Category Archives: St. Louis

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. 

Bill to expand student journalists’ rights moving in Missouri Legislature

Talk is cheap.  Free speech isn’t.

And that is what Missouri lawmakers must decide as they contemplate the Cronkite New Voices Act currently making its way through the state government.

If passed, the bill, sponsored by Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, would protect student journalists and advisers from censorship unless content is libelous, illegal or an invasion of privacy.  The act would override a decision in 1988 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which ruled that St. Louis high school students’ freedom of speech rights were not violated when the school’s principal prevented articles about teenage pregnancy and parental divorce from being published in the school newspaper.

Instead, if the bill passes, student journalists would be granted the same free-speech rights afforded to other students under the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District Supreme Court ruling.  Under that ruling, school administrators cannot punish students for speech that does not cause a substantial disruption to the operation of the school.

If Missouri legislators approve the bill, Missouri will become the eighth state — joining Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts and Oregon — to pass a law protecting student journalists’ free-speech rights under the Tinker standard.  A similar bill is pending in the Illinois General Assembly.

A good sign for passage of the Missouri bill was the House’s overwhelming vote in its favor in March.  The legislature’s sympathy for the student journalists accosted by Melissa Click (see cover story) seems to have led to a greater appreciation of student journalists.

Bill makes sense

Protect young adults and their professional educator and treat them with respect and trust?  Yes.  Tell them their ideas matter?  Yep.  And what they think and what they say and what they communicate could spur discussion and educate?  You betcha.  Young adults need to feel valued and reminded their voice, their thoughts, their words matter.  This bill could help solidify that.

Journalism has changed.  That’s no secret.  The students in the journalism programs at my school, Kirkwood High School — and in programs throughout the country — produce a daily news website, a news show, a newsmagazine and a yearbook.  My students are tweeting breaking news, posting links to Facebook, and snapping shots during a basketball game that are immediately shared on Instagram and Snapchat.

We are lucky at Kirkwood High School.  Our journalists get that voice.  Beginning with former principal Franklin McCallie and extending to today’s Principal Mike Havener, we have been a school that supports the First Amendment and values our students.  And I have seen kids thrive.  Kirkwood H.S. has won the Journalism Education Association’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award more than any school in the country since its inception.  A program that had 75 students a decade ago now has more than 200.

When the events of Ferguson unfolded more than a year ago, some St. Louis-school administrators told advisers and students they could not cover the events in their school media.  To not cover something as important as Ferguson would be unfathomable to my students.  This type of censorship by administrators undermines critical thinking and destroys the quality of student media.

At Kirkwood, we covered it.  On our website, in our newsmagazine and in our yearbook–we covered it.  Students covered it to inform, to educate and to spur thoughtful discussion.  The press freedom at Kirkwood allowed student journalists to cover the events including a student walkout during the school day.  This press freedom told students their voice matters.

So much has changed in journalism, but one thing hasn’t: the benefits of practicing it when protected by the First Amendment.  Journalism gives students responsibility and real participation, not cosmetic decision-making honored only if it falls within the scope of the principal’s personal prejudices.  Establishing an open forum for student free expression through the student press is one of the most important things schools do.  Student journalists can tell the stories of their community better than anyone else can, and student voices can help promote positive school culture or help to change destructive culture.

Would you rather have this speech protected and under the supervision of a trained adviser or tell censor kids and have them express the same sentiments on social media?  Oftentimes a healthy student press means a healthy community.  It is civics in action.

Scholastic journalism is the epitome of authentic project-based learning, using various platforms to help students develop important media, news, information and civic literacy skills that are so often forgotten in other parts of the school curriculum.  And the goal of scholastic journalism is not to create journalists, but rather it is to develop capable employees and engaged citizens.  Though high school journalism teachers are proud of those students who follow career journalism’s calling, those educators know their students will be more informed, more empathetic and more engaged as a result of their scholastic journalism experience.

“The ongoing process of questioning, experimentation, reflection and analysis combines autonomy with a supportive ‘OK-to-fail’ environment, boosting confidence in students as they struggle with real-world challenges and find solutions,” said Sarah Nichols, a high school publications adviser and vice president of the Journalism Education Association, the largest association of scholastic journalism educators and advisers.

Today’s scholastic journalism — with an emphasis on the ethical and legal responsibilities of communicating in a digital world — will help students learn to rise above the noise and create meaningful dialogue.  What other class can claim such a vital learning outcome?  Quite simply, the end-goal is not journalists, but better people.

This process and end product cannot happen if student journalists and advisers are censored.  Censorship is detrimental for students and society. Punishing students for their speech teaches them that censorship, often arbitrary and without limits, is acceptable.  But in a society dependent on journalists and the public keeping the government in check, we cannot afford to have curiosity and confidence bred out of our students.  We cannot afford to stifle today’s new voices because they are tomorrow’s media leaders and citizens.

It is 2016 not 1988.  Eight states have laws negating Hazelwood.  There is no evidence of any greater incidence of libel, invasion or other injury in those states – even California, which had had such a law for nearly 40 years.  So that is a combined 160-plus years of experience with student press freedom.   After all, the New Voices Act merely gives students the same level of First Amendment protection that the Supreme Court gave Mary Beth Tinker in the 1960s when she wore a black armband to school to protests the Vietnam War.

Look, teenagers are incredible.  They are funny, smart, eager to please, and up for just about anything as long as food is involved.  They have the most generous hearts and want desperately to be loved and validated.  They are quirky, and messy, and have the best sense of humor.  I want to instill in them the belief that they are not limited, and that they can do anything if they’re willing to work hard enough for it.

The Cronkite New Voices act would make students feel important and valued.  And we all need to feel that way.

Free speech in Missouri may die Friday without as much as a peep

We learned Monday the New Voices Cronkite Act (HB2058) is not being put up for vote by Sen. David Pearce. If this bill is not heard by Friday, it will die.

