Trib columnist Anne Keegan

For the fourth year the friends of Anne Keegan, a former Tribune columnist who died in 2011, will be offering a journalism award in her memory. It’ll be presented in the spring at the annual Lisagor Awards dinner of the Chicago Headline Club.

The Anne Keegan Award‘s founders—I’m one—wondered in the beginning if the kind of journalism she practiced had a future, and one of our motives was to encourage it to stick around. The award, defined in language primarily written by her husband Len Aronson, a former Channel 11 producer, honors “distinguished journalism reflecting the dignity and spirit of the common man.” Furthermore, it’s journalism that does not have as a goal calling attention to the talents of the journalist. “Distinguished by compassion, character and courage,” Aronson wrote, “these stories will give voice to the voiceless while muting the voice of the reporter, benefit from the ‘eye’ more than from the ‘I’ of the reporter, and touch the human heart.”

In an era when the employable Chicago journalist was becoming a a frenzied jack-of-all-trades who wrote, photographed, and shot video, blogged incessantly, operated out of cars and coffee shops, and touted everything she did on social media, we wondered if there were still enough writers around practicing the old-school virtues of patience, attentiveness, and modesty to sustain the prize.

We shouldn’t have worried. The Keegan winners so far—Colleen Mastony of the Tribune, Kim Janssen of the Sun-Times, and Sharon Cohen of the AP—came to us with superb stories, and plenty of other entries weren’t far behind in quality. When so much journalism is written with a shovel (or an algorithm), the opportunity to write slowly and carefully and tell a story fully is not to be wasted—and it rarely is. Such stories are probably a tonic to read as well as write, which I suspect is why they continue to be assigned and published.

The one concession we judges have made in the past four years was to reality but not quality. We widened the competition last year to accept written stories appearing either in print “or on established journalism websites.” We judges didn’t all agree about this, but most of us felt that ignoring the Internet was a lot like disqualifying cable television from the Emmys.

We’re now accepting entries for the Keegan Award. There’s no entry fee, and articles submitted may be entered for Lisagors as well. Please send me up to three articles at 4027 N. Paulina, Chicago, IL 60613. Or send URLs to The deadline is January 12, but there’s usually a little give.