Category Archives: St. Louis

Three veteran journalists depart PD

photo by Terry Ganey

by Terry Ganey

There was a poignant departure ceremony earlier this week on the fifth floor of the building at 900 N. Tucker Blvd, the headquarters of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Newsroom colleagues shared stories about three veteran reporters – Tim O’Neil, Jim Gallagher and Tim Bryant – who were among six journalists taking advantage of a recent buyout offer. Together these three have accumulated some 89 years of experience just at the Post-Dispatch.

The event was similar to others taking place since 2005, as financial pressures have forced owner Lee Enterprises to trim staff. This loss seemed especially painful after all the cuts that had taken place. These three had spent all of their time in the journalistic trenches, and it would be hard to find anyone more conscientious, humble and hardworking.

“This is a great group who have been serving the people of St. Louis for many years,” said one editor. “It has been a privilege to work with them.” In an era when the man occupying the White House rages against journalists being “enemies of the American people,” consider the careers of O’Neil, Gallagher and Bryant.

Columnist Joe Holleman said he had learned much from O’Neil during the years they had worked together. “His word is iron,” Holleman said. “Every word of an O’Neil story works for a living.” Holleman recounted an anecdote about how, after a former mayor of St. Louis claimed another city official had earned a Purple Heart, O’Neil uncovered the records to show the claim was a fraud.

O’Neil gave up a piece of his body collecting the news. Last Nov. 9, while covering a hearing in St. Louis County, Robert E. Jones, the lawyer for Sunset Hills, slammed a door to a conference room after O’Neil had opened it to make an inquiry. Jones slammed the door to keep O’Neil out, slicing off part of the journalist’s finger. A lawsuit is pending.

Business Editor Roland Klose recounted how Gallagher could take a complicated subject and make it understandable for readers. And he related how readily Gallagher would accept an assignment, no matter what the topic. “Do you have something for me?” was Gallagher’s greeting to his editor, Klose said. The headline over Gallagher’s last business column for the newspaper fittingly read: “A geezer’s guide to Social Security.”

Discussing Bryant, Klose said he could extract stories about development from the walled-off world of real estate. He said Bryant was once locked out of a meeting of developers, but he was still able to unearth what had transpired in the meeting by making telephone calls and resorting to old fashioned “shoe leather.”

The buyout offer was made to journalists 55 and older with 10 years of experience. Also departing the paper in the buyout were veteran City Editor Pat Gauen, reporter Steve Giegerich and sportswriter Dan O’Neill.

Gilbert Bailon, editor-in-chief, said there was no getting around the fact shrinking resources will have an impact at the newspaper. But he said the staff remained committed to covering news important to the people of St. Louis.

In an era of “fake news” and declining circulation, the Post-Dispatch has published a house ad that seeks subscribers. It reads: “TRUTH…FREEDOM OF THE PRESS…Delivering stories that uncover truths and fight for progress. Help us protect that liberty.”

 

Greitens plays hide-and-seek with press

by Terry Ganey

Lock on Greitens press office door (photo by Terry Ganey)

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — There’s a game of hide and seek underway in Missouri’s state capital.

The new governor, Republican Eric Greitens, is doing the hiding. The state capital press corps is doing the seeking.

So far, Greitens is winning.

A former Navy SEAL with no experience in government and no penchant for answering questions, Greitens has yet to hold a full-blown news conference since he was sworn into office Jan. 9. Sometimes when pursuing reporters have posed questions, he has ducked into an elevator. During an appearance calling out the National Guard for an ice storm, Greitens deflected questions that sought information about other issues.

Following the recent signing of a “right to work” bill, perhaps one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in modern memory, Greitens bolted out the back door of his office rather than field questions about it. When Greitens held a joint appearance with other state officials to discuss a troubling issue at a foster home, reporters were put on advance notice: “Questions unrelated to this situation will not be answered at this press conference.”

“It’s like covering a brick wall,” said Phill Brooks, a veteran state capital reporter who works for KMOX radio in St. Louis. “You can’t ask questions of this governor. You’re shut off if you try to ask questions. Many of the announcements of state government are getting done through Facebook. I feel like we’re covering the executive branch of state government with a brick wall in the way.”