If passed, this bill will restore the Tinker standard of student expression in public high schools. The Tinker Standard (1967) protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a “clear and present danger” or a “material and substantial disruption” of the school. The act would override a decision in 1988 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier which ruled that St. Louis high school students’ freedom of speech rights were not violated when the school’s principal prevented two articles, one about teenage pregnancy, from being published in the school newspaper.

There are similar bills running through legislatures throughout the country and nine states have already passed similar legislation. In fact, one is currently working through Illinois and Maryland just passed theirs last week. The bill had overwhelming support in the Missouri House (Y: 131 N: 12 NV: 1 Abs: 18) and the Senate Education Committee.

Now it just needs a chance.

Missouri scholastic journalism students and advisers need this to pass. This protection ensures First Amendment protection as students practice journalism under the guidance of a trained adviser. Much better than killing programs and kids moving their message to social media regardless. At Kirkwood High School, where I advise more than 175 journalism students annually, young adults know their voice matters. They critically think, collaborate and produce thoughtful, engaging journalism. It’s the definition of civics in action.

We need to tell young adults their ideas, their words and their speech matters. The Cronkite Act is a step toward that. Look, I do not know Sen. Pearce, but I would ask him to trust advisers and young adults. Tell them their voice matters in this world of muddled messages and lack of media literacy. Support scholastic journalism and media in an educational setting.

Still a TV news junkie

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On Aug. 9, 2014, as the streets of Ferguson, Mo. erupted in protests following the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, one of the first television reporters on the scene was Betsey Bruce of KTVI, Channel 2.

Bruce updated a report on the station’s website at 3:50 p.m.  That afternoon she worked the streets collecting information.  As she stood in front of the Ferguson police station that Saturday night, she told viewers, “Police are trying to calm tensions.”

The account she delivered included interviews with witnesses, visuals of the shooting scene and comments from the police chief.  Near the conclusion, she said St. Louis County Prosecuting Bob McCulloch would end up investigating.

Months later, when the streets boiled over again after a grand jury issued a “no crime” finding, Bruce was in Ferguson again.

“It was the most compelling and the most frightening experience I’ve ever had because it was dangerous and you didn’t know who you were talking to,” Bruce recalled later. “Those are frightening times when you’re not quite sure when you should be looking over your back or taking notes.”

Many other reporters were on the scene in Ferguson, performing in the same way.  What sets Bruce’s work apart is the fact she was 65 years old when the event unfolded.

While all of her contemporaries have retired or moved on, Bruce continues to work long hours and weekends as a TV street reporter.  She prefers to cover politics and public policy, but will accept any assignment.

“I’m always fascinated by what’s going on,” she said. “I call myself a news junkie.”

Bruce’s 45 years in St. Louis television news at what was once KMOX-TV and then later at KTVI is a record.  As the first woman to work hard news TV assignments, she is a pioneer in St. Louis broadcast journalism.  And Bruce is unique in that she has spent her entire career in one market.

“I hate to say this, but when I was in college I was watching her on TV,” said Mike Owens, who covered the news for KSDK-TV, Channel 5 for 27 years between 1983 and 2010.

In September of 1970, fresh out of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Betsey Barnette started as a writer at KMOX-TV, the CBS-owned station in St. Louis. In December of 1971, she married Bob Bruce, whom she had met in college.  For a while she was known as Betsey Barnette Bruce, and then finally, Betsey Bruce.

In college, her adviser had warned her that news directors considered women “economic luxuries.”  “What he meant was that most news directors didn’t believe women were capable of handling a full range of stories,” Bruce said.

At that time, women’s roles were limited in St. Louis television newsrooms.  Pat Fontaine had done weather and features on KMOX-TV.  Dianne White, the first black weathercaster, was on KSD-TV, Channel 5.  Lee Shepherd had become a co-anchor on that station’s “Eyewitness News at Noon.”  And Harriett Woods was doing public affairs programs on KETC, Channel 9 and KPLR, Channel 11.

By January of 1971, Bruce had persuaded management she could go out in the field to report stories.  Her first two offerings were about child daycare and abortion.

“I was trying to prove to my boss that I was not an economic luxury, that I could do things that either the men hadn’t thought of doing or didn’t do or maybe were uncomfortable doing,” Bruce said.  At the time her mentor was Pat Fontaine.

“She was the only older woman on the air at my station and she was very helpful to me,” Bruce said. “One time I got some unwelcome attention from a male staff member, and whatever happened, she took care of it.  It was gone.  He was still there, but he never did that again.”

Covering her first City Hall news conference in the office of Mayor A.J. Cervantes, a photographer from another station made a big deal about Bruce breaking new ground.  She got to ask the first question.  Bruce recalls now some early comments such as “wow, you’re taking a job from a man; you shouldn’t be doing this.”

“There was a lot more focus on how I looked than what I was covering, which I always found frustrating,” Bruce said. “I was very determined, that I was not going to be distracted, and I was going to do my job and be a good journalist and be sure I didn’t spoil it for any other women behind me.  I was probably pretty intense and focused.”Jack Etzel, a reporter at KMOX-TV from 1969 to 1974, recalled that Bruce “had a maturity about her.”

“Women at that time were very rare, and it was unusual to hire someone full time essentially right out of college,” Etzel said. “Betsey was the youngest and ablest of anybody.  It was nothing for her to cover any story that happened.

Betsey Barnette was born into a family of journalists.  Her grandfather on her mother’s side was George Lasher, the founder and director of the Ohio University School of Journalism.  Her mother was the first woman reporter at Editor and Publisher.  Her father worked for newspapers in Gary, Ind., and Buffalo, N.Y.

In 1965, when Betsey Barnette realized she wanted to go into broadcasting, she chose the University of Missouri because the journalism program had a television station with a commercial license.  She enrolled in the fall of 1966, entered the broadcast sequence and edited the “Maneater” student newspaper in 1969.  As a result of a visit to MU by KMOX-TV managers in the spring of 1970, she got a job interview and was hired.

