Pittsburgh City Paper
Pittsburgh City Paper columnist Tereneh Idia
columnist Tereneh Idia has tackled difficult topics, including racism, COVID-19, and body shaming, with blunt honesty and earnest passion. Now, her work has earned her a Pittsburgh Foundation award named after a respected local journalist.
Idia is one of two winners of the 2021 Sally Kalson Courage in Journalism award
, created to honor the legacy of the late Sally Kalson, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2014. Kalson was a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
reporter and columnist who, according to a press release, “put the spotlight on injustice and wrote truth to power” over her 30-year career.
Idia was chosen by a committee of advisors because, like Kalson, her City Paper Voices column
“challenges Pittsburgh because she wants it to be better and knows it can be better.”
Idia is splitting the award — which includes a $5,000 cash prize that will be shared between the two winners — with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
journalist Sean Hamill, whose investigative series on the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center showed how the Beaver County nursing home failed to protect its residents and employees from COVID-19. The facility is now under investigation by the Pa. Attorney General’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Photo: Randy Olson
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalist Sean Hamill
Since being launched in 2019, the Sally Kalson Courage in Journalism Award Program reaches statewide to identify a broadcast, print, or online media journalist whose work embodies what Kalson was known for: “fearlessness, fortitude, and excellence in taking on issues of our time.”
“This program is our small effort to encourage people to look for, and report stories that go against the grain, despite that they implicate powerful interests,” says Kalson’s surviving husband, Ed Feinstein, who serves on the award committee along with Mila Sanina of PublicSource, attorney Amy Ginensky, investigative reporter James Steele, and Post-Gazette
columnist Tony Norman.
Also serving on the committee is Andy Conte, director of Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation. Conte spoke to Idia’s win, saying, “I think Sally would see a fellow traveler in Tereneh’s work.”
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Idia graduated from Drexel University LeBow College of Business. As a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, she received her Masters in Science in Fashion Design from Kenyatta University and started her career in fashion as an educator, including teaching at Parson School of Design in New York City and as a visiting scholar on global fashion at Yale - National University of Singapore.
Idia has won numerous awards in the past, including back-to-back Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania for Excellence in Written Journalism, Daily for Columns/Blogs. She was named Best Column (aka the Billy Manes Award) by the 2020 Association of Alternative Newsmedia and as one of the winners of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation's 32nd annual Robert L. Vann Media Awards.
Her multi-award winning CP
column adds to a number of projects, both writing and non-writing related, Idia has done over the years. In addition to Voices, she writes the CP Clothes Make column
, interviewing Pittsburgh artists, business owners, and others about their personal style. She also runs Idia’Dega
, a global fashion collective for which she travels and works with African and Indigenous women artisans, including those of the Olorgesailie Maasai tribe in Kenya, and of the Oneida Indian Nation in New York.
Idia also recruits Pittsburgh artists to create designs for TripleAAAnimals
, a series of fake sports teams that pay homage to local wildlife and the city’s distinct neighborhoods. The ever-expanding design collection can now be found on clothing, tote bags, and other items. As for her writing, Idia feels validated, to some degree, by her Kalson award win.
“I so often feel like I’m writing into a void,” says Idia. “Sometimes I feel like what I’m writing doesn’t have an impact. This recognition brings me hope that people are reading my columns and are gaining recognition of issues faced by Black residents.”