Toledo Press Club honors media at annual Touchstone Awards


The Blade received two distinctions today from the Press Club of Toledo during the annual Touchstone Awards ceremony at the Toledo Club.

Blade staff writer Taylor Dungjen received the excellence in journalism Touchstone Award for new media. She is the newspaper's crime reporter, and her "Ride Along" blog is featured on

Members of the Indianapolis Press Club, who were judges for the "excellence in media" Touchstone awards, noted that Ms. Dungjen on the blog "delivers news in a unique way with a compelling viewpoint."

The excellence in journalism for daily print category went to former Blade staff writers Claudia Boyd-Barrett and Tony Cook for their series on favoritism in housing rehabilitation contracts in Toledo's Department of Neighborhoods. Their articles, which examined the way the neighborhoods department awarded federally funded contracts, led to the firing of two top city officials.

"This is the kind of reporting that newspapers do best -- aggressively covering an issue with breaking stories and in-depth investigative reporting to provide the community with insight and understanding into complex issues," the judges wrote. 

The excellence in journalism in the non-daily category went to Jason Webber of the Toledo City Paper.

In the broadcasting category, the Touchstone was awarded to Bill Hormann of WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

The Press Club also presents Touchstones for community contributions, with those honored selected by a panel of local judges. The Touchstone Contributor Award was presented to ProMedica for "embracing values of charitable service to improve the health and well being of members of our community.

The Lifetime Achiever Touchstone went to Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. Judges noted his record as a humanitarian, activist, and negotiator and that he "is recognized in several countries for his commitment to human dignity and justice."

The Golden Touchstone was awarded to the late Frank Venner, a longtime Toledo broadcaster who died Aug. 3. Mr. Venner was well known as an anchor of evening newscasts on WSPD-TV -- which became WTVG -- for his "Weather-in-the-Weather" segments broadcast live from the Commodore Perry Hotel, and as longtime moderator of the high school quiz program.

Gordon Ward, Mr. Venner's co-anchor for WSPD-TV's Venner-Ward Report, recalled his colleague's high level of discipline -- from teaching himself to write backwards on the see-through map he stood behind during "Weather in the Weather" to the neat desk he kept and his one-fingered typing style.

'Frank was indeed one of a kind," Mr. Ward said to the gathering. "There will never be another like him, and he is indeed worthy of the award you're bestowing on him tonight."

The award was accepted by Mr. Venner's son, Mike.

The Bernard F. Judy scholarships, named for the late editor-in-chief of The Blade, were presented to McKenzie Kuehnlein of the University of Toledo and Shirley O'Nan of Bowling Green State University.

Ron Royhab, a retired vice president and executive of The Blade, was master of ceremonies for the evening.

The keynote speakers, veteran  journalists Barbara and John Cochran, offered insights into presidential politics and the state of the news business.

Mr. Cochran, a retired ABC News senior correspondent, spoke of the 1960 presidential debate -- and of covering President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001. In the history of television news, "I think the best job we ever did was on 9-11," he said. 

His wife, a former print and broadcast news executive, applauded the growth of fact checking organizations. Mrs. Cochran, director of the Washington program at the University of Missouri school of journalism, said the fact checkers have been equally hard on both presidential candidates.