Credit: Samantha Bailey

For the past 26 years, Public Narrative (previously known as the Community Media Workshop) has honored storytellers across the city who center the people of Chicago in the work with the Studs Terkel Awards, presented annually at the Community Media Awards. This year Reader copublisher and co-editor in chief Karen Hawkins was among the esteemed honorees, all of whom “exemplify the values of Studs Terkel’s journalism, by taking risks in covering social issues.” It’s a value that Hawkins has not only instilled with the entire Reader staff during her nearly three years at the helm of this publication, but that she’s exuded throughout her decades-long journalism career.

“I couldn’t be more humbled and grateful to receive the Studs Terkel Award, especially alongside such a distinguished and accomplished group of people,” Hawkins says. “I fell in love with journalism when I was still too young to fully understand how heartbreaking a love affair it would be, and this amazing recognition makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, journalism loves me back. It has not been easy to be a mouthy Black lesbian feminist in journalism, and I’m thankful to the folks over the years who have believed in me, who have created space and opportunities for me, and who have kept pulling me back into the industry when I’ve left.”

But that’s not all the Reader has to celebrate this week. The day after Public Narrative’s award ceremony, the winners of the Peter Lisagor Awards were announced, and out of a record-breaking (at least in recent history) 13 nominations, staffers and freelancers took home seven wins:

Best Deadline Reporting
Kiran Misra, edited by Sujay Kumar, for “Most of the people arrested at the protests were Black,” an analysis of 2,172 detainments raises questions about CPD claims of equitable policing practices.

Best Non-deadline Reporting
Maya Dukmasova, edited by Sujay Kumar, for “That lockout you witnessed? It didn’t happen,” an examination of differing accounts from the scene of a lockout to the police report detailing it.

Best Arts Reporting and Criticism
Irene Hsiao, edited by Kerry Reid, for “Dancing alone together,” a look at how dancers continued to create while in isolation.

Best Sports Story
S. Nicole Lane, edited by Brianna Wellen, for “Bound to the Point,” a profile on a group of swimmers at Promontory Point known as the Southside Pod.

Best Food Coverage
Mike Sula, edited by Karen Hawkins, for his ongoing food coverage and “The year in pivots,” a reflection on how the industry adjusted to survive 2020.

Best Theater Coverage
Kerry Reid for “The founder of Pride Films and Plays is gone. What happened? What’s next?”, a deep dive into how the story of Pride Films and Plays contains lessons about board oversight and artist empowerment.

Best Feature Series
The Reader staff, edited by Sujay Kumar, for a series of personal essays on dealing with isolation, hopes, and horrors of returning to “normal,” and reflections on 2020 as a whole.

But that’s not all, folks! Reader staff also took home two first place honors from the Local Media Association’s Local Media Digital Innovation Awards:

Best Philanthropy Journalism and/or Fundraising Strategy
This award highlights creative and effective fundraising efforts and a judge’s note said of the Reader, “An amazing year-long effort to continue operations in the midst of the pandemic and to shift the revenue focus of the organization to merchandise and membership-driven fundraising.”

Best Consumer Revenue Strategy, Sponsored by Marketron—Small company category
This award recognized the innovation of the Chicago Reader Book Club, a 12-month members-only online webinar series (one that you can still join!).

Raise a glass and give everyone at the Reader a cheers—I’m sure if you run into a staffer in the next couple months they wouldn’t mind having a celebratory drink in person!—or better yet, donate to keep our amazing publication going and ready to continue raking in the accolades for years to come.   v