Premack Awards honor journalists

by Sean Madigan

More than 100 people gathered in Cowles Auditorium Monday for the Frank Premack Memorial Lecture and Journalism Awards Program.
This was the 21st annual Premack Lecture series held in honor of the late Frank Premack, a public affairs reporter, city editor and assistant managing editor of the Minneapolis Tribune during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
The Premack award is one of the highest honors a public affairs reporter in Minnesota can achieve. The Premack Board reviews submissions from both editors and journalists for the following three categories: Twin City metro dailies, non-metro dailies, and community and neighborhood papers.
This year’s awards went to Lynda McDonnell of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for her series of articles on welfare reform. Rochester Post-Bulletin reporter Luke Shockman won the non-metro daily category, named the George S. Hage Award in memory of the late co-chairman of the Premack Board. Shockman’s story was on the dietary supplement Fen Phen. Martiga Lohn of the Southwest Journal won the weekly newspaper category for her article entitled “Painting the Town,” about graffiti in her southwest Minneapolis neighborhood.
McDonnell said public affairs reporting is often over-looked because the awards go to bigger stories. But, she said, most reporters are too busy working on day-to-day stories to spend time on big projects. That’s why it’s nice to get this recognition, she said.
Since 1987, the Premack Board has presented a lifetime achievement award called The Graven Award. This year’s recipient was former governor Elmer L. Andersen, who rose from salesman to chairman of H.B. Fuller, spent 10 years in the Minnesota Legislature and served two years as governor.
Frank Wright, a long-time friend and colleague of Premack, described him as “irascible and dogged as a reporter.” Premack was ardent in his commitment to public affairs reporting, he added.
Premack Memorial Lecture Board member Chuck Slocum called Premack “an honorable muckraker.” Slocum said the purpose for these lectures is to re-create the atmosphere of Premack’s living room parties. Premack would invite a spectrum of friends to his home to discuss an array of social and civic policy issues. Frank Wright referred to these discussions as “quite muscular debates.”
George Farr, chairman of the Premack Memorial Lecture board, said he hopes the lecture series will promote interaction among media professionals in a social forum.