Lelan Statom (BS/JEM ’86), an Emmy-award winning meteorologist with NewsChannel 5 in Nashville and co-host of Talk of the Town, the station’s top-rated talk show, received the 2016 CCI Diversity Award on February 19 at the eighth annual CCI Experience Diversity Banquet held at Bearden Banquet Hall in Knoxville.
Statom is the treasurer and past-president of the Nashville Association of Black Journalists and a member of 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee. He also volunteers with the Tennessee and Davidson County 4-H and serves on several boards. He is a charter member of the UT Knoxville Alumni Board of Directors and an emeritus member of CCI’s Board of Visitors.
He has received several awards and honors during his time in Nashville, including a 2007 Mid-South regional Emmy award for coverage of the April 2006 tornadoes, three Emmy Award nominations for best weathercast and a 2006 Tennessee Associated Press Award for Best Weathercast in the state.
Statom also delivered the banquet keynote during which he told the audience about his early career experiences as a person of color working in TV news. In particular, he indicated that the diversity he and another co-worker brought to the newsroom helped their station do a better, more complete job of covering events and stories in the black community. This, in turn, allowed the station to serve a broader base of viewers and significantly improved the quality of its coverage.
Statom went on to challenge banquet attendees to bring new vitality and creativity to their diversity efforts within their own organizations and to work to expand inclusion and respect for others.
The CCI Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS) hosted the banquet as its major fundraiser. The students organized the event and the cultural performances, including dance and music, representing a broad spectrum of cultures and nationalities, under the leadership of DSLS Director and Communication Studies Lecturer Alice Wirth. The funds raised by the event are used to support a variety of educational opportunities such as scholarships and field trips to major cities to meet with communication and information industry leaders and potential employers and to network with CCI alumni.
“This event allows us to bring together students, faculty, and community members from all cultural backgrounds in a celebratory atmosphere,” said Wirth. “DSLS students gain confidence and valuable experience by working on the event. Working together toward a common goal inspires them to embrace and value the differences in others while reinforcing the value of their own uniqueness.”