Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Palestinian American columnist wins SPJ Journalism Award

Ray Hanania, a columnist for several U.S. and Middle East-based newspapers, was awarded the prestigious Peter Lisagor Award for Column Writing in the Community Newspaper category last week by the Society of Professional Journalists/Chicago Headline Club.

Hanania, who began writing his column in May 2004, was honored for three columns published last year titled: "Thanksgiving Tabouli Wars Is Now Served," "Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" and "Reavis Reunion Creeps Up Like Receding Hair."

Named as runner-up finalists were Thomas Mucha of Crains Chicago Business Magazine for his "Small Talk" columns and Joseph Aaron of the Chicago Jewish News for "Talking and Listening," "Real Jewish People" and "Jews and Darfur."

The column titled "Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" was about the 2006 all-girls graduating class of the Aqsa School in Bridgeview in suburban Chicago and how the news media ignores positive events in the Arab community and always focuses on negative issues. The column ran not only in the Southwest News-Herald, where Hanania is a staff political columnist, but also in several Arab American and Arab World newspapers including the Arab American News in Dearborn, the Arab News in Saudi Arabia, al-Mustaqbal in Chicago and in other community newspapers.

The Lisagor Awards are a highly competitive and prestigious journalism achievement representing journalists from community and daily newspapers, radio and TV media throughout Illinois.

In awarding the prize, the judges wrote: "Writing a regular column is a lot harder than it looks. General interest columnists have to be ready to show themselves and share their inner thoughts and beliefs with their readers -- something most of us were trained not to do in the course of our other job as fair and ideally objective reporters of facts. Ray Hanania's columns illustrate how the best of us are able to accomplish that, taking the random and (globally) inconsequential activities of daily life and crafting them into a deceptively simple sounding monologue that touches people with the familiarity of the experiences while shedding light on the serious and significant concerns of the larger world. Mr. Hanania manages that slight-of-hand with both wit and grace, and most difficult of all, a dash of humor that lightens outrage and makes it palatable, causing the reader to think about the greater issues roiling beneath the surface without compelling th em in any obvious way to challenge their assumptions. Instead they think about the world in ways they might have resisted if they were simply being bashed over the head with passionate and reasoned argument."

This is Hanania’s 3rd Chicago Headline Club/SPJ Award. He previously won Lisagor awards in 1984/85 and 2002/03 for column writing. Last year, Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" in a national contest hosted by the New America Media Association.

Hanania began his journalism career in 1976 writing for community newspapers and later for the Chicago Sun-Times. He covered Chicago City Hall from 1977 until 1992, and was also a weekend talk show host on WLS AM Radio. He is the author of eight books. He is a board member of the National Arab American Journalists Association (www.NAAJA-US.com).

The presentations were made at the Chicago Headline Club's 30th annual awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago.

The awards are named for Peter Lisagor, late Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Daily News. Reporters and editors from SPJ chapters in South Florida (Miami), Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston, Inland California and Western Washington (Seattle) reviewed more than 700 entries published or broadcast in 2006.
Plaques were presented for 65 reports, chosen for such attributes as enterprise, accuracy, scope, style and impact.

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