Between 1971 and 1989, Bruce made a name for herself at Channel 4, becoming the political editor and weekend news anchor.  In those days as now, success for television reporters came with either a permanent assignment at a network or a Monday-through-Friday primetime anchor slot in a major market.

Bruce harbored those dreams, too.  But her career took a different turn in 1989 when Channel 4 managers offered her a weekend-only job.

“I left Channel 4 because they didn’t want to have me any more as a full-time anchor,” Bruce said. “I always felt that was a financial reason, a salary reason.  I don’t know for sure.  But I don’t like to burn bridges.  I don’t worry about that.”

Tripp Frohlichstein, who was assistant news director during some of the time Bruce was at KMOX-TV, said he remembered her as “a hard working reporter.”

“She cultivated many sources and broke several stories,” Frohlichstein said in an email. “Even today, she represents a throwback to earlier reporting in that she continues to try to present all sides of an issue, no matter what she covers.”

Bruce moved to KTVI, Channel 2, initially doing some anchoring and reporting. In television journalism, women have always had to meet extra criteria relating to appearance and youth.  Bruce said there used to be a rule of thumb that when women turned 45, they couldn’t survive on TV news.

“Other than some of the very early national broadcasters who made a move from print to broadcast, there’s always been an expectation that women meet a different standard than men on the air,” Bruce said. “If I looked and had the weight of a Herb Humphries, if you remember Herb, was a Channel 4 reporter, I probably wouldn’t have the job.  (Humphries, a 300-pound man, died in 2003).  I do know that to me the more important thing was having a voice that was strong and clear and reasonably pleasant to listen to.”

In 1994, when she was 45, Channel 2 managers pulled her off the anchoring job.

“It had nothing to do with the quality of my work.  I decided I was going to hang in there.”

Over at Channel 5, Owens often found himself in competitive situations with Bruce since they often covered the same stories.

“I always knew when Betsey was around I was going to have to work hard to keep up,” Owens said. “She is a tough competitor.”

Bruce estimated that she has worked half of her career on the weekends, and that off and on, she held anchor posts for 16 years.  Owens said it was “incredible” that Bruce was still at it.

“If I was at her level, 45 years into a career, I don’t think I’d want to be working weekends,” Owens said. “I’d say, ‘find a kid to do this.’  She works what they give her.  I think that’s pretty impressive.”

When Betsey Barnette joined Channel 4 there were three newscasts: 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.  “It was a very relaxed schedule,” she said. “We worked afternoons and evenings.”

Things have changed.  The Channel 2 newsroom produces 13 1/2 hours of news for both KTVI and KPLR.

“It’s become a much more hectic, pressure-driven business even in the last 10 years,” Bruce said. “There is a lot of pressure to turn a 4 p.m. story for a dayside reporter now.  And you don’t get a photographer until 11 a.m. so you have a window of five hours often, not always, to get something put together and it cannot be as comprehensive as I like to do.  I have to admit, I’ve found that frustrating, but we are serving an audience with information and the real challenge is to be sure that you have covered it well enough that a. your accurate and b. you have the other side if there is another side to a story.”

Tom Heyse, a video photographer, worked many assignments with Bruce before he retired last year after 42 years.

“She is very thorough,” Heyse said. “She will dissect everything and look at both sides.  She never has felt entitled.  She’s worked for everything she’s gotten.  When her situation changed from anchoring to street reporting — a lot of talent really want to be anchors — she accepted that role and really did it well.  She’s a unique person in our industry who plugs along and does the job with no complaining.”

Some people in the news business can become calloused by the grind of daily events, but Heyse didn’t see that with Bruce.

“She didn’t look at it as a story that she had to get done for the day,” Heyse said. “She would get involved in a person’s life.  It wasn’t a put-on.  It was true stuff.”

In the four decades that Bruce has covered the news, the technology has constantly evolved.  When she began, 16-milimeter film documented events.  If a reporter was far away from the station, film was air-shipped, processed and edited.  Later, videotape replaced film, and microwave dishes mounted on satellite trucks sent signals to the station from a remote location.

Now the news can be recorded with digital cameras, edited on laptops and sent for broadcast with a special telephone, provided the reporter has a cellular signal.  Relaxed union rules now permit “backpack journalism” in which a single reporter carries the equipment, shoots the video, conducts the interviews and does the stand-up report.  Bruce managed to avoid that method.

“And I am fortunate because I had a ruptured disc last spring and had back surgery and so I’m glad I don’t have to carry that stuff around,” she said.  During her three months’ of recuperation, Bruce had time to think about what’s next.  Her husband is a semi-retired insurance broker.

Bruce said she has a basement full of files to go through as well as stacks of her grandfather’s papers that need to be archived.  She’d like to do some writing of her own, possibly about the switch from film to electronic news.

But for now, she’d like to keep doing what she’s doing.

“It would be really hard for me to skip what I have a front row seat for.”

The Pulitzer Prize reporter who carried a gun

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When Taylor Pensoneau cast the characters for his novel “The Summer of ’50,” he modeled his fictional hardboiled newspaperman, Jake Brosky, mostly after a reporter Pensoneau remembered from his early days at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Straight out of the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1962, Pensoneau found himself in the newsroom with Ted Link.

“He was the Hollywood version of what a reporter looked like,” Pensoneau recalled. “He was good looking in a tough rugged way. He wore the role complete with a wide-brimmed hat.” Dark-complexioned and movie-star handsome, Link reminded some people of actor Robert Mitchum.

By 1962, Link had a reputation as a fearless investigator, a wounded ex-Marine and a man who wouldn’t hesitate to use a gun if he thought it was necessary. Reporters–especially the young ones—gave him a wide berth. Editors showed him great deference.

Appearances aside, Link was the genuine article. In the 136 years of the newspaper’s publication, Link likely ranks first among its reporters in terms of investigative production, widespread notoriety and vivid color.

