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U. of I. honors Roger Ebert with lifetime journalism achievement award

Roger Ebert
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Roger Ebert, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and co-host of the popular review program “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies,” has been named to receive the 2014 Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. The recipient is chosen by the University of Illinois journalism faculty.

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1/21/2014 | Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor | 217-333-2894; cdchambe@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Roger Ebert, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as an influential and groundbreaking film critic on television, will be honored posthumously with the 2014 Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

The prize, awarded by the University of Illinois journalism faculty, will be accepted by Ebert’s wife, Chaz, on Feb. 11 at the University Club in Chicago, following a reception and dinner.

Ebert, a 1964 Illinois journalism graduate who died April 4 last year, is the sixth journalist and first alumnus to receive the Illinois Prize. Ben Bradlee, Seymour Hersh, Gay Talese, Nina Totenberg and Mike Wallace won previously.

The award honors work that has consistently served as a beacon for other journalists, set the highest standards of excellence in the field, and placed the public good and public awareness before all else.

“Roger’s accomplishments rank with all of those distinguished journalists,” said Rich Martin, the head of the department of journalism. “As the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, the only film critic honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the author of more than 20 books, and, without question, the greatest and one of the most beloved critics of all time, he is richly deserving of this award.”

Raised in Urbana, Ill., Ebert became the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967 and remained there for 46 years, until his death. In 1975 he became the first film critic to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

That same year, Ebert and Gene Siskel invented a new genre of television with their movie review show “Coming Soon to a Theater Near You” for Chicago’s public station WTTW. It would eventually become the nationally syndicated “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies” and Ebert would review movies on television for more than three decades.

Ebert also was a lecturer on film for the University of Chicago Enrichment Program from 1970 until 2006 and an adjunct professor in the department of journalism at Illinois, and recorded shot-by-shot commentaries for the DVDs of “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “Floating Weeds” and “Dark City.”

He was named a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, an honorary life member of the Directors Guild of America, and an honorary member of the Society of Cinematographers. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters Guild and received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

In 2001 he received the highest honor bestowed by the state of Illinois, the Order of Lincoln, and in 2006 he received the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

In 1999, Ebert and his wife created Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, since renamed Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, and popularly known as “Ebertfest,” an annual event presented every April in Champaign and Urbana, Ill.

In 2009, the Eberts established the endowment for the Roger Ebert Program in Film Studies in the College of Media. The program will house the annual film festival, as well as other programming throughout the year.

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