April 9, 2005

CHICAGO VOICES: Michael Burke’s introduction of Tracy Baim at the Community Media Workshop’s 2005 Studs Terkel Awards

I’m thrilled to introduce our first Terkel Award recipient. I came home a few weeks ago and told my boyfriend, Robert: "Great news! Great news! At the Terkel event, I get to introduce one of the major gay icons of journalism – not Anderson Cooper, but the other one." … "Tracy Baim?" Robert said. "Indeed," I replied …

So: A conservative rabbi, a high priest and a deputy mufti walk into this news conference. That sounds like the start of some sort of joke, but it actually happened one week ago today.

And what united these representatives of the world’s great religions? The struggle for peace? A call for mutual understanding? An honest attempt to find common ground among diverse peoples in these troubled times? Well – not exactly. These wise men had set aside everything they disagreed on to stand together and jointly condemn a gay pride festival being planned for Jerusalem. Now, I could say a lot about this, but the only thing I know for sure is: They’re going to miss one fabulous parade!

I also know that the news conference was yet another attempt by the “powers that be” to silence “the opinions of others.” Another example of how “the mighty and the strong” work to stifle “those with the smaller voices.” And further evidence that, now more than ever, society needs people who – like Studs Terkel and Tracy Baim – confront the powers of silence, challenge the mighty and the strong – and know a good party when they see one!

Tracy received her journalism degree from Drake University and started working in the field nearly two decades ago. From the start, she was influenced by her birth-Dad, who was a photographer, and two important journalists – her mom and step-Dad, Joy Darrow and Steven Pratt.

Today, Tracy is the publisher of Chicago’s largest and still-growing family of gay, lesbian, bi and trans publications and broadcast outlets. In fact, Windy City Times will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a big gala in September that I’m sure you’re all invited to. And to prove Tracy knows a good party when she sees one – and is an influential civic champion – she’s also been instrumental in bringing the Gay Games to Chicago next year.

Over the years, Tracy’s work with Windy City Times, Outlines, Nightlines, Blacklines, En La Vida, Identity, and Windy City Radio – to name just a few – have showcased the voices of thousands of Chicagoans. She’s chronicled the day-to-day stories of our ordinary and sometimes not-so-ordinary lives. And in that great Terkel tradition, Tracy’s work has confirmed that our stories have merit, our voices are worthy, our lives matter.

At its best, Tracy’s work – like Studs’ work – enriches all of us by reminding us that the world is a very small place – and it pays to be a good neighbor. And so it’s my honor to present this Studs Terkel Award for Journalistic Excellence to Tracy Baim.


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