HomeNews and OpinionMidwestGateway Journalism Review celebrates 50 years, honors St. Louis locals with Whistleblower and Freedom Fighter awards
October 13, 2020
Gateway Journalism Review celebrates 50 years, honors St. Louis locals with Whistleblower and Freedom Fighter awards
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Kohler
and St. Louis Attorney Mark Pedroli will be honored by Gateway Journalism
Review this week for keeping tabs on St. Louis County government and
transparency within Missouri’s government.
Additionally, GJR will present PBS Newshour’s anchor Judy Woodruff a Lifetime Achievement Award at the magazine’s 50th anniversary virtual celebration on Oct. 13. Gateway was founded in 1970 as St. Louis Journalism Review by Charles and Rose Klotzer.
will include a pre-election conversation with Woodruff. The anniversary
celebration and awards ceremony, the magazine’s primary fundraiser each year,
was postponed in April because of the pandemic.
“Recently, he’s been an outstanding beat
reporter on the St. Louis County beat,” Bailon said. “That beat is ripe with
everything from political intrigue, the pandemic, and jail deaths. By nature,
he is an investigative reporter, but he’s a damn good beat reporter too.”
Bailon said Kohler’s investigative and
storytelling skills are what keeps him continually publishing hard-hitting
stories that help keep the Dispatch’s work relevant to a local and, sometimes,
the national audience – even as local newspapers across the country are in a
“He is very astute and a keen observer,”
Since the pandemic began in March, Kohler said
reporting his beat has been one of the busiest at the paper, as he kept an eye
on a zoom meeting for a story he was currently following in an interview with
“It’s been an enormously uncommon year,”
Kohler said. ‘It’s been really two years of constantly breaking news.”
In addition to being in multiple places in one
time keeping tabs on multiple stories Kohler also tries to plan investigations
for his own story ideas in attempts to set the agenda of the public discussion
instead of simply reacting to the news cycle, he said.
Mark Pedroli, an attorney and founder of the
Sunshine and Accountability Project, was awarded GJR’s 2020 Whistleblower Award
for unearthing Missouri government secrets by using the state’s sunshine law.
Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
columnist who has written about Pedroli’s cases against the government
officials for violating the transparency law said the attorney’s cases elevated
the issue of transparency with his suits.
“Those lawsuits make a big deal,” Messenger
said. “Writing about these issues don’t necessarily force lawmakers to do the
right thing, but when they have to go to court and defend their actions, they
look at sunshine a bit differently.”
Pedroli’s successes have brought real
accountability in city government, Messenger said.
“Most of the records we are litigating over
are public records and should be disclosed. Not only because they are public
records, but because these records also help the public weigh in on reforms
that need to be done. For example, in the prisons,” Pedroli said.
Since the pandemic, the Sunshine and
Accountability Project has followed who knew what and when regarding the
Coronavirus, Pedroli said.
“We know that there was a wide variety of
Senate and House of Representative Members who were in meetings in February.
Top Secret meetings about science – what’s so secret about the deadliness of a
virus?” Pedroli said about the report that elected officials had private
meetings a month before the pandemic began, warning about the potential
consequences the virus could have on the nation’s economy and the stock market.
“We know what happened with those secrets. They used them for their advantage
and sold stock before the market collapsed.”
To him, transparency is a prerequisite to civil liberties, the ability to reform a democratic government, and keeping the public safe.
Amelia Blakely reported from Nashville, Tennessee. She recently graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is now a 2020-2021 Campus Consortium Fellow with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in Washington D.C. You can find her on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely