What We All Could Use These Days:
A Look at the Lighter Side of the News

Alexandra Petri

IF THE PHRASE “the lighter side of the news” seems to have lost all relevance to reality these days, we understand. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what we have on tap for you at our next Zoom event. It’s scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, and puts the spotlight on columnist Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post, our guest speaker.

Technically, Petri is billed as the Post’s “humor columnist.” While finding humor in today’s headlines might seem an impossible assignment for a working journalist these days — especially these days — that’s exactly what Alexandra Petri does.  It isn’t that she necessarily thinks that the stuff going on all around us is funny. It isn’t and she takes it seriously, but her satires and parodies can lighten the mood without losing the point.

In a profile in Cosmopolitan magazine, she said, “There are so many incredibly intelligent people writing a straightforward take [on politics]. I was trying to figure out what I had to add. My goal is to be weirder than everybody else and hope that no one stops me. So far, no one has.”

That was five years ago. It’s still true.

On Jan. 4, for example — two days after Donald Trump’s fruitless phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, exhorting (extorting?) him to “find” still undiscovered votes — Petri’s column was written as though she was Raffensperger recalling the incident:

“I should mention that I am the secretary of state of Georgia, and, as such, basically the absolute minimum of my job is to make sure we don’t just randomly pick the winner of elections and give all our electoral votes to them because they call and yell at me, so that was how I was coming in . . . I don’t think I was in the wrong here. I let him talk and talk and talk and tell me about these conspiracy theories he’d heard. I just didn’t agree to find him any votes, since I don’t think he understands how elections work.”

In 2017, she wrote an opinion piece sharply critical of Trump’s new budget, which had proposed deep cuts in environmental protections, health matters, and other areas generally considered vital to the well-being of most people. It was titled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Petri was kidding. White House officials, apparently failing to read past the headline, linked to her piece as part of its daily press briefing because they thought it applauded Trump policies. Here is some of what Petri wrote:

“Clean rivers and breathable air are making us SOFT and letting the Chinese and the Russians get the jump on us. We must go back to the America that was great, when the air was full of coal and danger and the way you could tell if the air was breathable was by carrying a canary around with you at all times, perched on your leathery, coal-dust-covered finger.”

Petri was raised in the Georgetown section of Washington. Her father, Tom Petri, was a Congressman from Wisconsin. Her mother, Anne D. Neal, is a former president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a non-profit dedicated to advancing academic quality, accountability and affordability. Petri graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in English and a concentration in classics. In 2010, she joined The Washington Post as an intern in the opinion section and, at the age of 22, became the youngest person ever to have a column in The Post. More recognition soon followed. A National Press Club Award for Humor Writing in 2016. A Shorty Award for parody writing, the same year. Forbes put her on its “30 Under 30” roster in 2017, and Rolling Stone magazine named her one of its “Fifty Funniest People Right Now.” She is the author of the essay collections Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why” and “A Field Guide to Awkward Silences.” She has also written plays (some of which have been produced), blogs and short fiction, and has done stand-up comedy, appeared on “Jeopardy!” and won the O.Henry Pun-Off competition in 2014.

She’ll be all ours on Feb. 17 as the star attraction of our virtual lunch, so keep an eye on your incoming emails for word from president Michael Serrill, who will tell you how to participate.

The date:   Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
The time:   Noon.
The place: Whatever you use to access Zoom.

Until then, be smart, stay safe.

Calling All Journalists of Excellence:
Entries for the 2021 Silurian Awards
Accepted from Jan. 4 to March 8

Beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, the Silurians Press Club will begin accepting entries for its 2021 Excellence in Journalism Awards Competition. This will be the 76th annual competition, and according to Awards chairman Jack Deacy, it is the only journalism awards program exclusively honoring local news coverage for the New York City Metropolitan Area. The Silurians have been conducting this competition since 1945.

To enter, go to: https://silurians.submittable.com/submit

All entries must be received by Monday, March 8.

Founded In 1924 as the Society of the Silurians, the club — now known as the Silurians Press Club — is one of the oldest press clubs in the nation, an organization of more than 300 veteran New York-area men and women dedicated to excellence and integrity in journalism.

Questions regarding the competition should be directed to Silurians Awards Chair Jack Deacy at jackdeacy@gmail.com.

Following are the Competition Rules and the 15 Award Categories in which submissions may be entered.


• The entry fee for a media organization is $75 per submission, which must be paid at the time of entry.
• Individuals or freelancers may submit their own work for an entry fee of $25 per submission, which must be paid at the time of entry.
• All entries must have been published or broadcast during 2020.
• The subject matter of entries should pertain to New York and the Greater Tri-State area.
• No more than three entries can be submitted for each category by a single organization or an individual or freelancer. A series on one topic will be considered a single entry.
• Each entry should be labeled with its category number and be accompanied by a cover letter noting the entry’s importance or impact, and include the name of the author(s) and the submitter, their contact email addresses and phone numbers.
• Deadline: Entries must be received by Monday, March 8, 2021.