Kurt Erickson, the statehouse reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has resorted to filing Open Records requests to extract routine information out of the Greitens administration. Erickson posted on Twitter recently that “no longer can a reporter freely enter Eric Greitens’ press office to talk with his spokesman.” The posting was accompanied by a photo of a lock on the door to room 218 in the state capital.

For years capital reporters have entered that door where a receptionist could field a request to see the governor’s press aid. In Greitens’ case, that’s Parker Briden.

In response to Erickson’s post, Briden tweeted, “That’s not the ‘press office,’ it’s a full suite of offices. Go through the main entrance and they’ll buzz me.”

The “main entrance” Briden referenced is the reception room where everyone wanting to see the governor or his staff shows up to seek an audience. A reporter for the Gateway Journalism Review went to the reception room recently and requested to see Briden.

The receptionist buzzed him on a telephone, and when there was no answer, the receptionist suggested sending Briden an email. The GJR reporter emailed Briden asking for an interview for information about press access to the governor. There was no response. State capital reporters say they have a hard time getting Briden to respond to written and telephone inquiries.

As public officials reach out to constituents through their own means of communication such as social media, the journalistic organizations supplying straight news to the public have been shunted aside. The Republicans controlling the General Assembly have moved the press offices to a roost in the Capitol building. The Senate has limited journalists’ access by ousting reporters from a table on the floor of the chamber and moving them to a nosebleed section of the public gallery.

If reporters had a chance to question Greitens, they’d ask him about the millions of dollars in undisclosed campaign contributions he received, about the unidentified donors to his inauguration parties, and about his tax returns that he never made public. They’d also ask him about policy decisions to cut state funds for the elderly, disabled and higher education.

Greitens’ behavior has not gone unnoticed. For example, Bill Miller Sr., the veteran editor at the Washington Missourian, recently wrote in an editorial: “Gov. Eric Greitens has gotten off to a terrible start in setting an example to lawmakers, and to all Missourians, in regard to transparency. Why is he hiding the donors who have been backing him? There is no question that he apparently believes it will harm his political career.”

Miller went on to say Greitens apparently has his eyes on the White House. Which brings up the question: Can Greitens play hide and seek for four years?

CBS’s Major Garrett to speak at GJR Celebration

Thursday, March 23, 2017 will be the Sixth Annual First Amendment Celebration in support of The Gateway Journalism Review (GJR) successor of the St. Louis Journalism Review (SJR).  The speaker will be Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS. Garrett also covered Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Garrett graduated from the University of Missouri in 1984 with degrees in journalism and political science.

The GJR celebration will be held at the Edward Jones HQ, Manchester and Ballas Roads from 6 pm to 9:30 pm. Invitations will be mailed to past attendees and supporters of GJR. Tickets for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are $100.  Payment can be mailed to GJR/SJR, 8380 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63132.  Contributions will strengthen the ability of GJR to continue excellent coverage of local, regional and national issues important to journalism and our democracy.

For information contact Dan Sullivan at  <39djsullivan@gmail.com> or 314-313-0858.

Media and courts failed on Ferguson

The Ferguson story of racial inequality in St. Louis and the nation was largely ignored by the media and judicial system before Michael Brown was killed in 2014. And the Missouri Supreme Court has done little to impose reform since then.

That was the consensus of lawyers, journalists and community activists who came together Sept. 14 to talk about social media and the Pulitzer Prize tradition. The panel at Saint Louis University Law School was part of the two-day Millstone lecture series focusing on the social justice tradition of the Pulitzer Prizes during the prizes’ 100th anniversary. The lecture series honors the late James C. Millstone, a senior news editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and mentor of a generation of reporters before his death in 1992.

Kevin Horrigan, the Post-Dispatch’s deputy editorial editor and a Pulitzer finalist for his work on Ferguson, said he regretted how late the media were to the story.

