Susan Hess wins national columnist society award

By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA

News editor

July 23, 2005

Susan Hess, Hood River News columnist, received an award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Hess, who began writing her “Second Story Views” column for the Hood River News four years ago, accepted the award on June 25 in Grapevine, Texas.

Hess won third place for General Interest columns for newspapers with circulations under 100,000. First and second places went to Bob Norman of the Broward-Palm Beach, Fla., New Times, and Michael Murphy of the Patriot Ledge in Massachusetts, respectively.

“I was thrilled,” said Hess, who had recently broken her leg in a bicycling accident. She was accompanied by her husband, Jurgen, to the Texas ceremony. Hess said she enjoyed hearing other columnists talk about their work, in particular author Pete Hamill, the Society’s’ 2005 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

When her name was called to receive her award and it became apparent she could not walk up onto the stage, another member of the audience rose and brought the award to her. It was Bob Welch of the Eugene Register-Guard.

“It was really nice. Bob said he wanted to get up so that I could receive it from a fellow Oregonian,” Hess said. She was not the only writer from the state to win an honor. Susan Nielsen of the Oregonian took first in the Humor category for newspapers over 100,000 circulation. At Hess’ dinner table were writers from the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Denver Post.

Of Hess’ work, judges wrote, “With fervor for things green and clean in the Columbia River Gorge, Susan Hess offers vivid stories that tweak pallid consciences. She walks old logging roads by the side of a volunteer who describes his three houses, then makes sure he gets his free trail pass from the Forest Service at the end of the day. She shows Celilo Village and its residents living at or below the poverty line on a narrow sliver of land between basalt cliffs and the Union Pacific Railroad and Interstate 84 as windsurfers enjoy sailing nearby.”

Hess said of the Society honor, “it gives you courage enough to go out on some limbs, test yourself, and reach out and take stands.

“My goal is to talk about the things you care about and to entertain, but not to preach. And that’s really hard: to advocate without inspiring further violence in the world.”

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