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|Contact: Christine Payton||May 1, 2008|
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|COMMUNICATIONS DEPT. TO HONOR MOUTON AS DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI
| Television news anchor Leslie Mouton is a survivor and a pioneer. For her unique experience and courage amidst a public battle with cancer, she has won the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2008 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Department of Communication.
Mouton, who graduated from then-University of Southwestern Louisiana with a degree in broadcasting in 1988, has been an anchor for KSAT-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Antonio, since 1999.
While at KSAT, Mouton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and continued to anchor and report throughout her ordeal. She also made the difficult decision to publicize her battle.
"I struggled with the decision to go public," Mouton said. "It was an internal debate between what I've been taught about not 'being' the story and just reporting it, and knowing I was in the position to make a real impact."
Mouton boldly brought her struggle with cancer to the public's attention one day in April of 2001, when she anchored a newscast while bald. She had been receiving chemotherapy treatments and had previously worn a wig while on the job, but abandoned it for one night to share the story of her ordeal.
She also detailed her battle with cancer, including surgery, treatments, and the impact it had on her husband and two-year-old daughter. Soon national news programs were covering her story, including Good Morning America, Inside Edition, Oprah, and ABC's Primetime.
Mouton says that she decided to go public to bring attention to breast cancer and encourage women to regularly examine for signs of cancer.
"If I weren't a journalist, I would not have had the platform to reach women on such a large scale," Mouton noted. "I used my skills as a reporter and my experience with cancer to put a face on breast cancer for young women and spread my message of the importance of self exams. Early detection can mean the difference between life and death."
Her platform as a journalist started at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where Mouton received the training and skills necessary to present herself on the news and help others who are going through the same experience she said.
"USL was the foundation of my career," Mouton said. "The classes laid the groundwork for my chosen field and provided me with the necessary skills and contacts to land my first job."
One class that especially stood out for her was Communication Law, a class, which she found both, "fascinating and tremendously difficult to study for."
"Learning about the legalities of my chosen career field and the responsibilities that go along with it, I think, are extremely important," said Mouton. "To this day some of the cases I learned in that class impact how I write a story."
Mouton also noted a fondness for her first-ever project in journalism, a story where she had to track down litterers on campus.
The advice Mouton most strongly gives to people who are looking to follow in her footsteps is to pay attention to what professors have to say, take coursework seriously, have fun while at school, and seize what opportunities college provides.
"My internship at a local television station would not have been possible without USL," she noted. "Because of that internship, I landed my first reporting job (at Alexandria station KLAX) two weeks before graduation."
Mouton's career will most likely always be defined by her public battle with cancer, however. Now cancer-free, she gives motivational speeches and serves as a board member with the American Cancer Society on top of her anchoring duties. Her experience has taught her a lot about reporting and about life itself.
"What I learned, is that as news reporters and anchors, we are trusted by our communities to inform and educate," she said. "People invite us into their homes every night. They are more than just loyal viewers - many feel that we are part of their family. So, sometimes our own personal battles can have the greatest impact of all.
"I have learned that with my position as a journalist comes great responsibility and I take that seriously. By opening up my private life and battle with cancer, I was given the chance to save lives. If one woman did a self-exam because of my story and her cancer was found early, what greater impact could there be?
Mouton will receive her award at the Petroleum Club of Lafayette, Friday evening, May 2, 2008, when the Department of Communication holds it annual awards banquet for scholarship winners and outstanding graduates.
Document last revised Thursday, May 1, 2008 1:52 PM
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