HARTFORD, CT, October 24, 2012 – Tom Condon, a Hartford Courant journalist who has held just about every important writing position at the country’s oldest continuously published newspaper, was presented Tuesday with the fifth Moses Berkman Memorial Journalism Award at a dinner attended by members of the Trinity community and current and former colleagues of Condon’s.
The Berkman Award is given every other year to a journalist who best exemplifies the excellence and commitment of Moses Berkman ’20, who was one of the most influential political reporters of his time. After graduating from Trinity, Berkman worked first at The Hartford Post, which was absorbed by The Hartford Times in 1922, whereupon he served as a political correspondent, columnist and editorial writer until 1956.
The award, which was presented to Condon by Mark Silk, a former journalist and now director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, is supported by The Moses and Florence Berkman Endowed Fund.
A native of New London, CT, Condon, who gave a talk entitled, “Hiding in the Shower and Other Stories from the Connecticut Beat,” joined The Courant in 1968 and then served in Vietnam as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, returning to the newspaper in 1971. Among the positions he has held are general assignment reporter, New Haven bureau chief, special projects editor, city columnist, editorial page columnist and chief editorial writer.
As the paper’s longtime city columnist, Condon’s work was a “must read” for anyone interested in the political, social, historic, cultural and socio-economic fabric of the Hartford metropolitan region. Over the years, Condon has known nearly all of the region’s major figures, uncovered scandals, beat the drum for regionalism and other unpopular causes, and fought for historic preservation of the city’s architectural gems.
As described by Andrew Walsh, a former colleague of Condon’s at The Courant and now associate director of the Greenberg Center, Condon’s “depth of experience and moral compass are hard to beat.” In that regard, Walsh said, there are “striking similarities” between Condon and Berkman.
“Mo Berkman and Tom Condon both spent decades at their newspapers,” said Walsh. “Both committed their working lives to covering Hartford with outstanding success, unflagging intelligence, and a level of skill that made them deeply respected among their peers and their readers.”
Walsh also noted that Condon has excelled on “both sides of the great divide” – news reporting and opinion writing. “As a columnist, [Condon] found his life’s great subject—the eternal effort to fix Hartford. Over the course of the ensuing years, he evolved into a genuine expert on urban life and on the business of transforming it,” said Walsh. “His authoritative tone and his calm, pragmatic outlook attracted national respect. Many of the more than 30 significant journalism honors he has received have come in recognition of his urban work.”
In Condon’s opening remarks, he praised Trinity’s faculty and students for their efforts on behalf of Hartford and its residents. And he called the Berkman Award “particularly special” in that Condon knew Florence Berkman, who was a groundbreaking female journalist and a “great advocate of the arts.”
Condon noted that over the course of his career he has known both scoundrels and heroes as well as “ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.” Journalism also has afforded him the opportunity to meet “some amazing people,” such as Dorothy Day, a journalist, promoter of Catholic teachings, and social justice activist; Jim Brady, a former White House press secretary who was permanently disabled after being shot; and Mike Peters, whom Condon described as the funniest and most charismatic mayor in modern Hartford history.
Condon said he has also been privileged to work with outstanding journalists at The Courant, including some who were unfailingly persistent, painstakingly accurate and unafraid to take on wealthy and powerful people and interests.
In his remarks in McCook Auditorium, Condon regaled his audience with stories from his reporting and column-writing days, and his chronicling of Hartford from its status as a mid-sized city with a thriving middle class and manufacturing base to a city that is one of the poorest in the nation and in need of bold and visionary leadership.
Condon closed with some comments about the future of journalism, adding that it’s difficult to speculate where it’s headed. But he noted that “what the industry needs is a few more reporters and a few less pundits.”
Newspapers, in particular, have been decimated by declining readership and advertising and massive downsizing, including the closing of some newspapers. But, added Condon, “journalists are a feisty bunch. We’ll figure it out.”
Among the more than 30 journalism and community awards Condon has won are the New England Society of Newspaper Editors Master Reporter, the 2007 American Planning Association Journalism Award and the 2008 Allan B. Rogers Editorial Award from the New England Newspaper Association. This year, Condon won the National Headliners Award (first place for editorial writing) and two awards from the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut School of Law, Condon is the author of School Rights, a book about parent activism in schools. He and his wife, Anne, are the authors of Legal Lunacy, a book about funny laws. Condon’s work has appeared in Northeast magazine, Family Life, The Harvard Business Review, and The International Herald Tribune.