MOLLY Award presented by Texas Observer
It’s been just over two years since the death of Molly Ivins, the progressive and very funny nationally syndicated columnist. But her spirit lives on in many ways, including an award named for her: The MOLLY 2009 National Journalism Prize.
The second MOLLY was presented June 11, at a gala Austin dinner to benefit the Texas Observer, the liberal journal Molly co-edited with Kaye Northcott in the early 1970s.
The MOLLY winner was Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey, for a series of columns on immigration.
“Molly would have been thrilled at the scores of worthy entries and taken a little amused pride that this year’s winner is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle, the newspaper where she began reporting as a summer intern,” said Observer CEO/Publisher Carlton Carl. He interned alongside Molly in the summer of 1965.
Even though she became a nationally acclaimed columnist and speaker for progressive causes, the Observer remained Molly’s pet. Over the past couple of decades, she donated and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help sustain the iconoclastic bi-weekly.
When Molly gave the annual Mary Alice Davis lecture at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 15, 2006, she was so weak from breast cancer that she delivered her remarks sitting down. Friends said the only reason she went through with the speech was so the Observer could get the $10,000 honorarium. She died less than three months later, on Jan. 31, 2007.
In keeping with Molly’s satirical verbal style, emcee Kirk Watson, the former mayor of Austin turned state senator, couldn’t resist taking some pokes at Republicans like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former President George W. Bush.
Perry, Watson said, had “suggested we secede” from the United States, but then balanced the Texas budget “by borrowing from (President Barack) Obama.”
Watson also noted that the ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel was packed, despite the $150-perperson tab.
“In the midst of the Bush recession, we have a larger turnout for the Molly dinner than last year,” Watson said.
It was a progressive, mostly Democratic crowd. Keynote speaker Ellen Goodman, a nationally syndicated columnist based at the Boston Globe, said she faced a challenge upon returning home.
“I now have to go back to Boston and explain to everybody that Texas is a progressive state,” Goodman joked.
She said Bush’s presidency actually had some benefits for columnists like Molly and her.
“If there was any redeeming value to the last eight years, it was that it provided so much fodder – especially for Molly,” Goodman said.
“I’ve heard that George W. is hiding out in your state,” Goodman added. “Which may explain the reason no one in the other 49 states is worried that Texas might secede.”
Ken Bunting, former associate publisher of the now-closed Seattle Post-Intelligencer, once oversaw Molly’s column writing when she worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He applauded the Observer’s far-sightedness 55 years ago when it was established as a non-profit publication dependent on subscriptions and donations.
“The Observer continued to survive because it never depended on advertising,” Bunting observed dryly.
Instead, it got significant help from good-hearted wealthy progressives like Waco insurance magnate Bernard “B” Rapoport and Randy Parten, son of the late J. R. Parten, an oilman and University of Texas regent. Randy Parten was presented the annual “Fatcat of the Year” award for his financial help.
Bob Moser, the relatively new editor of the Observer, joked about the magazine’s ability to win national prizes despite its low budget and stingy salaries.
“No question that we have won more awards per dollar spent than any other publication,” Moser said.
The magazine’s reputation is such, Moser added, that when looking for a managing editor to fill in while Brad Tyer heads off for a year-long fellowship at the University of Michigan, applicants included former managing editors of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
In his closing remarks, Watson said a huge thunderstorm had broken out during the dinner, and cautioned everyone to drive safely on the slick streets.
Most of the progressives in Texas were at the dinner, Watson said, “and we can’t afford to lose any of you.”