Link’s stories affected national politics, won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, sent people to federal prison and changed the operations of federal agencies. The files he kept stirred action from U.S. Senate investigating committees.

“He was, perhaps, the outstanding investigative reporter in the U.S. in his day,” the late Selwyn Pepper recalled in an email in 1996. “He enjoyed the confidence of law enforcement people and gangsters in every part of the country. He was probably the most interesting reporter I have ever met.”

A colleague, the late Carl Baldwin, once wrote: “Link was probably the closest thing St. Louis ever had to a TV-type private eye. Gangsters had a certain romantic admiration for him, and he was chosen as the receptacle for their information.”

There was a dark side, too. A pistol-packing journalist, Link once was accused of first-degree murder for killing a handyman on his farm west of St. Louis. A jury acquitted Link in a case resembling the “stand your ground” scenarios that occur now.

The acquittal came after an unusual trial during which the prosecutor did not cross-examine Link and a key witness to the shooting – Link’s son – was not called as a witness. Some St. Louis police confided years later that they thought Link had gotten off because of his reputation and connections with law enforcement.

ILLINOIS CORRUPTION; TAX COLLECTORS ON THE TAKE

Link was born in St. Louis on Sept. 22, 1904, the namesake of his famous grandfather, architect Theodore Carl Link, the designer of Union Station. At age 20, he began work as a journalist at the St. Louis Star, where he focused on organized crime, gangland violence and the Ku Klux Klan. Reporting stints followed at the St. Louis Times and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

When Link joined the Post-Dispatch in 1938, he was one of a few reporters who could claim to have worked at all of the St. Louis dailies. Other than a stint in the Marines during World War II, Link remained there until his death.

Among his shadowy news sources, Link counted Carl Shelton and his brothers Bernie and Earl, whose gang controlled gambling and liquor distribution in southern Illinois. A territorial dispute between the Sheltons and Charlie Birger, a former ally, led to one of the bloodiest gang wars in the annals of organized crime. In 1950, the Saturday Evening Post described the Sheltons as “America’s Bloodiest Gang.”

After Bernie and Carl Shelton were assassinated, Earl Shelton and other members of the gang began sharing information with Link that led to an expose of widespread corruption in Illinois: gambling, payoffs and close relationships between politicians and the underworld.

Link’s stories accused Gov. Dwight Green and the state Attorney General George Barrett of benefitting from funds collected from crime figures. Illinois state officials retaliated by indicting Link on charges of kidnapping, intimidation and conspiracy. The trumped-up accusations were connected with Link’s involvement in an incident in which a man was questioned in a Peoria hotel room about two murders.

Link’s disclosures about Illinois government corruption overturned the Green administration with the election of Gov. Adlai Stevenson in 1948. A new state attorney general dismissed the indictments against Link, and he later received the American Newspaper Guild’s special award for distinguished public service.

In 1951, Link began getting tips about illegal payments being made to St. Louis area agents of what was then called the Internal Revenue Bureau, the forerunner of the IRS. For a price, the local agents would let the targets of tax investigations off the hook. Raymond L. Crowley, the newspaper’s managing editor, gave Link the green light to pursue an investigation, with other reporters like Pepper lending a hand. Pepper later said Link did 90 percent of the work on the investigation.

Link disclosed that the Democratic National Chairman William Boyle Jr. had accepted payments from a St. Louis company that in turn received $500,000 in government loans. Link also discovered Boyle’s connections to the local Internal Revenue Bureau, and that the local federal tax collector, James P. Finnegan, was also on the company’s payroll. Finnegan later went to prison along with Matthew Connelly, President Harry Truman’s former appointment secretary.

Link learned that a report concocted at the suggestion of Truman Attorney General J. Howard McGrath falsely claimed there had been no tax-fixing scheme. Eventually, McGrath and the head of the Justice Department’s tax division, T. Lamar Caudle, were fired. Caudle was also convicted of misconduct in a tax-fixing case. The articles on corruption in the Internal Revenue Bureau led to a reorganization of the agency and earned the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Some of Link’s reporting attracted the attention of a federal investigating committee headed by U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. His panel was probing organized crime, and after Link disclosed the connections between the mob organizations in St. Louis and other cities, Kefauver’s investigators sought Link’s help. Kefauver later wrote, “In numerous instances, the first connections among the underworld, conniving politicians and corrupt law enforcement officers were supplied to the committee…out of Ted Link’s voluminous files.”

Little slipped by Link. His habit was to listen to and record every remark he heard. His intelligence-gathering style was to categorize and index every fact or rumor that came his way in case it might be useful later. His “Link-Memo for filing” entries found their way into envelopes in the Post-Dispatch reference library. “The reigning gang in Detroit is headed by St. Louis Sicilians who headquarter out on Jefferson Street and who saw the opportunity for bringing in whiskey from Canada about seven or eight years ago,” begins one of Link’s undated two-page memos.

“OBVIOUSLY A SPECIAL CASE”

Some of Link’s investigative methods likely were informed by his experiences outside of newspaper work. For the five-year period before joining the Post-Dispatch, he worked as a private investigator for the National Lead Company. He went after crooked lawyers who were filing phony injury claims in behalf of miners. Fifteen lawyers were disbarred as a result of his findings.

When World War II began, Link was 37, but his age didn’t stop him from joining the Marines as a correspondent in the Pacific. When a Japanese bomber demolished a press tent on Bougainville on Nov. 7, 1943, Link was among the five wounded. A reporter who had been filing stories for Newsweek Magazine and for an Australian newspaper was killed when hit in the forehead with a piece of shrapnel. Link was hit in the legs and back.

Years later in the headquarters of the Post-Dispatch, an aura seemed to surround him. After entering the newsroom, many would notice how before Link sat down at his desk he would take a handgun out of his pocket and place it in a desk drawer. He sat at a desk off to the side in his own little area, Pensoneau recalled. “None of the reporters, especially the young reporters, ever went up to talk to him because frankly we were afraid of him. He was never called up to the city desk like everybody else was. If someone on the city desk wanted to talk to Link, they got up and walked over to talk to him. He would not get up. Ted was never summoned. He was obviously a special case.”

