I never got to meet Studs. But he left his mark in so many corners of the city that, though we never crossed paths, I seem to have run parallel to him throughout my life–listening to the radio, working in the archives of the Old Town School of Folk Music, and now here, working on the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards at Public Narrative. We were even born a day (and a few decades) apart.
We have a new blog series to tell you about. But first: while many people reading this are probably nodding along knowingly when they read the name Studs Terkel, he isn’t the household name he once was. We want to introduce him to those readers who don’t know much (or anything at all) about Studs.
Louis “Studs” Terkel was a significant figure in early Chicago television and radio, and ultimately became a giant of the interviewing and storytelling world. He was a proud leftist, blacklisted in the 1950s, known as a champion of everyday working people. He loved this city. He talked about it, wrote books about it, documented its people, sounds, stories, and taverns. He’s an important person to journalists, readers and radio fans around the country, but especially to Chicagoans. Looking at Studs’ work over the years, he always seemed to be searching. He was curious to get to the bottom of humanity’s biggest quandaries around poverty, race, and war. He invited the people he interviewed, whoever they were, to help him figure it all out.
The first Studs Terkel Community Media Awards took place on April 13th, 1995 at Andy’s Jazz Club. The program explained how the event got its name: “Terkel’s beat is the world, in all its bittersweet glories, malingering miseries, and puzzling paradoxes. His work, his journalism, gets us all talking to each other again–rebuilding our crumbling social infrastructure, the bridges of communication and understanding among all of us that help us repair our tattering sense of community.”
Over the past 26 years, the awards have honored over 90 journalists whose work is driven by service and connection to their communities. We thought it was about time we revisit a few past winners. So we’re starting a series called Voices of Our Time, named for a collection of Studs’ greatest interviews from across his five-decade radio career. Starting this month, we’ll feature conversations with past Terkel winners on community-oriented journalism, an increasingly threatened media industry, Studs Terkel’s work and legacy, and reflections on the work they’ve done in the 5, 10, or 15 years since winning the award.
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Public Narrative Blog Editor & Project Manager
Mareva is a Chicago-made writer, audio producer, and musician. She’s the creator of The Archives podcast at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where in 2017 she conducted an oral history of the school in partnership with StoryCorps. She regularly covers public meetings as part of City Bureau’s Documenters program. Mareva’s currently working on a new podcast exploring Chicago’s controversial TIF program, the interests behind it, and the activism it’s inspired. A lifelong folk music collector, she’s also an organizer of local music collective Old Lazarus’ Harp, co-founder of Midwest Sing & Stomp festival, and regularly plays fiddle with old-time string band the Prairie State Ramblers.