Ceremony salutes public affairs journalism

by Jessica Kimpell

People interested in journalism got a taste of what it takes to be outstanding in a world of heavy competition and public affairs.
The 22nd Annual Frank Premack Memorial Lecture and Awards Ceremony showcased this year’s Premack Award winners Monday evening, as well as featured discussion by U.S. Senators Paul Wellstone and Rod Grams.
Few seats remained open in the Cowles Auditorium of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, as journalists, editors, students, politicians, community and family members gathered to applaud selected Minnesota newspapers for their achievements in public affairs journalism.
Liz Kohman, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore, said “(I attended) in hopes to figure out what I want to do and to experience new things.” She added that events like this help her in the process.
The Premack Award honors public affairs journalism in memory of Frank Premack, a former public affairs reporter, city editor and assistant managing editor of the Minneapolis Tribune. Committee members on the volunteer board judge articles submitted by newspapers from across the state and determine which articles are worthy of merit.
Albert Tims Jr., director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said of the judges, “we have a menu of great minds that choose the winners.”
Rochelle Berry Graves, award judge and commissioner of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said articles focusing on what is most important and relevant to a community are worthy of valor.
Donna Nicholson, award judge and media relations manager at Macalester College, said her committee’s choice was based on the compelling and cutting edge nature of the article.
“It was an example of not only good journalism, but good civic journalism,” she added.
Five awards were presented to remarkable journalists and institutions in the Twin Cities and across the state.
This year’s award winner in the metro-daily category was the Saint Paul Pioneer Press for the series “Poverty Among Us.”
Kate Parry, senior editor at the Pioneer Press, said the story was a “commitment to journalism on extremely important issues and its effects on all of us.”
The Hage Award, named in honor of the late George S. Hage, former co-chairman of the Premack Board and member of the journalism faculty at the University, was awarded to the Duluth News-Tribune for the special investigative report, “Death Beds.”
Frank Wright, former managing editor and foreign correspondent for the Star Tribune, received the David L. Graven award for his dedication and distinguished career achievements in public affairs journalism.
George Farr, chairman of the Premack Memorial Lecture Board, said the ceremony tries to recreate the atmosphere Premack created in his own home — with discussions open to everyone.
Following in this tradition, audience members questioned keynote speakers Grams and Wellstone in the style Premack would have appreciated.