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Terry's Story

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WASHINGTON, D.C. Longtime journalist, educator and political commentator Terry Michael Pigg, known to readers and friends alike as Terry P. Michael, died Aug. 7, 2017, in Washington, D.C., at the age of 70 of a lingering illness. Michael was the founder and executive director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, which for 26 years sponsored The Politics & Journalism Semester at The George Washington University, teaching more than 500 future journalists about real-world politics.

Before founding the WCPJ in 1989, Michael worked for more than two decades as a reporter and press secretary, including stints from 1983 to 1987 for the Democratic National Committee from, and for the 1988 presidential campaign of the late Illinois Congressman Paul Simon. He began his career in 1969 as a reporter for the Mount Vernon (Ill.) Register-News and the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette.

Before his tenure at the DNC, Michael worked as a press aide for Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), and for Simon's congressional office, as well as for Clyde Choate, who at the time was the Democratic leader of the Illinois House. He was the founder and first president of the Association of House Democratic Press Assistants in 1977. He incorporated the Center along with Paul Simon, who operated a chain of newspapers before entering politics, and the late Charles Puffenbarger, a former editor at the Washington Evening Star and the Washington Post, with the single goal of "educating future generations of men and women who interpret politics, so that citizens can be educated for their civic responsibilities."

In addition to founding and overseeing the academic seminars and internship programs at the WCPJ, Michael taught "Journalism 100: Theory and Practice" from 1998 to 2002 as an adjunct lecturer at The George Washington University, and was a frequent guest speaker on media and politics.

In seminars of about a dozen students held The Watergate in space donated by Atlantic Media, students in the WCPJ program interacted with leading figures in politics and journalism, from Secretary of State Colin Powell, Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry, and Senators Robert Dole and Richard Durbin, to PBS's Judy Woodruff, columnist and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, the late Helen Thomas, "dean" of the White House press corps, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, and Washington Post syndicated columnist George Will. Graduates of the program are working in newsrooms in Washington and across the country and around the world, including NPR, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.

My own career had spanned the period of transition from a largely party-based, to a more candidate-centered, media-driven politics, Michael once said. As part of the first generation of modern political press secretaries, I knew it was important for the interpreters of politics to have a better understanding of a process that was increasingly one of strategic communication.

Michael received the "Distinguished Service Award" from the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001, and the "Presidential Award" in 2002 from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Among his credos was George Orwell's axiom that, "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations."

As a political commentator, Michael was an outspoken "libertarian Democrat," writing regularly for Reason.com and publishing essays in USA Today, the Washington Times, The Examiner, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and ABC News.com. He returned once more to the world of electoral politics in 2016, working as Senior Media Advisor for the Libertarian presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Terry Michael Pigg was born on June 9, 1947, in Mount Vernon, Ill., and graduated from Mount Vernon Township High School in 1965, before receiving his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois in 1969. During high school and college, Michael staged "Battles of the Bands" and teen dances with local bands from the community.

In addition to dozens of friends from more than 40 years in Washington, D.C., Michael is survived by his sister Kirby Presswood and her husband Dr. Gary Presswood, PE, of Las Vegas, Nev., and his brothers Stephen Alan Pigg of Mount Vernon, Ill., and Kim Pigg of Las Vegas, Nev., along with 7 nephews and five nieces.

Michael was predeceased by his sister Sydney Sue Wolfe and her husband David Wolfe, as well as by his own parents, Floyd Harris Pigg and Helen LaVerne (Copple) Pigg, of Mount Vernon, Ill.

In lieu of flowers or donations, Terrys family would appreciate receiving personal remarks and pictures emailed to his sister, Kirby Presswood of Las Vegas, Nevada, via email at FriendsofTPMichael@yahoo.com.
Published on August 25, 2017
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