Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sandy Close Receives George Polk Award Today

A Hug from Here to Sandy 

Today friend and editor Sandy Close receives the coveted George Polk Lifetime Career Award,  placing her in company of some of the most illustrious and hard-working journalists in recent history.  I will not be present at the event at Long Island University in New York, but I know the tenor of what she will say, because it is what she says at such moments, like the time she called to  Central America to let me in on the extraordinary news (Pacific News Service was a small operation!) that she would be receiving the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship: "It's shared, Mary Jo.  It's not for me, it's for all of us."

Yesterday she sent an emergency message asking me to courier overnight postcards of my upcoming book to her hotel so she could distribute them at the event, and to colleagues at a Pacific News Service New York reunion.  Imagine.  And I don't even work there anymore!

Do we always share a point of view? No.

What is true however, as the call for the postcards shows, is that Sandy is self-effacing, loyal and collaborative, qualities that in addition to her remarkably keen sense of the news landscape mark her as deserving of recognition.  "We look for the chicken's eye view," she said years ago when she proposed I come on board. It meant the ramifications of policy on the ground, through the eyes and in the lives of ordinary people, were as important in reporting for PNS as an awareness of policy and how leaders think.  It also meant looking for how trends at the grassroots, among ethnic communities, shapes who we are as a changing nation.  As Pacific News Service became New America Media, those POVs remain firm.

So congratulations, Sandy, and a big hug from home base, in San Francisco.  Here is what the George Polk award says:

Sandy Close is executive director of New America Media, an alternative news source that supports thousands of ethnic media outlets. For 37 years, Ms. Close has guided the pioneering efforts of New America Media, formerly known as the Pacific News Service. She has mentored many journalists who now work in the mainstream press, including A.C. Thompson, one of this year’s winners of the Polk Award for Television Reporting. In 1995, Ms. Close received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" fellowship; and in 1997, she co-produced the Academy Award-winning short documentary, “Breathing Lessons.” Perhaps her proudest moment in journalism came in 2007, when she organized the Chauncey Bailey Project, a team of reporters whose investigative work led Oakland police to arrest those responsible for killing Mr. Bailey, who was a Polk Award-winning journalist.