Pepper recalled that Crowley, Ben Reese, the city editor, and all the other editors were impressed by Link. “I think they were all also a little afraid of him,” Pepper’s email said. “Reese, a huge part-Indian, was frightened by few people but I think he was a little in awe of Link.” Pepper said Link carried a gun for his own protection. “He told me he would never be killed or attacked by a major gangster but a minor gang figure might kill him to gain status among his gangster associates.”

Pepper wrote: “Link was pretty much a loner. He had little to do with the other staff members, although he was friendly enough. He rarely went to lunch with other reporters. Usually he had lunch with some public official or some hoodlum. He had many friends among the FBI people. They valued his information. A long time ago there was an incident in the office in which Link took offense at something another reporter had said. Ted slugged him, knocked him to the floor. I’m pretty sure that was the end of it—no one attempted to discipline him.”

Link was more reporter than writer. He disgorged his notes to rewrite men who would cast his material into a narrative. Pepper was often on the receiving end. “I was his personal rewrite man for many years and we had a good relationship,” Pepper recalled.

THE KILLING IN ST. ALBANS

In the summer of 1960, the front pages of newspapers across the country were dominated by political news as John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon sought their parties’ presidential nominations. On the morning of July 12, 1960, the front page of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat contained a story out of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles speculating on the possibility of Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington joining the Democratic ticket as Kennedy’s running mate.

Two columns over was a photo of 55-year-old Theodore C. Link with a story that began: “Theodore C. (Ted) Link, a Post-Dispatch crime reporter, shot and killed a laborer Monday in a quarrel at the Link summer home in St. Albans, Mo.”      The dead man was Clarence W. Calvin. Link said he had fired five shots at the 35-year-old man using a .38 caliber revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun. He said Calvin had come after him with a knife and a pronged garden hoe.

The fatal shooting took place during an argument near the ruins of Link’s vacation cottage in Franklin County, just west of St. Louis, overlooking the Missouri River. The dwelling had been destroyed by fire a few days earlier, and Link believed it had been deliberately set. Calvin had done farm laborer jobs for Link. Accompanied by his 11-year-old son, Theodore Link, Jr., the elder Link said he gone to St. Albans to question Calvin, and found him rooting in the ashes of the cottage. Link suspected Calvin set the fire, and said he came armed to the meeting because he knew Calvin had a volatile disposition.

Link said Calvin denied setting the fire, and that an argument began. “He came at me with a knife and a hoe, and I ran for my shotgun, which was propped against a tree,” Link said. “I yelled to my son to run.” Link’s account differed from what Ted Jr. told authorities. According to the Globe report: “Ted Jr., however, said his father fired the first shot while Mr. Calvin was sitting at a picnic table and the last three as the laborer lay on the ground. The boy said he never saw a knife.”

On July 28, the Post-Dispatch front page was dominated by a story from Chicago where Nixon had won the Republican presidential nomination. A story two columns over reported that a Franklin County grand jury had indicted Link on first-degree murder charges. Link’s trial the following January was heard in Hermann, Mo., on a change of venue. Franklin County Prosecutor Charles Hansen told the jury that Calvin had been shot twice with a shotgun and three times with a revolver, and that Calvin “was shot at least once while he was seated and at least twice while he was lying on the ground.”

Defending Link was Henry G. Morris who was skillful during his questioning of potential jurors and who managed to help empanel an all male jury that included eight farmers. And as the trial unfolded, Morris erected a case of self-defense, managing to put Calvin on trial, and demonstrating during his cross-examinations that the shooting victim was a troublemaker on parole, a dangerous man who had threatened others in the community. There was testimony that Calvin had torched Link’s house. The second prosecution witness, Sheriff H. Bill Miller, testified that Calvin had twice threatened to kill the sheriff. Miller said he had to go to Calvin’s home three times because his parents said he had threatened them. On one occasion, Calvin pointed a shotgun at the sheriff. Calvin had a record of peace disturbances, especially when drinking.

Among the pieces of evidence introduced was a 28-page transcript of a coroner’s inquest in which Link said he fired on Calvin because “I was in fear of my life. I was in fear that he would shoot me, cut me or murder me and then my boy.” A St. Albans farmer, Marion Thiebes, testified that Calvin had told him the year before that he was going to “get” Theodore Link. Link testified in his own defense at one point stepping down from the witness stand to demonstrate for the jury how he fired from a crouched position. “When he moved to the end of the bench he leaped off and started toward me, raising the three-pronged fork over his head with the prongs aimed in my direction,” Link said. Link said he fired his guns as Calvin came toward him with the forked hoe and a knife he had pulled from his pocket.

“When I fired the third shot, it hit him in the head,” Link testified. “It knocked him back and he fell on his back.” The prosecutor did not cross-examine Link, and his son was never called as a witness.

In closing arguments the prosecutor said the defense had dwelt only on the character of the dead man. He said Calvin did get into arguments, but only when he was drunk and usually with members of his own family. “Clarence Calvin was not the number one citizen of Franklin County,” Hansen said. “We know that. We would be fools if we denied it. But did that give a Post-Dispatch reporter from St. Louis the right to come out there and kill a man?” Hansen described Link as the aggressor. He said Calvin wasn’t looking for a fight but that Link was, buying a shotgun during the trip earlier that day from St. Louis to St. Albans. He said Link had concluded from what he heard from neighbors that Calvin had burned down his house. “Link took it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner,” Hansen said.

William Wessel, an attorney from Hermann assisting in the defense, told the jury in the closing argument that Link was on his own property, had shot a trespasser in defense of himself and his son. He said the only evidence in the actual killing pointed clearly to self-defense. “Ted Link has rid Franklin County of an evil nuisance,” Wessel concluded. “Calvin had it coming.”

