This is the 16th in a series of articles about recipients of the NSNC’s annual Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.
By Dave Astor
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
I really wanted to attend our 2008 conference in New Orleans, partly because much-admired columnist Ellen Goodman would be receiving the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.
But The Great Recession had hit, and the magazine for which I covered columnists had slashed its travel budget. So I didn’t go, and got laid off four months later. But that’s another story…
Anyway, I have no firsthand record of what Goodman said the night she accepted the honor, so I contacted her on January 9 to get some retrospective quotes. Alas, no response.
Hmm…I’ve already written about a hundred words, and this story hasn’t quite begun yet. But I did find a quote from the NSNC’s 2006-2008 president, Mike Argento, who said of Goodman winning the Pyle award: “It’s an overdue honor. I see Ellen as one of the pioneering feminist columnists and a pioneer in the personal essay, where she melds personal experience with public-policy arguments.”
Goodman did that melding for The Boston Globe and nearly 400 other newspapers — and won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1980 for columns on such topics as marriage, rape, adolescence, the late President Kennedy, the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, and the thought of turning 40. She has also received many other awards.
The 1941-born Massachusetts native graduated cum laude in 1963 from Radcliffe College (where she majored in modern European history) and almost immediately began her journalism career as a researcher for Newsweek magazine. Goodman told me during a 1984 interview that, unfortunately, “women back then were usually put in the research department with the ‘girls’ while men were given the chance to be reporters.”
But Goodman did go on to become a reporter for the Detroit Free Press in 1965. She subsequently joined the Globe as a reporter in 1967, became a full-time columnist there several years later, and entered national syndication in 1976 with the Washington Post Writers Group.
In 1979, Goodman’s first book came out. That was Turning Points, which focused on the changing roles of women in the family.
Goodman – who was also an associate editor for the Globe – wrote her final syndicated column for that Boston newspaper in 2010.
Dave Astor writes the weekly “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, blogs weekly at DaveAstorOnLiterature.com, and is the author of the memoir Comic (and Column) Confessional.