’11 Lifetime Achievement Winner Roger Ebert Dies

(Four paragraphs have been added at the end of this article.)
Roger Ebert, 2011

Roger Ebert, 2011

Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert died Thursday, April 4, 2013, his newspaper reported.

Ebert had been the film critic of the Chicago SunTimes since 1967, and his reviews were syndicated in more than 200 newspapers around the world. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1975, the first movie reviewer so honored. The following year, Ebert and the late Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune began a long run of TV programs including Siskel and Ebert in which they reviewed movies. Ebert also published a number of books.

Ebert was the 2011 recipient of the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

“A giant has been silenced,” said NSNC President Eric Heyl. “Roger Ebert wasn’t just an extraordinary movie critic, he also was a superlative cultural critic whose insightful observations will be greatly missed by his legion of loyal readers.”

Unable to travel due to his illness, Ebert accepted the NSNC award on June 25, 2011, via a live computer connection on Skype, shown on a movie screen at the awards banquet of the annual conference, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Unable to talk, Ebert delivered his speech with a computer-generated voice. Conference Chair Brian O’Connor and 2010-12 NSNC President Ben Pollock introduced Ebert.

In explaining why a columnists group chose him, Pollock said at the time, “The colum­nists are hon­or­ing Roger Ebert because per­sonal jour­nal­ism takes many forms.” Movie reviews have too many resemblances to feature columns to ignore, both being serial personal reportage. And as new media developed, Ebert was right there with a website and an eloquent blog he updated with enviable frequency. The award noted Ebert’s pioneering.

Ebert essentially had a website within a website, rogerebert.com in suntimes.com, where he posted his blog as well as selected pieces from other critics. “Roger Ebert’s Journal” often took the form of memoir, as well as essays on culture and politics and, naturally some movie business beyond the reviews.

The NSNC presents the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award yearly to honor a columnist who exemplifies outstanding achievement in the tradition of World War II columnist Ernie Pyle.

One more thing: Once Ebert got to know NSNC he began entering its annual contest. Even in the denouement of a terrific career, he was a dogged competitor. In the 2012 competition, he came in second (losing to John Avlon of The Daily Beast) in the large blog or website category. In 2011, Ebert took first in the same category. For 2010, he won first in Blog-Columns, as the category then was termed.

The 2012 judge wrote: “Ebert’s humanistic reflections on the preciousness of life and the lasting value of memory challenge the imagination and stir the soul. Influenced by Ebert’s columns, a reader may develop new ways at looking at the world — and themselves.”

The 2011 judge wrote: “Ebert’s intensely personal subjects and warm, intimate tone make for wonderful reading. His columns invite you into his life, into his mind, where many scenes of fascination and delight play out. His vivid descriptions — particularly the Proust-like details of sensory experiences—sear deeply into the reader’s memory. And his insights into innately human concerns impart readers with a wise, worldly point of view.”

The 2010 judge wrote: “The variety of Roger Ebert’s subjects, the excellence of his writing, his humanity and sense of his mortality, and the clarity and depth with which he writes about each subject, make his work stand out and give it lasting value. His work will be part of his literary legacy.”

— Ben S. Pollock, NSNC online media director

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