05/29/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
From the start, PEOPLE has been known as a sourcebook on the stars. But, as regular readers know, articles about real people make up much of the magazine. The special talent of PEOPLE staffers for capturing the drama and poignancy of everyday life was recognized recently by the Overseas Press Club, which honored photographer Harry Benson, correspondent Civia Tamarkin and senior writer Paula Chin—along with 86 other journalists—for their work in 1988.
Benson and Tamarkin won the OPC's coveted Madeline Dane Ross Award for their Oct. 3, 1988, cover story on 90-year-old Celia Goldie. In it, they documented the anguished decision of Chicago clothing sales representative Bob Goldie to put his mother in a nursing home and the sad effects of that on the entire family. "The suspense, the buildup and the climax presented in the photos and the text," said the OPC judges, "are perfectly executed and depict one of life's most wrenching emotional experiences." The recognition was gratifying to Tamarkin, who spent five months visiting the Goldies. "It was a story we really cared about," says Tamarkin. "We became part of this family."
Finding subjects willing to aid a photographer and reporter in the search for authenticity is never easy. Chicago-based Tamarkin, 41, who over the past five years with PEOPLE has filed stories from as far away as Vietnam, spent months scouting nursing homes before meeting the Goldies through mutual friends. "Bob is an only child and felt so alone in his decision making," says Tamarkin. "He said he wanted to see if in some way he could help others. It always surprises me when when people allow you into their lives."
To Benson, 59, their motivation seems clear: "People don't want to pass this way unknown." He should know. Over his 40-year career (including 15 with PEOPLE), the dapper Scotsman has focused on some of the world's most determined achievers, from Presidents (Kennedy through Bush) to sitcom sirens (Joan Collins to Robin Givens). Yet, he says, he prefers stories like the one on Celia. "That was really what I always felt the business was," he says. "Doing things that counted." Tamarkin and Benson will split a $1,000 honorarium.
Senior writer Paula Chin, 34, who joined PEOPLE last September, received a citation from the OPC for a feature she wrote last June while on the staff of Newsweek International. Her article, "Adoption from Abroad," took a long, hard look at the growing demand for foreign-born infants by childless American and Western European couples, uncovering both good and bad news in the process. "There are baby-selling rackets in places like Sri Lanka and South America that are appalling," says Chin, "but it was heartening to know that in South Korea the government runs a very efficient program, and there's not too much abuse."
Since coming to PEOPLE, Chin has also covered her share of good and bad news, writing stories on the second career of a former Ugandan president and the trials of Rock Hudson's ex-lover. So the Los Angeles-born Chin was sanguine on awards night when emcee "Peter Jennings announced the winners and called me Paul Chin," she says. "I thought, 'Well, my father will be very happy. That's his name.' " We're happy, too, for all the honorees.