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Studs Terkel – Our ‘Patron Saint’

Community Media Workshop mourns the loss of Studs Terkel, who died at home on October 31 at the age of 96.

“My dad led a long, full, eventful—sometimes tempestuous—satisfying life,” said his son, Dan Terkell. Details of how the family and friends will celebrate his life will be published at a future date.

Studs had grown more frail since the publication by the New Press just a year ago of his memoir, Touch and Go. “I’m still in touch but I’m ready to go” he said at a reading from the work then, his last public appearance with Community Media Workshop, the nonprofit that recognizes Chicago reporters who take risks in providing outstanding coverage of the city’s neighborhoods.

“The last time I saw him he was up, about, and mad as hell about the Cubs,” says Workshop President Thom Clark.

Studs Terkel, one of the world’s most effective communicators, was multi-talented as a writer, an actor, a journalist, an orator. His was a unique voice, both a rascal and a statesman; he brought dignity and hope to the hopeless and powerless and had a raw, respectful and honest insight about those who succeeded in life. Winner or loser, celebrity or nobody, saint or sinner—Studs reached out to us all.

At his best, he was much more than an entertainer, a journalist, a communicator. He was an organizer, a community organizer if you will. He talked to and, more importantly, listened to all of us. Not just Americans, but all of us citizens of the world.

His work was empowering. It turned losers into winners, and helped recognize and thereby transform and include the forgotten, ordinary folks into a vibrant community of the human spirit.

Terkel was the patron saint of the Workshop’s Studs Terkel Community Media Awards for journalists who take risks in covering Chicago neighborhoods, such as recent honorees Tribune’s Rick Kogan, Mark Brown of the Sun-Times, radio stations WVON and RadioArte, and many others over twenty years.

— Gordon Mayer

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