weekend, communication alum Kim Lawton ’85 humbly accepted the Distinguished Alumna Achievement Award. Each year, the office of alumni and parent relations salutes alumni who have made exceptional contributions to society or Messiah College. In particular, the Distinguished Alumna Achievement Award recognizes a lifetime of vocational accomplishment that reflects the mission of the college.

Currently working in Washington, D.C., Lawton serves as managing editor and correspondent for PBS’ “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” a news-magazine format show that she helped to start in 1997. “We recognized that there was a need in mainstream media for coverage of religion that was intelligent.” The program, which reaches 275 stations, highlights the importance of religion in politics and people’s lives without advocating a particular religion.

Love of travel and journalism
As a first-year student at Messiah, Lawton knew she wanted to travel, but she was uncertain as to what major she should pursue. Recognizing that she enjoyed talking, her father suggested that she choose communication. At first, Lawton took foundational communication courses. Then, in the fall of her junior year, she took part in the American Studies Program, where she spent a semester in Washington, D.C. working at radio news network. It was then that Lawton developed a passion for journalism.

After being offered an entry level position at a radio network in Philadelphia, Lawton made the decision not to return to Messiah for the last semester of her senior year. Rather, she completed her degree through correspondence courses and managed to kick-start her career at the same time.

On the job
When asked to describe a day at work, Lawton responded, “There is no typical day.” She explained that she fulfills both internal and correspondent roles for “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.” Kim relayed that because the show covers news, she has to be aware of what’s happening. “I cover wide array of topics because religion touches on everything from politics and pop culture to foreign affairs and Supreme Court cases.”  As a correspondent, she has had the opportunity to travel to 40 countries, including Africa, Turkey, Israel and Italy.

Kim shared that her favorite part of the job is being able to meet people where they are, discuss their concerns and passions and tell their stories. “I love seeing first hand religion in action. Faith motivates people.”

Lawton recognizes that Messiah’s commitment to integrate faith and learning, as well as the enriching opportunities the college offers, have prepared her for her current position. “Faith is part of who you are no matter what you do.”

Lifetime achievement
Upon hearing that she had been selected as the winner of this year’s Distinguished Alumna Achievement Award, Lawton exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I’m getting a lifetime achievement award already. It’s a great honor!” She feels humbled to receive the award and admits, “I hope I have a lot more to accomplish!”

Lawton urges students, “Don’t be afraid, but be realistic. The world of communication is changing rapidly, and we don’t know where it is going to end up. It’s exciting, but troubling at the same time.” She advocates connecting with others to tell their stories and encourages journalists to maintain their standards of excellence.

Story by Emily Carter `16. This profile of Kim Lawton first appeared in the October issue of Commraderie, the newsletter of the Communication Department.

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