Among the possibilities for the jury to consider were convictions for first-, or second-degree murder, or manslaughter. However, Link’s defense team managed to get other instructions included. For example, one instruction told the jury “that you will take into consideration the evidence as to threats made by the deceased prior to the killing.” Another instruction advised the jury that it could take into consideration Calvin’s “rash, turbulent and violent disposition” and whether that affected Link’s “apprehension of great personal injury to himself.” Another instruction told the jury a defendant has the right to defend himself or a member of his family to prevent injury to himself or his family.

The Evening Star of Washington, D.C. published a special section on Friday, Jan. 20. It was the newspaper’s inaugural edition and it featured a full-page color portrait of the new president, John F. Kennedy. Inside, on page A-6, was an AP story datelined Hermann, Mo. “Reporter Cleared in Slaying of Man,” the headline read. The jury had acquitted Link after two and one-half hours of deliberation. Raymond Engelbrecht, the foreman, said the jurors thought Link had a right to protect himself and that the state had not brought any evidence to refute his contention of self defense. “It’s a terrible thing for a man to have his home burned down,” Engelbrecht said.

Bill Miller Sr., the editor and publisher of the Washington Missourian, covered the trial as a reporter for his family’s newspaper. Now 85 years old, Miller said he asked the foreman about the reasoning in the deliberations. “He was on his (Link’s) property, wasn’t he?” Engelbrecht said.

“In other words,” Miller said, “Link had told Calvin to stay off his property and when he found him on it, Link shot and killed him. Link’s attorney made Calvin the bad guy, and it worked with the jury. Link had a very good attorney and he really knew the people out there. He knew these farmers. If someone is trespassing on your property, they felt strongly and still do to a great extent, about property rights and gun rights. If they told you to stay off the property, you better stay off.”

Attempts to reach Ted Link Jr., for this story were unsuccessful. He did not return two telephone messages left at his home seeking comment. Pensoneau, 74 years old, said he has attempted to interview Link about his father in the past, but that the son has turned down his requests. “I got one quote from him, ‘my dad was more like a cop than a reporter.’ He didn’t like to talk about his dad.”

Baldwin died in 1994 and Pepper passed away in 2008. Both had been retired for many years. Link died on the job. He was still working in daily journalism at the Post-Dispatch when a heart attack took his life on Feb. 14, 1974. He was 69. Reflecting on his work, the Post-Dispatch called Link “persistent, incorruptible and unintimidated.”

Pensoneau said of all the reporters he has known over the years, he has gotten more questions concerning Link than about any other reporter. In August, Pensoneau was contacted by Dennis Enrietta of Cole City, Ill., who was researching the disappearance of Amelia “Molly” Zelko, a crusading Joliet newspaperwoman. Zelko had written stories about mob activities, and she vanished on Sept. 25, 1957 and was never seen again. Link had written about the case.

Enrietta said as he studied Link’s stories on Zelko’s disappearance he came away believing Link had the best sources. “I couldn’t figure out why a guy from St. Louis had so much information on this disappearance that happened in Joliet,” Enrietta said. “He seemed to be tuned into the right grapevine. I was hoping there was a secret archive where he kept some notes.”

 

The (in)exact science of weather forecasting

Meteorologists tell us they are getting better and better at forecasts, especially in the near term.

Well, not always.

On November 2 at noon in St. Louis, there was a tale of two forecasts.

At KSDK’s Channel 5 Mike Roberts predicted a high of 75 after a foggy morning.

But at Channel 4, KMOV, Meghan Danahey said that based on the fog, she was lowering her estimated high that afternoon to “near 70.”

Danahey was right. The high hit 71. It is a reminder that weathercasters still might need to go with their gut, depending on changing conditions.

Channel 4 has been the winner of a weather accuracy award for several years. Channel 5 used the same award to brag until Channel 4 took top honors.

The station wrote in a news release, “The honor comes from the independent firm WeatheRate who monitored the forecasts for all of the news stations in St Louis each day for an entire year, and then named KMOV the most accurate.”

On this particular day, that was indeed the case.

Eight days later, Danahey again served viewers better than Roberts at noon. For days, all the stations were predicting severe storms for Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Things began changing by the day before.

The National Weather Service has various categories for the potential of bad weather moving from “marginal” to “slight” to “enhanced” to “moderate” to “high.”

On Monday, two days before the predicted event, we were nearly dead center in the highest risk for that day, the “enhanced risk.”

By Tuesday morning, the enhanced risk moved further north, with the St. Louis metro area being on the southern end of the end of the greatest risk. The metro area was now in the slight risk category. But by 12:15 PM, the highest risk had moved north of the metro area. (Screenshot below from KSDK Facebook page).

To her credit, Danahey made a big point about the fact that in the last few minutes, the greatest threat moved to north of the area so viewers might relax a little (though she did make a point of saying there was still a threat – just a lesser one).

Roberts did not point out to viewers the big threat eased north. Instead, he said we were still in the “bull’s eye” for severe weather, which was no longer correct.

Channel 4’s Danahey better served viewers by noting how things were changing.

While it’s a small thing, this difference can be substantial for viewers. Many viewers hear about severe weather and get scared.

Accurate information is important. And when really bad weather is approaching, at that point, a bit of fear may be appropriate to get people to protect themselves.

But it is not okay to scare people days in advance as, in this case, all the stations were doing? No.

Advise? Yes. Scare?  No.

Despite the hype, the severe weather never materialized in the St. Louis area. In fact, the line of storms completely missed. To his credit, Dave Murray acknowledged on the 9 p.m. news on Fox2 (KTVI) how badly the forecasters messed up.

 

GJR 1113

Media cover – and uncover – environmental problems in St. Louis

Twenty years ago, the Society of Environmental Journalists chose St. Louis for its 1996 Convention. St. Louis had study trips galore for its 700 writers: dioxin at Times Beach, atomic waste at Weldon Spring, river ecosystem degradation at the Confluence.