“One of my big regrets is that we as a newspaper didn’t become continually and consistently engaged in the Ferguson story before Ferguson happened…. This problem is not new, it’s decades old. It is a fundamental and tragic missed opportunity for the Post-Dispatch…. We got pieces of it along the way. Jeremy (Kohler) wrote some terrific stories about cops floating from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We’ve written about fire districts. We wrote editorials about restrictive covenants. But we never engaged on a persistent, crusading aspect of this story until post-Ferguson. And that’s not really in the Pulitzer tradition. The Pulitzer Tradition was to crusade against injustices. We missed it, we let it go…. And the sad fact is that we are less likely because of economic forces to be able to do the sort of loud, persistent and relentless reporting on this story that it deserves.”

Kohler, an investigative reporter at the Post-Dispatch, pointed out that he and others had written stories of police and court corruption in the years before the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. There were stories about the mishandling of rape cases and police who moved from municipality to municipality. But he agreed ArchCity Defenders was first to the story of the municipal court injustices that wrecked peoples lives.

Thomas Harvey, director of ArchCity, said the Ferguson story writ large was a “story that its been ongoing in America since its inception. It is a story we have largely sought to ignore. It is a story that that any reporter, any person, any lawyer, any law student could have just walked out to a court or a shelter or a jail and heard about any day…. And that is a story of the way the legal system systematically deprives mostly African-American…of their civil rights, creates and exacerbates poverty…. We see the results of these intentional acts right here in our back yard and we have failed to do anything about it.”

It’s a story about “folks that were stopped by one of the 67 police departments in the region, went to one of our 81 courts in the region…….were told that if they didn’t come back with the money they owed they would be arrested and jailed….They are arrested, they are jailed, they are told that to buy their freedom they’ve got to come up with the money that everyone knows they don’t have or they can’t get out. And then they call their family members and their friends and they say can you give me money….so i can get out of this cage and get back to my children.”

Families “scrape together every penny they had and try to get their loved one out of jail…then they were told at that moment that they were wanted in another town so instead of being free they were moved from one cage to another cage….. Five people in those jails have hanged themselves….”

Hand in the cookie jar

The journalists and lawyers on the panel agreed that the Missouri Supreme Court had failed to make meaningful reforms.

Horrigan said, “since the death of Michael Brown…there has been no major permanent change in St. Louis municipal courts. There have been some cosmetic changes. But the state Supreme Court has not done what it logically and morally ought to do which is to dissolve all 81 municipal courts and put them under the auspices of the county circuit court. And why is that – because there are entrenched interests, the traffic bar, the municipal court bar.”

Kohler agreed. “The Supreme Court has not done anything to change. The judges themselves, the courts themselves, the police departments themselves have been shamed temporarily…but there is not structure in place to make that permanent.”

St. Louis is a “frustrating place” for reform, he said. “St. Louis is not the kind of place that likes to admit that it did something wrong. It doesn’t seem to get embarrassed by itself . St. Louis gets stuck with its hand in the cookie jar and it says this is always the way we get cookies.”

Tony Messenger, the Post-Dispatch columnist and former editorial editor who also was a Pulitzer finalist for his work on Ferguson, described the injustice of the Ferguson municipal court that he had witnessed the morning of the panel.   http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/tony-messenger/messenger-ferguson-judge-holds-naval-vet-s-reputation-in-her/article_5fd18b94-c99c-520f-9d17-79c710b3cfa7.html

Stephanie E. Karr, the former Ferguson city attorney who resigned under fire, was back in court serving as city attorney because no successor had been appointed. She insisted that Navy veteran Fred Watson plead guilty to a minor littering charge, claiming that his previous lawyer had agreed to the plea – even though there is no record of that plea agreement.

Watson’s case was highlighted in the Justice Department’s report of unconstitutional police practices in Ferguson. A police officer stopped Watson after he had finished playing basketball and insisted on an identification. When Watson refused, the officer arrested him and threw in other charges, such as the much-abused charge of failure to comply with a police order. Because of the arrest, Watson lost his security clearance and his job in cybersecurity at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Has anything changed?

Even though Messenger acknowledges that “a lot hasn’t changed,” his approach to his job has.

“One of the things I tell people is that what Ferguson did to me is that it changed the rest of my career…. A woman wrote me and told me that she is tired of me using the F-word – the F-word is Ferguson. Ferguson, the F-word is not going away…. This is the story I will write about for the rest of my career…. It is going to take us that long: It has been two years and the Supreme Court has done nothing. It’s been two years and we still have 81 municipal courts. It’s been two years and Stephanie Karr is still the prosecutor in Ferguson even though she says she resigned… We haven’t solved this in two years and we’re not going to solve it in four years or five years or 10 years. It’s going to take us 20 years.”

