by Kwame Shorter
Journalists and editors across the Chicago media landscape gathered for the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards benefit March 10 at the Chicago Cultural Center to praise journalists who have produced work reporting on underserved communities.
The awards also allowed Community Media Workshop, a nonprofit organization partnered closely with Columbia, the opportunity to generate funds from its silent auction, which featured Studs Terkel-autographed titles, Field Museum passes and other media-related gifts.
“Please don’t forget our pledge cards on the way out,” Steve Kapelke, provost and senior vice president at Columbia, urged the audience.
Kapelke presented the Studs Terkel Scholarship for $2,000 to Mitchell Wenkus for his work on “Joey and Jamal,” a documentary following the challenges faced by a woman from the South Shore neighborhood with two sons in Chicago’s public school system.
The awarded journalists included Kate Grossman, deputy editorial page editor for the Sun-Times, Natalie Moore, public affairs reporter for Chicago Public Radio, and collectively Josh Kalven, Adam Doster and Angela Caputo for their reporting for Illinois Progress.
Grossman’s colleague and Sun-Times columnist, Mary Mitchell, presented Grossman the award recalling the initial incredulity that greeted her wish to cover South Side issues like Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan For Transformation. The incredulity turned to praises for her dedication covering the Chicago Public Schools while also spending a year teaching at a charter school on the South Side.
“[What] Kate is known for is her fairnessand research, so see Kate, I came prepared,” Mitchell said waving several sheets worth of notes from which she frequently prompted herself. “That’s one thing we learned from Kate. Always show up prepared.”
Mitchell was the first winner of this award in 1994.
Moore’s award was presented by Phil Kadner, a former award winner and columnist for the Southtown Star. He commended her for the approach of her reporting for Chicago Public Radio stating, “Terkel would be proud.”
During Moore’s acceptance speech,she recalled her initial inspiration for becoming a journalist: “It must have been during an episode of ‘Murphy Brown,’ an episode when they had the young intern. Her name was Natalie Moore.”
The editorial team of the Illinois Progress Web site was awarded for their vigilant reporting on unemployment and producing original content informing Illinoisans of the current struggles in the job market upstate.
“It really started to set in how much [impact] when the 20th letter showed thanking us,” said Progress Illinois Editor Kalven of their first signs of
Sharing the award were Progress Illinois’ two reporters, Doster and Caputo, who Kalven thanked for their patience with the site’s progress and growing pains.
Longtime friend of Terkel and fellow political activist Timuel Black gave his reflection on Terkel’s legacy as a fearless political activist striving for equality, which was met with a resounding ovation.
Community Media Workshop’s President Thom Clark presented a video with many Chicago journalists honoring Terkel. Clark also saluted three Chicago journalists who died within the past year, including well-respected interviewer John Callaway, CLTV political reporter Carlos Hernandez Gomez and The Chronicle’s faculty adviser and instructor Jim Sulski.
The awards closed with a performance sing-along led by a folk band of various Chicago media profiles resonating throughout the award’s auditorium, with a piece by a long-deceased servant of underserved communities, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”