Two decades later, St. Louis can add some new field trips for environmental writers, from abandoned lead smelters south of the city to invasive Asian carp in its rivers to a smoldering landfill in Bridgeton that is too close for comfort to a radioactive dump.

Short-staffed local news media cannot begin to cover all the hazardous waste issues and environmental problems that plague the region. Residents directly affected by the environmental hazards complain that they get precious little print, and even less local TV coverage of their problems.

Then there’s the state legislature, which not only avoids addressing Missouri’s environmental maladies, but actually proposes legislation to shield companies from liability for many of the dangerous messes they’ve created. And a dearth of coverage of the legislature shields it from public scrutiny for such perfidy.

Occasionally, outside media swoop in to check up on what concoctions the Gateway City has brewing in its polluted streams, abandoned quarries and industrial wasteland areas.

In 2013, Rolling Stone took a good look at the underground landfill fire in Bridgeton. Rolling Stone writer Steven Hsieh spent time at the landfill as well as at the nearby location of 8,700 tons of nuclear weapons waste. He also met with area residents Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel, who were alarmed by cancer rates in the area.

Hsieh heard how Chapman and Nickel have issues with stinky, rotten-egg westerly breezes that waft from the landfill – and the potential for that air to be laced one day with radioactive elements from the large West Lake Superfund site of the Environmental Protection Agency.

West Lake’s radioactive waste goes back to 1942, when the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis began processing thousands of tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project. Over the next quarter century, huge amounts of radioactive waste from the processing were quietly dumped at sites throughout the metropolitan area, including thousands of cubic yards that ended up at the West Lake location.

Toxic time bomb

Chapman, Nickel and other north St. Louis County mothers formed Just Moms STL in spring of 2014. They said their mission is to educate the St. Louis region about the West Lake Landfill, the role St. Louis played in the Manhattan Project and the toxic legacy left behind that they say needs to be addressed.

“Unfortunately, we have witnessed a pattern with this dangerous radioactive waste,” said Chapman. “Wherever it has been allowed to sit out, peoples’ lives have been devastated. It has literally left a path of heartbreak, illness and destruction.

“It does not discriminate,” added Chapman. “It has proven deadly to whoever encounters it – not only for them, but for generation after generation of their families. It’s like some Biblical curse — popping up in children and their grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Chapman and Nickel became especially concerned after a 2013 press conference including economist, Peter Andersen, who has studied landfills for several decades. Andersen raised the prospect of a “dirty bomb” resulting from the underground landfill fire reaching the radioactive site.

Andersen pointed out that a dirty bomb does not involve nuclear fission and is not a weapon of mass destruction. However, a reaction involving groundwater, the landfill fire and radioactive waste could cause a release of radioactive particles into the air that could travel 10 miles from the Bridgeton site.

“Both the Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone have covered the issues occurring at the West Lake Landfill and the radioactive Superfund site,” said Nickel. “Rolling Stone’s was very accurate. I wish that they would do a followup. So much has happened. We know so much more about the seriousness of this site. Al Jazeera recently sent a team to report on it.”

Andersen’s assertions about the landfill fire and a radioactive dispersal apparently caught the attention of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. Although he described the risk of the fire contacting radioactive waste as a “remote hypothetical,” he sued Republic Services which runs the landfill operation.

Koster underscored a list of public health concerns and odor pollution violations posed by the landfill. He said the company must address the problems or face further state action.

More local coverage 

The mothers of Just Moms STL were gratified with the national coverage that began in 2013 and   prompted local and state agencies to take notice. However, they feel there is still a long way to go with educating the public and to getting some resolution to the problems at West Lake.

“The best local news on this has actually been a tie between KMOX Radio, the Post-Dispatch and NPR,” said Chapman. “Second would be McGraw Milhaven with KTRS Radio and KSDK Channel 5. FOX-2 news has not done as much reporting recently.

“Reporters have worked incredibly hard to understand all the complex issues occurring at this site,” added Chapman. “Things change at the site every week, making it really hard to do a quick and thorough reporting. We’ve learned, unfortunately, that local TV news is heavily influenced by St. Louis and our state politics. We’ve actually had reporters come to us off the record and tell us they want to do more stories, but are told, no!”

Rolling Stone blamed inaction by state officials and Missouri’s congressional delegation on the state’s bid to bring the manufacture of small, modular nuclear reactors to Missouri. A lot of ruckus about radioactive waste from the past would not sit well with company’s interested in siting a nuclear operation in the state.

“I think the manufacturing of small modular reactors has played a small role in causing politicians to be ‘slow to act,’ but it’s not the major problem,” said Nickel. “The major problem is unlimited campaign donations being thrown around behind the scenes by lobbyists for all the financially liable parties.

“With this landfill, there are a lot of conflicts of interest,” Nickel added. “For instance, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s son Andy Blunt is a lobbyist for Exelon, and is currently running his father’s re-election campaign.  Exelon is financially liable for West Lake Landfill. Another example is Senator Kurt Schaeffer, running for Attorney General 2016, who is also a partner in the law firm Lathrope and Gage, currently representing Republic Services against the State of Missouri. These conflicts need to be reported.” 

Wheres the outrage?

Just Moms STL argue there needs to be much more coverage of the state legislature and proposed laws to cap liability costs and to quash lawsuits against companies such as Republic Services, Doe Run and more. 

“The implications of some of the proposed bills go way beyond West Lake Landfill,” said Chapman. “I think if the public understood the role and influence of big business in Missouri legislature, they would be more upset.

“The problem is that many people are like we used to be,” Chapman noted. “If they have never been forced to confront one of these issues like our community has, then they don’t get to see behind the scenes. We desperately need campaign finance reform in Missouri. Without it, the citizens of Missouri do not stand a chance against the unlimited blank checks these companies can write to their candidates.”

Another kind of outrage that Just Moms STL said is noticeably absent in the news – and from consumers of news – is “taxpayer outrage.” Not enough questions get asked about who should be responsible for paying for cleanup of contaminated sites – and not just West Lake.