On the hopeful side, Messenger said that “government officials are using the lens of racial equity more than they ever have in this city’s history.”

There was evidence of change from one questioner in the audience – Marie Kenyon, director of the new Peace and Justice Commission for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The “Archdiocese hadn’t had a peace and justice commission for 20 years,” she said. “Cardinal Rigali said maybe we don’t need one of those….. It was only after the Ferguson uprising that Archbishop (Robert J.) Carlson said oh, maybe the church better looking into this too…. Now at the chancery, where I work, we’re finally talking about something other than pro-life.”

Nicole Hudson, leader of the Forward Through Ferguson group following up on the 189 calls for action of the Ferguson Commission, said she had seen activists come together in ways that hadn’t happened before Ferguson.

The goal, she said, was “a state of racial equity, which is a state where outcomes are no longer determined by race.” St. Louis is far from that, she added. Infant mortality among blacks has declined in recent years but it is now three times as great as for whites, up from twice as great a few decades ago.

Hudson and Harvey emphasized nothing would have changed without the “uprising in the streets.” But she added that many of the people of Ferguson are “emotionally spent.”

Twitter – the good and bad

Horrigan said “Twitter is as good as the person who tweets. Often it is a source rumor and innuendo and falsehood. The difference between mainstream journalism and social media is standards and my God, if we don’t abide by standards we’re really in trouble.”

Kohler agreed Twitter has its limitations because it is loaded with journalists and activists. He thinks Facebook is a better way to engage the community.

Harvey, though, credited Twitter with enabling him to “get direct access to journalists all of the country….something that couldn’t have happened before Twitter. So there are productive, important ways you get outside of the gatekeeping of decision-making about what is written about your community.”

Hudson said Twitter was “one of the places that keeps me accountable to the unvoiced…. It is really useful tool to stay accountable and keep my mind open.”

Messenger agreed that Twitter “helped drive the narrative of Ferguson,” but added, “It’s a good thing…..I connected with communities and sources I might not have connected with, specifically people of color. I found them on Twitter….I often used Twitter more than personal contact to get to know people and perspectives….

“There was an opportunity for journalists to connect with people that sometimes – to use the metaphor of the ivory tower and the editorial page – that we sometimes were not connecting to.”

Journalism loses staunch civil rights voice, mentor

George E. Curry, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch, co-founder of the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ) and co-founding director of the GSLABJ’s workshop for minority high school students, civil rights activist and advocate for the black press, died of a heart attack on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.

Curry began his journalism career with Sports Illustrated before working for the Post-Dispatch from 1972–1983. He went from there to being Washington, DC, correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, where he brought the workshop model to the Washington ABJ chapter with support from several other former St. Louis media colleagues who also had joined DC journalism outlets. He was served as New York bureau chief for the Tribune.

Curry became editor of Emerge magazine in 1993, after Black Entertainment Television acquired a majority interest in the publication. He worked for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, where he wrote a weekly syndicated column that appeared in 200 newspapers, leaving in 2007 and returning in 2012. At the time of his death, he working to reestablish Emerge.

Curry wrote Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach (1977) and edited an anthology, The Best of Emerge Magazine (2003).

To many St. Louis colleagues, Curry’s most important contribution was as founder of the GSLABJ’s journalism workshop, now approaching its 40th year, with colleagues and alumni having replicated the model in several other cities, because of its role in training young people in essential journalism skills and launching their careers.

A service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27, in Curry’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are expected to present eulogies on Friday, Aug. 26, and at the funeral respectively.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has added in memoriam piece about Curry to its 2016 conference in Chicago and will present an excellence in journalism award in his name.

More information will be in our September print edition.

