CHICAGO — For her work on the nonprofit news site MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, Deborah Douglas was chosen as one of the 2019 Studs Terkel Community Media Award recipients, an award named for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, longtime radio show host and oral historian.
The awards recognize journalists for their body of work and for taking “risks in covering community social issues by offering new or unusual perspectives — from housing to neighborhood safety, to health and beyond,” award organizers said in a press release.
Douglas keeps company with Chicago Tribune reporter Lolly Bowean; Maria Hinojosa, a longtime National Public Radio reporter and anchor; and The New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, who conceived the groundbreaking 1619 Project.
An award-winning journalist, Douglas, is also DePauw University’s Eugene S. Pulliam Center Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism in Greencastle, Indiana.
“My jaw dropped when I learned about this honor because so many journalists I respect are Terkel winners, an award I consider a ‘People’s Pulitzer,’” Douglas said.
“They are the kind of people who really see people and purpose themselves to amplify their lived experience with unconditional respect. I’m thrilled to be among them, as every day I feel more sure in my purpose to center missing and underrepresented voices,” said Douglas, who runs MLK50’s daily operations.
“It’s not true that anyone is voiceless. Everyone has a voice, we just have to listen. I’m listening.
“Chicago is my birthplace, but as a child of the Great Migration, Memphis, my grandmama and my community helped raise me, too,”
“Reporting on the fight for living wage and an equitable economic system that allows everyone to thrive is the best work on earth. Any time I can join with excellent journalists like Wendi C. Thomas and our team at MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, I’m walking in my purpose for my people.”
Prior to her work with MLK50, Douglas taught at Northwestern University’s Medill School for a decade. While at Northwestern, Douglas taught best practices to print and broadcast journalists in Pakistan.
For more than eight years beginning in late 2000, Douglas was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, serving on the paper’s editorial board and writing a column. She was also editor-in-chief of the paper’s Red Streak edition, served as the #2 in the features department, and worked as library director, where she leveraged the outlet’s intellectual assets.
Her work has also been published in Oprah magazine, TIME, VICE, American Prospect and Ebony, among others. In 2016, she was cited in The New York Times for her work writing about black women and erasure. She has appeared on CNN, PBS, BBC, and radio programs throughout the United States.
For seven years, she has been a senior leader with The OpEd Project, a global initiative dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices. There, she has led programs and fellowships at Dartmouth College, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale and Columbia universities, Conexion Americas, Global Policy Solutions’ “Closing the Race Wealth Gap,” United Action Fund in South Africa and Kenya, The Aspen Institute (South Africa), and Youth Narrating Our World (YNOW) in Chicago, among others.
The award will be presented at an October ceremony in Chicago.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Southern Documentary Project and Community Change.