“Both Exelon and the Department of Energy should be responsible for the clean up of West Lake Landfill,” said Nickel. “Exelon (formerly Cotter Corp.) knowingly illegally dumped this radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill and is listed as one of the main responsible parties.

“Our federal government appears to have not adequately supervised their licensee in the processing and in the transport of this material,” added Nickel. “The U.S. Department of Energy is already listed as a responsible party for West Lake Landfill.”

According to Chapman, the EPA has to take responsibility for botching the original assessments of the dangers posed by West Lake. She said this is because the fox was in the hen house when those assessments were made under EPA purview.

“There has been a dangerous trend at EPA of rubber-stamping documents which were actually prepared by some engineers hired by Republic Services and the other financially liable parties,” said Chapman. “The result is a history of gross negligence at this site that carries with it severe consequences for the people who have lived next to it for 40 years.

“I think we’re already seeing the consequences, such as the almost 300 percent increase in childhood brain cancers in the (63043) surrounding zip code,” noted Chapman. “I believe these statistics will continue to grow – and they’re coming to light. It’s a horrifying consequence of a federal agency mishandling the world’s oldest and most dangerous nuclear weapons waste.”

Valuable help

Just Moms STL members have high praise for environmental groups and activists who have come to their aid. Many of organizations have staged actions that have drawn news media attention to the West Lake issue.

Without the visibility of protests, the news media might not be inclined to dig into the science and the history, which are the biggest part of the West Lake story.

Members of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, including well-known St. Louis activist Kay Drey, have been outspoken about the West Lake situation. The Franciscan Sisters of Mary of St. Louis have organized demonstrations and environmental education events.

Local labor unions also have assisted Just Moms STL by hosting press conferences on the smoldering landfill and the West Lake radioactive site. A crowd of 100 gathered at the Operating Engineers Local 513 in March to hear St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s new health chief talk about a change in direction at Clayton, Missouri headquarters on the West Lake issue.

“There was a lack of political will in Clayton (on the West Lake issue),” said St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Kahn. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Faisal added, “I’m here to tell you that has changed completely.”

Chapman of Just Moms STL said the visit by Kahn indicates the area residents have finally gotten the attention of St. Louis County officials. She said they seemed to be hitting a brick wall with County Executive Stenger’s predecessor, Charles Dooley.

“We are definitely encouraged by the County Health Department’s new stance – this administration’s support is giving us hope,” said Chapman. “It also speaks to the seriousness of the impact that this burning Superfund site has on the people living, working and shopping in this community.

“We still feel that those living within a mile of this Superfund site need to be voluntarily bought out,” she added. “While we are extremely pleased to see a new health study by the county proceeding, the study by itself is not a permanent solution or relief for those people living within a mile of this site.”

Posting mixed reviews

Just Moms STL members offer mixed reviews for the daily newspaper covering the region, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Post-Dispatch remains the most comprehensive source for St. Louis news, despite dwindling pages and reporter layoffs in the last decade.

“Jacob Barker of the Post has spent a lot of time researching West Lake and attending community meetings, which gives him a good understanding of how the residents feel,” said Chapman. “His articles start out really strong and are factual, but in the end the businesses always seem to get the last word or quote in every article. By doing this it softens the message and makes it seem more pro-business.”

If there is an explanation for this, perhaps it’s because Barker is part of the Post-Dispatch’s business team, Just Moms STL says. He is not exclusively an environmental reporter, but covers the energy industry on the business side as well as the environment.

At one time, energy and environment were separate beats, but because of staff consolidations at the Post-Dispatch, they were combined. Current business editor, Roland Klose, said the merger of the beats happened before he arrived at the Post-Dispatch.

“If you have to combine beats, this one makes a lot of sense,” said Klose. “It’s good to have an environmental reporter who is comfortable looking at, and understanding, a company’s SEC filing. It’s good to have an energy reporter who understands the regulatory and consumer issues that affect a company’s bottom line. It makes for deeper, more authoritative coverage.”

Plenty to go around

Klose noted that there are plenty of environmental stories to go around at the Post-Dispatch – and reporters from different sections of the paper get in on the action.

“As for environmental coverage in general, we have other reporters who contribute,” explained Klose. “Todd Frankel, who has since joined the Washington Post, did important coverage of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways controversy last year.

“Jeremy Kohler, investigative reporter, did work on the remediation of the abandoned Northwest Plaza site. Virginia Young and Alex Stuckey cover regulatory and legislative issues from our Jeff City bureau. Freelancer Jack Suntrup did stories for my section on Coastal Energy’s tank farm near the Eleven Point River,” continued Klose.

“Tim Barker, who covers biotech for my team, also has done important environmental stories — from the rise of ‘superweeds’ to GMO labeling,” explained Klose. “Chuck Raasch, our D.C. reporter, has done work on the Monarch butterfly and Monsanto.”

All of these issues, from the use and abuse of Missouri rivers to endangered species and genetically modified organisms, might logically point to the need for a reporter focused and dedicated to the environmental beat. And not just at the Post-Dispatch, but also at radio and television stations.

“I think we definitely need more environmental reporters here,” said Chapman of Just Moms STL. “St. Louis has just so many environmental issues that the public needs to learn more about. Having dedicated beat reporters  would make it easier for the press to understand these issues.”

All the environmental issues here point to an overdue return of the Society of Professional Journalists to St. Louis holding another annual conference here and putting the region under the microscope.

After all, St. Louis has it all — from A to Z, from aluminum to zinc, with some lead, dioxin and mercury contamination sandwiched in between.

 

Author’s note:  Don Corrigan is a long-time journalism educator at Webster University in St. Louis and well-known weekly newspaper editor and writer for Webster-Kirkwood Times Inc. He is the author of Environmental Missouri, published in 2014, and he directs the Outdoor/Environmental Journalism Certificate at Webster University, which has brought him recognition from the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and a distinguished achievement award from the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.