Links:

http://www.gslabj.org/news-and-events/

http://www.stlamerican.com/news/columnists/guest_columnists/george-curry-was-my-first-editor-best-editor-mentor-and/article_cdea7516-687f-11e6-81d2-f345d0834659.html

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/obituaries/george-e-curry-journalist-and-columnist-dead-at/article_222b9ee8-c513-5a9e-9373-451706109f65.html

http://www.nabj.org/news/304574/NABJ-Mourns-the-Passing-of-Longtime-Black-Press-Advocate-George-E.-Curry.htm

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/21/490849074/george-curry-legendary-political-and-civil-rights-journalist-dies-at-69?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=npr&utm_medium=social&utm_term=nprnews

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-george-curry-obit-20160821-story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/george-e-curry-journalist-who-led-black-publication-emerge-dies-at-69/2016/08/22/41c75e5a-6875-11e6-ba32-5a4bf5aad4fa_story.html

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-delse-curry-20160821-story.html

http://stylemagazine.com/news/2016/aug/21/hillary-clinton-statement-passing-george-e-curry/

http://chicagocrusader.com/trusted-comrade-black-press-legend-george-curry-dies-69

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GSLABJ/

Author’s note:  Ruth E. Thaler-Carter was a reporter for the St. Louis Argus when the GSLABJ’s Minority High School Journalism Workshop began and helped launch a similar program in Washington, DC. She has written about the workshop for the St. Louis Journalism Review. She is currently a freelance writer/editor based in upstate New York and webmaster for the GSLABJ, which will hold a 40th anniversary event on December 3, 2016.

St. Louis journalism awards

Awards and Honors

Andrew Fowler, formerly of St. Louis, won the highest graduate award from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, the 2016 Harrington Award, in the category of Videography/Broadcast. Fowler began his career interning at the St. Louis American while continuing his studies. As his graduate project, he shot a documentary in Chicago titled My Muthaland, following the journey of actress Minita Gandhi. He is currently an online lifestyle journalist with Insider in New York City. Find out more about Fowler’s work in the St. Louis American.

St. Louis Public Radio has received a national Edward R. Murrow Award for its website, STLPublicRadio.org, in the large market radio category. The award was announced last month by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). While SLPR has won multiple regional Murrow Awards in its history, this is its third national Murrow.

Post-Dispatches

RECOGNITION
Metro columnist Tony Messenger received a Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, awarded by the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Ian Froeb, Gabe Hartwig and Josh Renaud won first place for digital innovation in the annual Society of Features Journalists awards. Daniel Neman took third place for specialty writing and Aisha Sultan received an honorable mention for commentary.

STAFF CHANGES

Bryce Gray has been hired as a business reporter, covering energy and the environment.

Jacob Barker, who formerly covered these topics, moves to the economic development beat. Gray formerly worked for the High Country News, a Colorado magazine.

Ashley Lisenby, who just finished a masters degree at the University of Illinois-Springfield, is joining metro as a digital-first breaking news reporter.

Mike Faulk, currently with the Yakima Herald-Republic in Washington, has been hired as a civic watchdog reporter.
Celeste Bott, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, is joining the Jefferson City bureau as a reporter.

Nicholas J. Pistor has resigned as City Hall reporter to work on his new book, Shooting Lincoln.

St. Louis Public Radio wins national awards for Ferguson coverage

St. Louis Public Radio has won two national awards for its 2015 coverage of the events that followed the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. One is a new Peabody award and the other a Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association.

The station was the inaugural recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards for its project “One Year in Ferguson.” 

The award is a new and separate award from the traditional Peabodies and is given to the top five stories in digital spaces.  The team that worked on the digital projects included Kelsey Proud, digital innovations editor, Brent Jones, data visualization specialist, Stephanie Lecci, newscast producer and Bill Raack, editor.

https://m.facebook.com/stlpublicradio/posts/10153395641132101?comment_id=10153395754232101&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R0%22%7D

The ABA Silver Gavel was awarded for contributor William H. Freivogel’s series of legal analyses on “Law, Justice and the Death of Michael Brown.”  The award announcement said the series showed “in-depth legal understanding to the highly charged aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed African–American teenager by a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer.”

http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2016/05/american_bar_associa0.html

 

Editor’s note: William H. Freivogel is publisher of the Gateway Journalism Review.  Margaret Wolf Freivogel, his wife, is the retired editor of St. Louis Public Radio.