St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon has won one of journalism’s top honors—the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award given by the National Press Foundation. The foundation is a national journalism training organization that recognizes a newspaper or magazine editor annually. The award was established in 1984 but has been given in Bradlee’s name only since 2006. Bradlee, the longtime Washington Post editor, died last October at 93.
In selecting Bailon, the judges said: “If ever a newspaper and its editor faced a real-time stress test, it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and editor Gilbert Bailon in 2014. From the shooting of Michael Brown in August through the November announcement by the grand jury, the Post-Dispatch was under pressure. But it delivered for its readers and the larger St. Louis community with a breadth of coverage that is truly impressive. Hundreds of stories, dozens of editorials, every piece of evidence – all were there either in print or on the paper’s website. Most striking were the photographs, often taken at great personal risk to the photographers. Throughout it all, Bailon was a strong presence both in the community and in his newsroom, fighting for access and striving to keep the coverage balanced and emotions in check.”
The award was given in Washington, D.C., last week at the foundation’s annual dinner. Typically, the winning newspaper presents a short video on the winner. The Post-Dispatch produced one, in which various editors sung Bailon’s praises.
In brief remarks after the award was given, Bailon credited the newspaper’s ownership for “giving us the resources and latitude to do great journalism under great stress” after the Brown shooting. He observed that he never had been involved in covering such a “volatile” story.
Bailon said that the Post-Dispatch’s journalists “are the heroes tonight.” He noted that some had been assaulted in covering the Ferguson shooting’s aftermath, including one who was chased out of a backyard at gunpoint. Many Post-Dispatch employees have been subject to racial taunts and threats to cancel subscriptions, he said.
The Ferguson episode “has reaffirmed our vital role to tell stories…and to hold public institutions accountable,” Bailon said.
Among other recent winners of the award are David Remnick of The New Yorker, Leonard Downie Jr., Bradlee’s successor at the Washington Post, and Gregory L. Moore of the Denver Post, who was cited for his newspaper’s coverage of the mass killing at a suburban Denver movie theater.