DeRogatis, Waldron win Headline Club’s Lifetime Achievement Awards

Jim DeRogatis

Jim DeRogatis, the longtime Chicago music critic, crusading reporter, author and broadcaster, and Clarence Waldron, former senior writer and senior editor of Jet Magazine, have been named recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Chicago Headline Club.

In lieu of the 2020 Peter Lisagor Awards ceremony, which has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll be recognized at a virtual event May 15. Other winners of awards for excellence in journalism from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists also will be announced at that time.

Clarence Waldron

DeRogatis and Waldron will be invited to deliver a more public acceptance at the organization’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2021.

DeRogatis, former pop music critic at the Sun-Times, is the author of 11 books, including Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly, which culminated two decades of dogged reporting about the sexual misconduct of the Chicago R&B star.

With former Chicago Tribune rock critic Greg Kot, DeRogatis co-hosts “Sound Opinions” on Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM and 125 public radio stations nationwide. He also is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Waldron, dubbed “the dean of arts and entertainment journalists” by the National Association of Black Journalists, spent 29 years as senior writer and senior editor of Jet Magazine, the former show biz bible of Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co.

Since 1998 Waldron has been an adjunct professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He also taught at Columbia College and Loyola University.

“I am honored,” Waldron said. “An award is people’s way of saying, ‘We think that you’ve done it.’ And that’s the way it has to be accepted. Thank you for recognizing me and celebrating my career. This honor encourages me to continue my writing.”

Here is the text of DeRogatis’s response to the Lifetime Achievement Award:

The first thing that popped into my head when the Headline Club told me about this honor was a line from one of the many immortal scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m not quite dead yet!”

But an honor it is, especially for someone who’s spent his career as a pop-music critic and journalist, a beat on which every 13-year-old pop fan, every 75-year-old classic-rocker, and most people in between are convinced they know more and can do better than the person behind the byline.

I have always welcomed that, and like one of my heroes, Roger Ebert, whom I was proud to call a colleague at the Sun-Times for 15 years, I have always seen criticism as a spirited discussion between people who care passionately about the art. In print or on air with Greg Kot, I’ve never seen my job as telling people what to think. I simply want to get that conversation started.

On the journalistic tip, I’m sure that part of the reason for this honor is my 19 years of reporting on the man who now stands as the worst predator in the history of popular music, which is really saying something, but just count the mountain of state and federal felony charges he now faces.

The credit for that, if any can be claimed for such a tragic tale, belongs to the many women who have bravely spoken out to me in an effort to stop others from being hurt, while most of Chicago just ignored them. I simply did what any journalist should do: I listened, and I tried to amplify what they were saying.

I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. Important stories can come from anywhere, on any beat. Our job is to pursue them, and follow them wherever they lead, for as long as they continue.

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Carolyn Grisko: The contraction of journalism isn't good for anyone. Not taxpayers, not people who value democracy. Tribune reporters are making the point that Alden, whose business model is to buy papers and squeeze them dry, is callously using the pandemic to accelerate the process. We will all be the poorer for it if they succeed.