As Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos put it in his nomination letter, Shelledy “directs a sort of news empire in which LSU students investigate cold civil-rights murders by making FOI requests and helping families turn the page on a scarring chapter in their lives; learn to cover the Louisiana state legislature, or work with news editors around the state in fulfilling requests on a wide range of reporting assignments.”
“In student media and in the classroom, Jay has improved the journalism of several thousand students during his 11 years at LSU,” Ceppos said.
For six years, students in his Field Experience class have traveled to the rural South and Washington, D.C., to tell the stories of unsolved civil-rights era murders. The students also investigate cases of Louisiana convicts, usually being held for life without the possibility of parole, who appear to have been convicted unfairly. Shelledy this year expanded the class to include the Manship School News Service Statehouse Bureau that has covered the 2016 Louisiana legislative session for 13 daily newspapers across the state, filling more nearly 400 stories since the first special session.
In letters supporting his nomination, students described Shelledy’s class as one of the best experiences of their time at LSU, with one describing him as “the type of nurturing, hyper-attentive mentor all students hope to encounter when they head off for college.” Jack Richards, a reporter with the Manship School Statehouse Bureau, recently said Shelledy was “possibly the best teacher I have ever had in my life, especially when it comes to practical, hands-on stuff.”
Quint Forgey, editor of The Daily Reveille and a reporter for the Manship News Service Statehouse Bureau, wrote in his nomination letter of the impact Shelledy has had on his development as a journalist.
“He’s celebrated with me in some of the happiest moments of my young professional career,” Forgey wrote, “and he’s stuck up for me in some of the nastiest. Every opportunity that I’ve been offered thus far in the world of journalism can somehow be traced back to Jay Shelledy.”
Amy Brittain, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post who first met Shelledy in 2005 when she worked at The Daily Reveille, called him “a champion for the students,” and said he inspired her to doggedly go after tough stories. “As the director of Student Media, Jay encouraged young reporters to pursue ambitious and investigative stories,” Brittain wrote in support of Shelledy’s nomination. “I am a better reporter from having learned from him, and I know that countless other students and alumni feel the same way.”
Before joining the faculty of the Manship School, Shelledy was editor of the Salt Lake Tribune for 12 years. He has more than 30 years’ daily newspaper and wire service experience, and has been a Pulitzer Prize juror and an author.