WestSide Press celebrates Chicago native son John W. Fountain, freelance columnist, named 1st Place Winner of this year’s Chicago Headline Club’s 45th Annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Best News Column, Editorial Writing or Commentary. Fountain won for his work on three selected columns: the Unforgotten 51 women, “Chicago Bleeds” and Jelani Day.
By John W. Fountain
My wife was simmering with indignation, holding the newspaper she had just retrieved that morning a few years ago from our mailbox—the newspaper I had written for as a freelance columnist for the previous seven years. “Hmph, will you look at this…”
I looked at the front page, eager to see the object of her anger. There it was, an above the banner header. The faces of the newspaper’s top columnists: Eight white men, three white women, one black woman. No black men. No not one.
No John Fountain.
An all-star opinion writer’s line-up, it was anchored by the moniker: “The voices of Chicago. …They’ll get you talking.”
"The more I reported and wrote the more I could hear in my own writing the chorus of voices too often forgotten, neglected or ignored by the mainstream press..."
I have carried that weight of the skin I am in. The awareness that there were those who believed that because I am Black I was somehow “less than,” not up to snuff, as a journalist.
"Reporting While Black"
When I arrived at the Chicago Tribune in fall 1989, I soon discovered, that like myself, many Black reporters were degreed up and interned to the hilt. And yet, we were still deemed incompetent until proven competent. White reporters, some of them with no college degree at all, became national and foreign correspondents, ascended to the paper's top management positions.