Jim DeRogatis receives 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Headline Club

Associate Professor Jim DeRogatis has been awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Headline Club, the largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the nation. The Lifetime Achievement Award is recognizes journalists for their extraordinary contribution to the community and/or the profession. It honors journalists who tirelessly work to cover, report, edit and tape the news day in and day out.

Over the last three decades DeRogatis, a music critic, author of 11 books, podcast host and journalist has made his living sharing his sonic views and covering music news for Chicago Sun-TimesSpinGuitar WorldGQ, The New Yorker, and WBEZ public radio. 

But it’s his 19 years of dogged reporting on the life of singer R. Kelly that have distinguished his work. The book, articles, and all of the reporting in-between has helped lay the groundwork for the successful Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” and the 42 felony counts that R. Kelly is currently facing.

DeRogatis responded to his Lifetime Achievement Award with the following:

“The first thing that popped into my head when the Headline Club told me about this honor was a line from one of the many immortal scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: ‘I’m not quite dead yet!’

“But an honor it is, especially for someone who’s spent his career as a pop-music critic and journalist, a beat on which every 13-year-old pop fan, every 75-year-old classic-rocker, and most people in between are convinced they know more and can do better than the person behind the byline. I have always welcomed that, and like one of my heroes, Roger Ebert, whom I was proud to call a colleague at the Sun-Times for 15 years, I have always seen criticism as a spirited discussion between people who care passionately about the art. In print or on air with Greg Kot, I’ve never seen my job as telling people what to think. I simply want to get that conversation started.

“On the journalistic tip, I’m sure that part of the reason for this honor is my 19 years of reporting on the man who now stands as the worst predator in the history of popular music, which is really saying something, but just count the mountain of state and federal felony charges he now faces. The credit for that, if any can be claimed for such a tragic tale, belongs to the many women who have bravely spoken out to me in an effort to stop others from being hurt, while most of Chicago just ignored them. I simply did what any journalist should do: I listened, and I tried to amplify what they were saying. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. Important stories can come from anywhere, on any beat. Our job is to pursue them, and follow them wherever they lead, for as long as they continue.”

DeRogatis will receive the award at a virtual event on May 15 and will be invited to next year’s event to accept his award, show a career spanning video and say a few words publicly.