Dennis Culloton, President and CEO

This is the 30th year of the Chicago Bar Association’s Herman Kogan Media Awards. I’ve been involved since the first year of the program in my newsradio days and now as the chairman of the CBA’s committee.

This year’s awards and the current environment highlight the paradox of the news business, especially for investigative and legal affairs journalism.

Since we last got together, the whole nation watched as the Cook County court system peacefully adjudicated a police misconduct case that brought down a mayor and had the city on edge.

One powerful city council chairman and Chicago lawyer has been arrested by the FBI. Another alderman pled guilty to wire fraud. Thanks to the Chicago Sun-Times, we learned all about another alderman wearing a wire for several years, meaning more city council members are sleeping with one eye open. A famous former alderman pled guilty to his second federal felony; another alderman was cuffed by Chicago Police last night for felony charges of filing a false police report.

That’s just what I could count this morning.

Meanwhile yesterday Angie Muhs made news in Springfield.

Angie, a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is used to covering the news, not making it. She was the editor of the Springfield Journal-Register. Despite the fact that GateHouse media, the paper’s owner, cut the newsroom down to 5 reporters to cover news, business and sports in the state capital–including the legislature and state government, the SJ-R under her leadership did award-winning work.

With the prospect of more layoffs coming, Angie gave two weeks notice this week so that her salary could be used for reporters. Gatehouse executives reportedly responded by firing Angie immediately and escorting her from the building. The newsroom, which looks like the end of the movie Dirty Dozen, did an incredible thing.

In support of Angie, they walked out with her.

That’s a great bonding moment, but this is terrible for local journalism. I don’t profess to know the answers, but the Kogan award ceremony is meant to encourage not just the journalists and editors who cover our courts and our justice system but also to encourage their corporate bosses to continue to invest in journalism. In lieu of a better solution, here’s an appeal: pay for journalism. Subscribe to a news outlet that you’ve been enjoying for free. We need them and they need you.

End of sermon.