at CJA’s 74th Annual Award Dinner
By Allen Rafalson
You might say it was a picture-perfect evening as our Chicago Jounalists Association honored recently released Chicago Sun-Times photojournalists and Ann Gerber, perhaps the nation’s longest-running newspaper columnist. The presentations took place at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza on Sept.27,2013.
More than 100 guests attended the event, which moved swiftly as Holy Name Cathedral Deacon Michael McCloskey gave the invocation and entertainer Ellen Balmadrid sang our national anthem. They were immediately followed by presentations to winners of the Sarah Brown Boyden competition. Eleven of the 14 awards went to Sun-Times journalists, while the remaining three were claimed by the Chicago Tribune. Sun-Times staffers Frank Main, Kim Janssen and Dan Mihalopoulos shared the $500 “Best of Best” honor for their Chicago Under Fire series.
DePaul University sophomore Gabriella Mikiewicz was recipient of our $1,250 scholarship presented by CJA Charitable Fund president Karen Petitte. The award goes every year to either a high school or college student seeking a journalism career. It was a solemn moment as emcee David Plier paid tribute to journalists who lost their lives covering stories in 2013. VanderCook College of Music student followed with the playing of Amazin’ Grace.
No doubt, the highlight of the evening belonged to the photojournalists and Gerber. In his commentary, CJA President Allen Rafalson expressed his gratitude to former Sun-Times video reporter Jon Sall for his assistance in the ceremony attended by 15 of the 29 photographers.
Each received a Chicago Journalist of the Year Award. “This award is our tribute to these men and women for their exemplary and memorable documentation of Chicago’s stories throughout the decades,” Rafalson said. Sall thanked CJA for the recognition. He said it brings final closure for us.
It was evident that Gerber had her fans. Approximately 40 men and women watched as she received the Lifetime Achievement Award. She started writing her column in 1950 for the Lerner Homes Newspapers, which originally consisted of 54 weekly and semi-weekly newspapers. Ten years later, she was writing a society gossip column for Skyline, the company’s newest weekly covering the city’s Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, the Loop and Near North Side neighborhoods. She’s been a fixture ever since.
“She has written about Chicago’s diverse community of celebrities and politicians and never been afraid to express an opinion” Rafalson said. “She is a complete journalist whose recognition has been long overdue.”