Newsday’s Les Payne Wins Aronson Lifetime Achievement Award At Hunter College

May 4, 2009 | Hunter College

Hunter College’s Department of Film and Media Studies has awarded a James Aronson Lifetime Achievement Award to Les Payne, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist at Newsday for career achievement. Three other journalists will receive 2009 James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism for their incisive investigative articles on critical issues:

· E.J. Graff of Foreign Policy

· Joseph Huff-Hannon of The Indypendent

· Nick Turse of The Nation

Kevin Buckley of Newsweek will also be honored with an Aronson Award for reporting he did in Vietnam during the 1970s that had been largely buried until it was resurrected by Nick Turse.

Danny Schechter of NewsDissector.org is the winner of the Aronson Blog Award for his muckraking reports on economic, political and social issues.

Ed Stein will receive the Aronson Award for Cartooning with a Conscience for his graphic commentary on the economy, torture and other critical issues of 2008.

The 2009 Aronson Awards will be presented in a public ceremony on May 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the 8th floor faculty dining room of the Hunter West Building at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.

The Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism (filmmedia.hunter.cuny.edu/aronson) have been presented since 1990 to journalists who measure business, government and social affairs against clear ideals of the common good. The awards are named in honor of James Aronson, the distinguished Hunter College professor of journalism who was editor from 1949 to 1967 of the crusading newsweekly The National Guardian. Aronson also worked on the staffs of the Boston Evening Transcript, New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times.

“In their 18 years of existence,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab, “the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism have consistently recognized and promoted journalism that keeps a well-trained and principled eye on the common good. That is a mission that Hunter, as a public institution with a diverse student body, tried to pursue throughout its research and teaching.”

“Journalism that conveys a clear idea of forces and decisions that lead to injustice has never been more needed than it is today,” said Peter Parisi, coordinator of the award and an associate professor in Hunter’s Department of Film and Media Studies. “Yet too often journalists duck social justice issues, fearing their commitment will be called partisan or will draw political ‘flak’. This award is designed to embolden them to pursue their highest ideals.”

The 2009 Aronson Award Winners

Career Achievement: Les Payne

“Don’t pull your punches, tell the truth and duck.” — Les Payne

Payne is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked for 28 years at Newsday as a reporter, foreign correspondent, columnist and associate editor. In 1974, he shared a Pulitzer for his investigative work on the heroin trail from Turkey to the United States. He was a founder and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and in 2008 was inducted into that organization’s Hall of Fame. Over the years, Payne has been variously recognized as the most influential African-American editor and columnist in the United States. Murray Kempton described him as “a great editor because he is always his own man.” He trained generations of reporters to cover the basics and to dig deeper; his news staffs won every major award in journalism, including six Pulitzer Prizes. Payne is currently writing a biography of Malcolm X and continuing his work as an independent blogger at blog.lespayne.net

Incisive Investigative Articles on Critical and Timely Topics:

E.J. Graff, Foreign Policy, “The Lie We Love,” for exposing the corruption that underlies many international adoptions and highlighting international efforts to deter illegal practices. Graff probes and dissects her subject with a scholarly approach, but presents her findings with an engaging, journalistic sensibility.

Joseph Huff-Hannon, The Indypendent, “Facing Foreclosure: Brooklyn Retiree on Verge of Losing Home as Sub-prime Lenders Target Cash-Poor Black Seniors,” for a local view of a national crisis. Huff-Hannon tells the story of Simeon Ferguson, an 86-year-old Brooklyn resident who was sold a policy he couldn’t possibly afford and his family’s fight to forestall foreclosure.

Nick Turse, The Nation, “A My Lai a Month,” for revealing that the My Lai massacre of 1968 was just one among many during the Vietnam War, and for documenting government efforts to stall investigations and quell media coverage.

An Aronson Award will also go to Kevin Buckley, whose original reporting on the issue in the 1970s as Newsweek’s Saigon bureau chief was largely buried, only to be resurrected 30 years later by Nick Turse.

Blog Award: Danny Schechter, NewsDissector.org.

Veteran journalist, author, television producer and independent filmmaker Danny Schechter has been dissecting news and exposing government and corporate malfeasance and the media’s failures to inform since the 1970s. The Aronson Award goes to Schechter for his latest venture, the NewsDissector.org blog, which he began after 9/11 as a mini-newspaper, with analyses and muckraking news reports on the economic, political and social crises of the day.

Cartooning with a Conscience: Ed Stein

For the graphic sophistication and range of his work in 2008 on the economy, torture and other crucial issues. In January of 1978, Ed Stein gave up on his lifelong dream of becoming a caped superhero and joined the staff of the now defunct Rocky Mountain News as its editorial cartoonist. The recipient of numerous awards, Stein is a former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

The members of the Aronson Awards Committee are David Alm, Grambs Miller Aronson, Christopher T. Cory, Steve Gorelick, Marya Grambs, Kathy Kadane, Philip Kaye, Rhoda Nayor, Peter Parisi, Robin Reisig, Cindy Rodríguez, Dr. Naomi Rosenblum, John J. Simon, Alice Slater, Ida Susser, Blanca Vázquez and Diana Powell Ward.