The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award of Colby, established in 1952, is awarded to a journalist who continues the Lovejoy heritage of fearlessness and commitment to American freedom of the press. The award is granted annually to a member of the press, regardless of title, who, in the opinion of selection committee members, has contributed to the country’s journalistic achievement.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine, Nov. 9, 1802, the son of a Congregational minister. He graduated in 1826 from Waterville College (now Colby), where he was valedictorian and class poet.
At age 29 he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary. While there he was persuaded to return to Missouri to launch a religious newspaper, the St. Louis Observer. He was named editor. Lovejoy wrote moderately about slavery, and his views were at first acceptable in Missouri, a slave state. As fear of slave uprisings increased, an incident occurred during which a freed man was trapped and killed. When the mob leaders were freed by the court, Lovejoy vehemently criticized the decision. His press was destroyed and his home burglarized.
He moved across the river to the free state of Illinois, where he believed he could write without fear. When his press was shipped to Alton, however, thugs smashed it at the dock. Local citizens raised money for a new press, and Lovejoy published successfully for a year. His position on slavery hardened, and on July 6, 1837, he published another editorial condemning the practice. That night his press was again destroyed. He bought another, which was also destroyed. Friends then organized a militia and secretly bought and installed another press.
By Laura Meader
Colby is pleased to announce that Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist who has been jailed in Russia for nearly 150 days, will receive the 2023 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism. Gershkovich, who writes about Russia for the Wall Street Journal, has been detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison since his arrest in late March.
Gershkovich will be honored Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, at 4 p.m. for the tenacity and courage he’s shown reporting on Russia, especially since joining the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow Bureau in January 2022. His parents, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, will accept the Lovejoy Award on his behalf. The public is invited to attend the free event, to be held in the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts on Colby’s campus.
“In his reporting and in the time since his detention, Evan Gershkovich has demonstrated courage that evokes the spirit of Elijah Parish Lovejoy,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “We are honored to be recognizing his important contributions and personal sacrifice in the presence of his parents, who are working diligently for his release.”
Gershkovich is the first American journalist arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The State Department has deemed him wrongfully detained, unlocking a broad U.S. government effort to exert pressure on Russia to free him. The allegation of espionage filed against him is something that he, the Journal, and the U.S. government vehemently deny.
Upholding Lovejoy’s ideals
Since 1952 Colby has presented the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award to honor contemporary journalists who stand for freedom of the press. The award is named for Lovejoy, the 1826 valedictorian at Colby and a crusading abolitionist editor murdered by a mob in 1837 for his impassioned anti-slavery editorials. John Quincy Adams called him America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.
Gershkovich joins a long list of notable Lovejoy Award recipients, including John Burns (New York Times), Katharine Graham (Washington Post), and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (NPR).
“The arrest and imprisonment of Evan Gershkovich is an attack on journalists and democracy around the world,” said Lovejoy Selection Committee chair Martin Kaiser, editor and senior vice president, retired, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It is a threat to journalists that you might be next. Reporters must not be silenced.”
The presentation of the Lovejoy Award will include a discussion of the winner’s work with the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief Paul Beckett and Lovejoy Selection Committee Member Mindy Marqués Gonzales, vice president and executive editor at Simon and Schuster and former editor of the Miami Herald. President Greene will offer remarks and present the award.
‘A brave, committed journalist’
Gershkovich’s interest in journalism began as an undergraduate when he wrote for the student newspaper at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. His first journalism job after he graduated from Bowdoin in 2014 was as a news assistant for the New York Times. His love of Russia drew him to Moscow, where, in 2017, he joined the English-language Moscow Times.
The son of Soviet-born Jewish émigrés who settled in New Jersey, he grew up speaking Russian at home. He gained fluency, however, on the ground in Russia, chatting with people he met in cities, interviewing medical students, and hanging out with punk bands in Moscow bars, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
In November 2020, Gershkovich, 31, began working for the French national news agency Agence France-Presse in Moscow, covering Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union. He joined the Wall Street Journal in January 2022, basing himself in London after the war in Ukraine began. Despite the known risks, he continued traveling to Russia.
On a reporting trip for the Journal in the industrial town of Yekaterinburg, 800 miles east of Moscow, Gershkovich was arrested March 29, 2023, on charges of espionage, even as a journalist accredited by Russia’s Foreign Ministry to work in the country he loved.
According to the Wall Street Journal, he brought “uncommon insight to the stories of everyday Russians.” The New Yorker journalist Joshua Yaffa tweeted that Gershkovich is a “brave, committed, professional journalist who traveled to Russia to report on stories of import and interest.” Earlier this year TIME magazine named Gershkovich one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The Lovejoy Selection Committee believes that those who care about democracy must speak up for Gershkovich, said Kaiser. This year’s recipient highlights the importance of a free press to democracy, he said, and reflects the ideals of Elijah Parish Lovejoy.
Current Lovejoy Selection Committee members include Matt Apuzzo ’00, international investigations editor, New York Times; Nancy Barnes, editor, Boston Globe; Sewell Chan, editor-in-chief, Texas Tribune; Neil Gross, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College; Martin Kaiser, editor and senior vice president, retired, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and director of the Capital News Service at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Mindy Marqués Gonzales, vice president and executive editor, Simon and Schuster, and former editor, Miami Herald; and Ron Nixon, global investigations editor, Associated Press.
On the night of Nov. 7, 1837, a mob attacked the new press. The militia fought back, killing one. The mob eventually set fire to the building, drove out the militia. Lovejoy was shot and killed as he attempted to extinguish the blaze.
He was buried Nov. 9, his 35th birthday. John Quincy Adams called him the “first American martyr to the freedom of the press and the freedom of the slave.”
On Sept. 29, 2000, Lovejoy was inducted into the Maine Press Hall of Fame.
Listen to an engaging conversation with Ken Ellingword, author of First to Fall, a book about the legacy of Elijah Lovejoy on National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Morning Edition”.
The purpose of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award is threefold:
~To honor and preserve the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, America’s first martyr to freedom of the press and a Colby College graduate (valedictorian, Class of 1826) who died bravely rather than forsake his editorial principles.
~To stimulate and honor the kind of achievement in the field of reporting, editing, and interpretive writing that continues the Lovejoy heritage of fearlessness and freedom.
~To promote a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperative effort between a news industry devoted to journalistic freedom and a liberal arts college dedicated to academic freedom.
Nominees must be reporting for a U.S.-based outlet and nominations should be sent to [email protected]. Once all nominations are received, the selection committee recommends finalists for the award on the basis of:
~Integrity, without which no news organization can function in its traditional role as a public servant.
~Craftsmanship, without which no one can succeed as a journalist.
~Character, intelligence, and courage.
~Potential of the work to stimulate engaging campus conversations around important issues of our times.
Martin Kaiser, Chair
Editor and Senior Vice President, retired, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Global Investigations Editor, Associated Press
Aminda Marqués González
Vice President and Executive Editor, Simon and Schuster; former Executive Editor and Vice President, Miami Herald
Matt Apuzzo ’00
Investigative Correspondent, The New York Times
Editor, The Boston Globe
Editor in Chief, Texas Tribune
Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College
David A. Greene
President, Colby College
Vice President and Secretary, Colby College
Jane Powers ’86
Chair, Colby College Board of Trustees
Executive Director, Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, Colby College
Vice President and Chief of Staff, Colby College
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