1. BREAKING NEWS (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
2. FEATURE NEWS (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
3. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
4. BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
5. SCIENCE, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
6. ARTS AND CULTURE REPORTING (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
7. SPORTS REPORTING AND COMMENTARY (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
8. EDITORIALS / COMMENTARY/ PUBLIC SERVICE (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
9. PEOPLE PROFILES (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
10. MINORITY AFFAIRS REPORTING (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
11. BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
12. FEATURE NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
13. SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
14. BROADCAST JOURNALISM (Television: Breaking News/Feature News)
15. BROADCAST JOURNALISM (Radio: Breaking News/Feature News)


Michael S. Serrill Named President,
Joseph Berger Editor of Silurian News

Michael Serrill

MICHAEL S. SERRILL, A VETERAN journalist and former foreign editor, has been named the 72nd president of the Silurians Press Club, heading a new lineup of officers for the 2020-21 season. Serrill succeeds David A. Andelman, who returns to the Board of Governors following a sterling two-year term as president.

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A Dazzling Display of Journalistic Talent,
But If You Missed It, It’s All on YouTube

If you missed seeing the Silurians’ Excellence in Journalism Awards Gala, held on the evening of June 24, do not despair. And if you were there and can’t wait to see it again, there’s good news for you, too.

It’s available at this very moment on YouTube.

Simply click on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrpOT0NGIZ4&feature=youtu.be and settle back for a splendid 90-minute presentation of the Silurians’ 75th anniversary gala in which the best of New York City’s journalism was put on dazzling display.

It was virtual, but it was vibrant, and you will see every aspect of the gala evening, including:
• Tom Brokaw’s stirring keynote address on the role of a free press in today’s challenging climate.
• Comments from many of the evening’s winners, who revealed behind-the-scenes details of how their stories were put together.
• Excerpts of some of the prize-winning entries from print and broadcast media.
• The “passing of the gavel” from president David A. Andelman, who concluded a splendid two years in that role, to Michael Serrill, our incoming president.

The evening’s activities were presided over by Andelman and they put an emphatic exclamation point to his two years in office. Jack Deacy was again our Awards chairman, ably assisted by Silurians Aileen Jacobson, Allan Dodds Frank and Scotti Williston as well as our indefatigable intern, Ben Long.

For a complete list of individuals and news organizations that were honored with Medallions or Certificates of Merit, see story below.

2020 Silurians Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards

New York Times, Newsday Take Top Honors
At 75th Anniversary Awards Competition

A THREE-YEAR INVESTIGATION by Newsday that documented widespread housing discrimination on Long Island and an extraordinary photo essay by New York Times photographers that captured the excitement of a summer full of New York City block parties won The President’s Choice Awards — top honors in the 75th Anniversary Excellence In Journalism Awards conducted by the Silurians Press Club. The awards honored outstanding work in print, broadcast and digital media during 2019.

Newsday reporters and trained investigators spent three years uncovering evidence of widespread discriminatory treatment of home-hunting minorities by agents associated with the largest and best known residential brokerage companies on Long Island. Newsday’s 45,000 word, 16-part report found that agents accommodated white potential buyers but denied equal service to minorities, directing white and minority buyers to different neighborhoods and warning white buyers to avoid the schools in predominantly minority communities. The study found that black home buyers received disparate treatment by agents 49 percent of the time. For Hispanics, the rate was 39 percent and for Asians, 19 percent. The series, called “Long Island Divided,” included more than 35 video elements that ranged from undercover segments contrasting how agents treated white and minority home buyers to a 40-minute documentary, “Testing the Divide.” It told the story behind the story and placed the findings in the context of Long Island’s troubled racial history. The Newsday report generated action within days of publication from the highest levels of federal, state and county governments that led to significant reforms.

The New York Times also garnered a President’s Choice Award for its special photo and text essay, “The New York City Block Party.” During the summer of 2019, The Times dispatched 20 of its photographers to attend and record 65 block parties throughout the five boroughs. The result: an extraordinary series of photographs that captured the joy of New Yorkers celebrating their block and their neighbors with a day of food, music, dancing and camaraderie.

Presentation of the awards, originally planned for May 13 at New York’s National Arts Club, were postponed because of the coronavirus spread and are now scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at 7 p.m. Instead of a traditional dinner, the event will be “virtual,” conducted over Zoom. Tom Brokaw of NBC News will deliver the keynote address.

“This year’s Excellence in Journalism Awards come at a most challenging moment for our profession,” said David A. Andelman, president of The Silurians Press Club. ”In our first Zoom awards gala, it is our privilege to recognize an extraordinary collection of the best and brightest, paying tribute to all those who each day give so much of their talent and energy to keep us informed and in touch with our world.”

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