This year just past—in which tens of millions of people whipsawed by facts and fake facts and tribal memes delivered a surprise ending we might have seen coming if we’d spotted all the clues—constitutes a powerful argument for a kind of journalism in short supply: stories that spend respectful time with individual people and listen closely to what they have to say.
This is the kind of journalism the Anne Keegan Award was created in 2012 to honor—”stories of ordinary people” that “give voice to the voiceless” and reflect the “dignity and spirit of the common man.” The award was founded by Leonard Aronson after the 2011 death of Keegan, his wife and a former Tribune feature writer and columnist. Keegan, a friend of mine, was deferential only when she wrote, and the award values the eye over the I of the reporter—as Leonard likes to put it. 2016—a year of pundits galore but not so many reporters making stops along America’s blue highways—underlines the point.
If you’re a journalist in the Chicago region or in Illinois, 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 at the annual Lisagor Awards dinner May 12 at the Union League Club; but there’s an entry fee for the Lisagors and it costs nothing to be considered for the Keegan Award: simply e-mail your entry (up to three stories) by the end of this month to firstname.lastname@example.org. A large group of present and former journalists does the judging.