Chicago Headline Club Announces Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Mary Mitchell and Mary Ann Bergerson Ahern

Finalists of the New Anne Keegan Award for Reporting on the Little Guy Also Announced

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Chicago Headline Club, the largest Society of Professional Journalists chapter in the country, today announced the winners of its 2011 Lifetime Achievement Awards. NBC 5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell will be honored for their extraordinary work in Chicago journalism at the 35th annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism banquet on Friday, May 4. This year’s awardees exemplify journalism at its best.

Mary Ann Bergerson Ahern joined NBC 5 News in March 1989 and was named political reporter in 2006. Ms. Ahern also reports for the NBC affiliates nationwide and frequently serves as an expert panelist on religious issues. She is recognized for breaking many stories related to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1991, Ms. Ahern was the first reporter to disclose the priest sex abuse crisis that led to the Archdiocese eventually opening its files and creating a lay review board, a model other cities followed. 

Mary Mitchell is an editorial board member and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. She joined the Sun-Times in 1991 as an education writer, and has covered city hall, the federal courts and authored several award-winning series before becoming a columnist in 1995. Ms. Mitchell’s work often rallies the African-American community to confront issues such as violence, police misconduct, and social injustice. She has also been an advocate for Chicagoans who would otherwise not have a voice.

Also, for the first time, the Chicago Headline Club will give out the Anne Keegan Award for Reporting on the Little Guy. That’s the person award-winning columnist Anne Keegan preferred to write about. Ms. Keegan first reported on the little guy while working at the City News Bureau of Chicago. She honed her craft at United Press International before moving to the Chicago Tribune’s front page. Ms. Keegan died May 18, 2011, at 68. The new award honors print journalists who tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people. This year’s Keegan finalists are Associated Press national writer Sharon Cohen and Chicago Tribune reporter Colleen Mastony.

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Anne Keegan Award, the Chicago Headline Club will award its 2011 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting and will announce the winners of the Lisagor awards, which are awarded Chicago-area journalists for their exemplary work and truly superior contributions to journalism in a variety of categories. Winners were selected for such attributes as enterprise, accuracy, scope, style and impact. 

The Chicago Headline Club will also announce the recipient of the $2,500 Les H. Brownlee Scholarship to a Chicago-area journalism student and two $2,500 scholarships for journalism students who will have unpaid summer internships in the Chicago area.

The Awards dinner, which will honor work published in 2011, will be held Friday May 4, 2012, at The Union League Club of Chicago, 65 W. Jackson. Cocktails begin at 5:30 p.m. and the dinner and awards presentation is at 7 p.m. The cost to attend is $75 for Headline Club members, $95 for non-members and $900 for a table of 10 non-members. Tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 312-553-0393.