UMG honors activists, journalists for outstanding work

The United Media Guild honored key activists and outstanding journalists during an awards ceremony Jan. 29 in St. Louis.

The presentations came during the UMG’s quarterly Local Meeting. Here were the award winners:

TERRY HUGHES AWARD: St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jesse Bogan won the award named for Hughes, a Post-Dispatch columnist who died of breast cancer in 1991 at age 36. Her columns championed the underdog and gave voice to the trials of everyday people. The judges noted that Bogan’s stories consistently give voice to the disenfranchised, and that he regularly connects readers with people who otherwise might go ignored, such as military veterans and the homeless. He told the story of suburban poverty through LaTonya Williams, an 18-year-old in Valley Park who lives in subsidized housing that is disconnected from public transportation. Bogan put faces on the folks who live within the Normandy School District, telling their stories of trying to get by in an area that’s short on investment and opportunity. He told the story of a culinary class that gives female convicts a second chance, and a north St. Louis lounge that wants to stick with jazz, blues and an older crowd. No one under 35 is allowed. Judges also noted that Bogan’s work immediately following the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson was exceptional. He co-wrote a story that put the event in the historical context of the Canfield Green apartment complex.

JOHN MCGUIRE AWARD: The UMG honored Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bryan Burwell, who died Dec. 4 at the age of 59, for outstanding lifetime journalism achievement. This award is named for McGuire, a long-time Post-Dispatch who relished the opportunity to interview people from all walks of life and tell their story. Burwell shared McGuire’s love of the business and his passion for reporting and storytelling. Before coming to the Post-Dispatch, Burwell worked for the New York Daily News, New York Newsday, the Detroit News and USA Today. His television work included stints with HBO and Turner Sports, plus regular appearances on ESPN. That TV experience made him the natural point man to expand video commentary on STLToday, the Post-Dispatch website. He hosted several local radio shows as well, most recently at CBS Sports Radio 920. Bryan’s wife Dawn accepted the award from Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan, who delivered a moving tribute to her late co-worker.

GUILDER OF THE YEAR: Pekin Daily Times reporter Sharon Harris won the UMG’s top award for activism. As the long-time unit chair at her newspaper, she led the three-year battle for a first contract with GateHouse Media. She helped negotiate that deal while also coordinating one of the most effective public campaigns the UMG has ever staged. Later she advised our Peoria unit on its successful public campaign, assisted in our organizing efforts in Springfield and helped bargain a tentative agreement on a new contract in Pekin.

ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR: Peoria Journal Star columnist Phil Luciano was honored for his stellar leadership as the unit chair at his newspaper. His unit’s earlier public campaign helped secure a peaceful contract extension with GateHouse that kept the newspaper’s copy desk from being outsourced. Phil took an active role in our organizing efforts in Springfield and Rockford, speaking with reporters in those cities about the value of Guild representation. He assisted Pekin’s efforts to get a new contract and regularly shared his insights with Guild leaders at GateHouse newspaper across the country during conference calls.

SOLIDARITY AWARD: This was given to the Post-Dispatch unit, where reporters rallied behind salespersons being subjected to punitive and counter-productive changes in their sales plans. Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Holleman, our unit chair at the newspaper, helped rally the newsroom support. That effort helped convince the newspaper to undo those onerous changes and repay salespersons for much of their lost income. Holleman accepted the award on behalf of the entire P-D unit.

STEWARD OF THE YEAR: Truthout environmental reporter Mike Ludwig earned the award for assisting our negotiations for a new contract at this digital news operation. Truthout reporters work from coast to coast in a virtual newsroom, so bringing the group together to discuss workplace issues and contract needs is challenging. Ludwig, who is based in New Orleans, has done an outstanding job coordinating that effort. As a result, we expect to complete contract negotiations in the near future.