(EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Vaisman was a magical storyteller. Said Alan Weisman, co-founder with Vaisman of Homelands Productions: “She was not only a good reporter working for radio, but her work was richly produced. It was like setting news to music with lots of sound interwoven. She was a master at that.”
An NPR reporter, she was a master at connecting with people. In her work, you can hear that people opened up to Vaisman and that she cared about their stories. She spent years, reporting from Latin America and the Caribbean. Later, when she moved to Chicago, she taught at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. There, as one student said, she taught with “intention and sincerity.” Studs Terkel was an inspiration to Vaisman. Knowing that, her husband, Gary Marx, nominated her for this award after her death this past September. And the Terkel Award Committee, knowing her work, agreed to present the first posthumous Terkel to a remarkable journalist.
– Susy Schultz)
Cecilia Vaisman was an award-winning radio journalist, multimedia producer and teacher, based in Chicago. Her radio features and documentaries have been broadcast on All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, This American Life, Living on Earth, Latino USA, Radio Bilingüe, Radio América in Buenos Aires, Radio UNAM in Mexico City and many other public and community broadcasting outlets throughout North Americas. Vaisman was on staff at NPR in Washington for several years before co-founding the independent media cooperative, Homelands Productions.
Born in Buenos Aires, and raised in New Jersey, Vaisman was a graduate of Barnard College. With her husband and two children she lived for five years in Havana, Cuba teaching and doing digital journalism. After moving back to Chicago, Vaisman taught courses in political science, Latino and Gender Studies at University of Illinois Chicago, Northwestern University and University of Notre Dame. Even during her illness, her passion for the profession remained strong. She died September 2015, leaving a rich storytelling legacy.
Below are some of our favorites:
- “From San Juan to Humbolt Park – Two Nations of Puerto Rico” (Sept. 2015)
This piece, produced by Vaisman, paints a full picture on how Puerto Rican immigrants adjust to life in America.
- “Brazil delivers on hunger promise,” (Aug. 2012)
Vaisman asks the question “what can the world learn from Brazil,” as she uncovers the country’s hunger epidemic.
- “Women empowerment in India” (Sept. 1994)
Vaisman examines how a women’s group in an India village is working to change the treatment of girls.
- “Picture me rolling: Shomori’s story,” (Sept. 1997)
In her Chicago Matters series with WBEZ, Vaisman tells the story of an African-American male, Shomari Kress, and the challenges he faces with entering the job market. This audio documentary piece won Vaisman the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
- “Cecilia Vaisman 1961 – 2015” (Sept. 2015)
A tribute from WBEZ on Cecilia Vaisman and the legacy she left in storytelling.