Gilbert Bailon (Photo courtesy Post-Dispatch)
Tear gas, rioting, fires, gunfire, anger, despair.
When events in north suburban St. Louis exploded into fragments of all these things subsequent to the police shooting of Michael Brown, reporters and photographers from the Post-Dispatch met them with the same uncertainty as anyone ill-prepared to believe such tensions could inflame their neighborhoods.
But when those tensions rose to attract world attention, the Post-Dispatch staff rose with them, and for that earned deserved recognition this week from the National Press Foundation when editor-in-chief Gilbert Bailon received the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award.
On its website, the foundation 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. … But (they) delivered for 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 either there in print or on the paper’s website. Most striking were the photographs, often taken at great personal risk to the photographers.
“Through it all, Bailon was a strong presence both in his community and in the newsroom, fighting for access and striving to keep the coverage balanced and emotions in check.”
Bailon told SPJ that he was grateful for the honor but deflected the credit.
“It was above all a team effort,” he said. “This is an honor that belongs to everyone for all of their hard work, and it’s recognition that’s well deserved.”
Bailon has been the Post-Dispatch’s editor since 2012. Before that, he was the newspaper’s editorial page editor. Bailon came to St. Louis from the Dallas Morning News, where he was vice president and executive editor.
The National Press Foundation is based in Washington, D.C., and provides professional development and recognition to its 5,000-plus member editors, producers, and photographers. The Bradlee Award, the oldest award given to editors in the United States, is named after the great Watergate-era editor of the Washington Post. Bailon will receive the award at an NPF banquet in Washington in February.