I’m writing to encourage reporters who hesitate to toot their own horns to make an exception. This is the time of year when I promote the Anne Keegan Award, giving annually for journalism “reflecting the dignity and spirit of the common man.” Len Aronson, husband of the late Tribune columnist, and some friends (myself included) launched the award after Keegan died in 2011. It’s been given four times since, most recently to Maureen O’Donnell, the elegant obit writer of the Sun-Times.
The Keegan Award honors “stories of ordinary people” that “give voice to the voiceless while muting the voice of the reporter.” There used to be nothing unusual about this unwillingness to hog one’s own spotlight—it was a basic principle preached in 101 classes in J-school. But in these days when the story’s not done until its author promotes it on social media, it’s a value that may go against the grain a little. Or maybe not—there’s been no shortage of exceptional feature stories submitted for us to consider.
We consider any work that appears in print or on an established journalism website. The Keegan Award is promoted by the Chicago Headline Club and will be awarded May 6 at the Headline Club’s annual Lisagor Awards dinner at the Union League Club. But while there’s an entry fee for the Lisagors, it costs nothing to be considered for the Keegan Award: simply e-mail your entry (up to three stories) to me at email@example.com.
You may work for a news shop that enters competitions for its staff. But increasingly managements think they don’t have the time or money. So we urge writers with stories they’re proud of to take the initiative. They can enter the same stories for a Lisagor, and the announced deadline for doing that is January 11. But since Lisagor entries are sent out of town to be judged while the winner of the Keegan Award is hashed out over dinner at Aronson’s house, we can accept entries through the end of the month.