The University of Illinois’ Department of Journalism in the College of Media presented the 2010 Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism to Gay Talese, literary journalist and author, on November 5, 2010, at a ceremony and dinner held at The Waldorf=Astoria in New York City.

Thoughts on journalism by Gay Talese...

"Journalism is a calling, not a job, and certainly not a job that can bring much in the way of worldly wealth. If one seeks wealth, one should enter the legal profession, or the financial profession, or some other, but not journalism. The wealth in journalism is knowing that you are among colleagues who value the quest for truth above all else, and who are dedicated to reporting as truthfully as possible what they have learned to the community at large…knowing that this is essential to the preservation of a democracy that is transparent and truthful to the voters and to all who play a role in knowing right from wrong."


Gay Talese

Gay Talese was born in Ocean City, New Jersey, in1932 to Italian immigrant parents. He attended the University of Alabama and after graduation was hired as a copyboy at The New York Times. After a brief stint in the Army, he returned to The Times in 1956 and worked there as a reporter until 1965. Since then, he has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Harper's Magazine.

He is the bestselling author of 11 books. His earlier books deal with the history and influence of The New York Times (The Kingdom and the Power, recently reissued in trade paperback by Random House); the inside story of a Mafia family (Honor Thy Father); the changing moral values of America between World War II and the era before AIDS (Thy Neighbor's Wife); and his family's immigration to America from Italy in the years preceding World War II (Unto the Sons, also recently reissued by Random House). He is also the author of The Bridge, about the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows span between Brooklyn and Staten Island; New York: A Serendipiter's Journey, a series of vignettes and essays on New York; and Fame and Obscurity, a collection of his articles principally from the pages of Esquire magazine, where he was credited by author Tom Wolfe with the creation of an inventive form of nonfiction writing called "The New Journalism."

His most recent book is A Writer's Life, a memoir about the inner workings of a writer's life and the interplay between experience and writing. A collection of his sports journalism (The Silent Season of a Hero) was published in September. His groundbreaking article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" was recently named by the magazine as the "best story Esquire ever published."


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Comments from Friends and Colleagues

"Gay Talese is the most important nonfiction writer of his generation." 

— David Halberstam, The Boston Globe

"He has written some of the best American prose of the second half of the 20th century." 

— Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic

"He is a reporter, true enough, but one with the eyes and ears of an artist." 

— Barry Siegel, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Mr. Talese lives with his wife, Nan, in New York City. He is working on a book about marriage.