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Studs Terkel, who describes himself as a “guerrilla journalist” and whom others describe as “a national treasure,” will receive Colby College’s 2004 Lovejoy Award for journalism.
Terkel will be honored at Colby’s 52nd annual Lovejoy Convocation at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 10, in the college’s Lorimer Chapel in Waterville, Maine. The public is invited. The Lovejoy Award, established in 1952, is presented annually to honor courageous contributions to the nation’s journalistic achievement and freedom of the press. It also is a memorial to Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a Colby graduate who was America’s first martyr to the free press.
Terkel, 92, has been writing and broadcasting since the Great Depression and has dedicated much of his illustrious career to giving ordinary Americans a voice and celebrating the dignity of work. “His oeuvre is everyday life writ large,” wrote columnist Laura Washington recently. He was a columnist for the Chicago Sunday Times and gained renown for his radio programs and books, including the classic Working, an oral history about working people in America.
In the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s Terkel was blacklisted for signing petitions and for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. As a result he spent years as a persona non grata in journalism. He recalls an NBC executive informing him that communists had been behind petitions with Terkel’s signature on them, to which Terkel replied: “Suppose communists come out against cancer. Do we have to come out for cancer?”
“Studs Terkel’s memory is an archive of nearly 90 years of social history, some of which he made, much of which he chronicled,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, editor of The Chicago Tribune and a member of the Lovejoy Award selection committee that chose the Chicagoan.
The Lovejoy Award is named for Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby who is considered America’s first martyr to freedom of the press. He was killed on November 7, 1837, in Alton, Ill., defending his abolitionist newspaper against a pro-slavery mob. Colby established the award in 1952 to honor an editor, reporter or publisher who has shown courage in contributing to the nation’s journalistic achievement. Recent recipients include Bill Kovach, William Raspberry, Ellen Goodman, David Halberstam, Daniel Pearl and, last year, Chicago Tribune reporters Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, recognized for work that led to a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.
Terkel was selected by a committee of distinguished newspaper editors chaired by Matthew Storin, retired editor of The Boston Globe, who is now at Notre Dame. Other selection committee members are Lipinski; Greg Moore, managing editor of the Denver Post; Rena Pederson, editor at large of the Dallas Morning News; Rebecca Corbett, Washington enterprise editor of The New York Times; and Colby President William D. Adams.