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Remembering Studs Terkel

The Community Media Workshop held the 22nd annual Studs Terkel Community Media Awards last night at the Chicago Cultural Center. Catalyst Chicago’s Founder Linda Lenz, Freelance Reporter Kari Lydersen, and the Chicago Tribune’s Antonio Olivo received awards for outstanding reporting on Chicago’s diverse communities and the people who live here.

Studs, long considered the Workshop’s patron saint, is missed. The 2007 event was the last time he was able to attend, and he passed away in 2008. The Workshop continues to host the Awards to remember the great work of Studs Terkel and to honor those journalists who follow in his footsteps. Last night, we honored Studs with a moving video about one of his most famous books “Working.” As Studs said, “I think everybody would like to be remembered.” Take a look.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored the event, purchased tickets and attended. We are grateful for your support.

Remembering Studs

by Thom Clark
One year ago today, as we all awaited the final days of an historic election campaign, our mentor Studs Terkel passed away, his absentee ballot un-cast. The self described eclectic disk jockey, Pulitzer prize winning author and cheer leader for humanity would have railed against the media for it’s mis-coverage this past week of worker protests against bonus-buck bankers conferring in Chicago, just as I remembered him yelling at the tube’s cable talkers on a Sunday morning 54 weeks ago when I last visited him at his home. “Will Barack make it?” he wondered as the latest debate was being parsed. “What a mess the Cubs and Sox made of their seasons, again,” Studs moaned in the next moment. Then he moved onto our 2009 Terkel awardees (Scott Simon, David Jackson and Alden Loury). There was never a dull moment in Studs’ living room.Studs & Thom March 2007We miss ya Studs!

Callaway Interviews We’ll Never See

Wouldn’t you love to see Mayor Daley squirm as John Callaway asked him about Olympic budget cost guarantees he never shared with the voters? Or what about a one-on-one with Oprah? Or an unscripted half-hour with our latest political celebrity Patti Blagojevich (“What advice did your dad, Ald. Dick Mell, give you on which defense attorney to hire?”)?

Photo by Karen Kring. John Callaway, Thom Clark & Geoff Dougherty at 2/22/09 "Future of Journalism" Town Hall Meeting

Photo by Karen Kring. John Callaway, Thom Clark & Geoff Dougherty at 2/22/09 “Future of Journalism” Town Hall Meeting

Master interviewer John Callaway died Tuesday evening of a heart attack at 72. I find myself already missing some of the interviews I wish he’d completed. The long-time host of WTTW Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight,” Callaway gained a deserved reputation as one of the region’s premier interviewers. Like Workshop mentor Studs Terkel, Callaway could push his subjects beyond their prepared sound bites to probe a celebrity’s motives, question a politician’s manevuers, or help illuminate an author’s tome. Ironically, Callaway was the only nominee to ever turn down a Studs Terkel Community Media Award, believing a younger person should fill the slot.

John was always well-read and well-prepared for his interviews, but his intellectual prowess didn’t overwhelm or overtake his subjects. His wonderment and curiosity informed so much of his work, as displayed in a one-man show of his life produced for a week or two at Pegasus Theatre in 2001. My last encounter with him was sharing the panel at last February’s Town Hall Meeting on the future of journalism, a somewhat bleak afternoon for traditional journalism, where John was typically inciteful about a city without daily newspapers and bloggers who steal content.

Now I don’t how public television’s digital signal will pick this up, but I understand John’s next interview will be with St. Peter to explore who paid for the pearly gates.

Thom Clark

Studs Terkel Awards sound and pictures

Our Studs: Chicago Journalists Remember Studs Terkel and the Media Awards from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo

Hey, if you could not be with us last Wednesday and want to hear or see some of the event, we’ve got the 10-minute video in which past winners of the Studs Terkel award comment on Studs’ legacy. and later today you should be able to hear their comments at the event (& see some nice pix) on Chicago Public Radio’s Chicago Amplified site. (use the pulldown to see content from Community Media Workshop).

Your name badges are ready

A CNN crew interviewed Studs at the last benefit he was able to attend, two years ago.


… for our benefit tomorrow. Wait–you’re not on the list? Well, it’s full, but it’s not sold out, so you can still come to the door and get a ticket (5 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center, $115, in support of our mission to promote diverse voices in the news and public debate).

It’s funny, last year attendees were sort of fulminating about the challenges standing between doing our best journalism and its daily practice. This year, I think we’ll be holding up the promise of what news is, its ability to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, and its ability to tell stories from our neighborhoods, but with a little more fear than anger.

If you can’t be with us, find a friend, tell stories, and drink some cognac in Studs’ honor.


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