By Storer (Bob) Rowley
The Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation announced that Northwestern University student Alex Perry is the recipient of the 2023 Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship–a $5,000 annual grant given to a Chicago-area journalism student in honor of trailblazing Club President Les Brownlee.
The Foundation received 17 applications this year for the scholarship from various talented candidates from private and public institutions and community colleges around Chicago and Illinois. The Foundation Board chose Perry at its May meeting after an extensive review of many exceptional applicants.
Perry is finishing her Junior year at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and heading to New York City to work this summer reporting on the media startup ecosystem for The Information, a tech and finance publication. The Johns Creek, Georgia native will graduate next year with a Bachelor of Science in the Class of 2024. She is double majoring in Journalism and Economics with a minor in data science.
In addition to her demanding academic schedule, Perry has held multiple jobs in Evanston. She is currently editor-in-chief of the Daily Northwestern student newspaper, where she previously served as print managing editor, opinion editor and newsroom strategist. She co-led a data-driven investigation of decades of student funding for student groups at Northwestern that revealed student government had not sufficiently committed to supporting BIPOC student organizations. The Medill Local News Initiative recently accepted Perry to serve as a student researcher to use her data science skills to help track local journalism outlets.
Last summer, Perry was a Dow Jones News Fund multiplatform editing intern at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and last fall, Perry was named an emerging reporter by ProPublica. As an associate copy editor, she contributed to Axios Atlanta’s morning newsletter and was the youngest person ever featured in Harvard University’s NeimanLab Journalism Predictions this year. Earlier, she earned a fellowship to work on The Macon Telegraph. In high school, she worked for two years as a newsroom intern at the Johns Creek Herald, her local paper.
“The Chicago Headline Club Foundation is thrilled to announce Alex Perry is the recipient of the 2023 Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship,” said Foundation President Molly McDonough. “In a field of exceptional candidates, Alex was a standout. She impressed the board with her dedication to finding new business models to help support investigative, business and local journalism in the years ahead.
“We are delighted to award Alex this scholarship as she pursues her interests in journalism and her studies,” she added. “We look forward to what she does next in her career.”
Perry said she was “very, very honored” to accept the scholarship and feels lucky to have been chosen for the opportunity. She hopes to use the award to continue studying the media industry at Northwestern. “As a colleague, friend and now student editor,” she added, “I’ve learned the value and importance of believing in and supporting somebody’s abilities and potential.”
Perry observed in every newsroom where she has worked: “I’ve noticed that it’s the support that people have for each other and the work that they do that make a place feel good to be at. That’s why I care about finding sustainable business models for journalism—so newsrooms can support passionate journalists and their great work.”
Perry is most interested in financial investigative journalism, and her focus on business journalism goes beyond the usual because she wants a career that will help the business of journalism and “find solutions” for the media’s financial state in the future. She already is building experience editing, managing and reporting the news at Northwestern and in professional media, including working in places where she learned firsthand the effects of “underfunded newsrooms and undervalued media workers.”
“What I have learned is that when someone whose talents have been undervalued is given the space and resources to grow, they bloom like a flower,” she wrote in her scholarship application.
McDonough and Scholarship Committee Chair Storer H. (Bob) Rowley said the Foundation is deeply grateful for the work of deans, faculty advisors, counselors and student media at Chicago-area and Illinois higher education institutions to pass on news of the scholarship opportunity to prospective journalism students and encourage those interested to apply.
Brownlee, who died in 2005, was the first African-American member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the first African-American president of the Chicago Headline Club.
Applicants for the Les Brownlee Scholarship are current undergraduate journalism students at Chicago-area and Illinois colleges or universities. The Chicago Headline Club Foundation assesses candidates on their journalism excellence and potential, previous experience, clips, cover letter and a demonstrated interest in pursuing a journalism career.
Applications for next year’s scholarship will open in February 2024.