Keith C. Burris, editorial page editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn., has been awarded the Society of Professional Journalists 1996 Eugene C. Pulliam Editorial Fellowship.
The editorial writing award was established to enhance the professional development of outstanding editorial writers. The $30,000 grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the education arm of SPJ, will allow Burris to travel, study and extensively research the disintegration of America's families and the future of its children.
"I am convinced that there is absolutely no issue of more importance in our society today," said Burris. "There is no crisis more real or pressing. I write about these matters often and am convinced of their short- and long-term importance. And I have to say that my overall impression is that our society is not dealing with, nor is it yet equipped to deal with, the crisis of family disintegration."
Burris plans to divide his research into four categories: the impact of the divorce rate; the disappearance of the father from families; the explosion of child abuse and domestic violence; and the increasing reliance on schools and day care as family surrogates. He plans to publish his findings in a book tentatively titled, "In Search of Family Values."
"I'm really excited about this project," said G. Kelly Hawes, SPJ president. "This is the type of work the Pulliam fellowship was intended to bring about. I look forward to reading and hearing about Mr. Burris' work in the years to come."
The judges agreed on the importance of Burris' work.
"The jurors found Burris to be a strong writer with a prevailing conviction and purpose," said Jean Otto, SPJ past president and chair of the judging committee. "He is long on experience and offered a project that we agree is one of the most important to our society today."
Burris holds a doctorate in political philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. He served as associate editor for The (Toledo) Blade and has written for The Hartford Courant, The Winston-Salem Journal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. Since 1989, he has received seven SPJ awards for his columns and editorials.
Burris said he was honored to receive the award and excited about the opportunity the fellowship provides to step back from the daily routine and take a broader view of his studies.
"We're production workers in this business," he said. "We do have to grind it out every day. If we can say something intelligent that's a real feat, but I'm not sure you can do it every day without stopping to refuel."
The fellowship began in 1977 through a grant from Mrs. Eugene C. Pulliam. The grant honors the memory of Eugene C. Pulliam, one of the founding members of Sigma Delta Chi, the forerunner of SPJ. During his journalistic career, Pulliam served as publisher of The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix Gazette, The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Muncie Star, the Muncie Evening Press, and the Vincennes Sun Commercial.
Burris will receive the award at the second annual Pulliam Editorial Fellowship Banquet, Nov. 23, in Charleston, South Carolina.