The Blade was awarded top honors in two categories Thursday during the Press Club of Toledo’s annual Touchstone Awards ceremony at the Toledo Club.
Blade staff writer Taylor Dungjen and staff photographer Amy E. Voigt received Touchstone excellence in journalism awards in the daily print category for their series earlier this year: “Battle Lines: Gangs of Toledo.”
“Bold, courageous, and wonderfully written and illustrated,” wrote representatives of the Press Club of St. Louis, who judged the Touchstone journalism awards. “This is an extraordinary example of public journalism. It is the kind of reporting that shines a light on real community issues, even when some community leaders want to keep those issues in the shadows.”
When the city refused to release a police-generated map of gang territories, Ms. Dungjen and Ms. Voigt created a map for the series, with help from active and former gang members.
Mayor Mike Bell condemned the series as “irresponsible journalism” and said it could hold back the city’s economic recovery.
The series has been recognized nationally as well, winning a Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism.
Winning the Touchstone Excellence in Journalism Award in the new media category was Blade staff writer Federico Martinez for his blog at toledoblade.com, “Pulso Latino.” Mr. Martinez is “a writer with his pulse on the [Latino] community. Important, concise, informative, and, at times, intensely personal,” wrote the judges.
The Touchstone Excellence in Journalism in the nondaily print publication category went to Alia Orra of the Toledo City Paper.
Veteran Toledo broadcast journalist Lou Hebert won the award in the broadcast category for his WGTE-TV documentary about the Maumee River. Mr. Hebert also received the Golden Touchstone Award to recognize lifetime achievement in journalism in northwest Ohio.
The student excellence in journalism Touchstone went to Danielle Gamble, who attends the University of Toledo and is editor-in-chief of the Independent Collegian, the student newspaper. The Bernard F. Judy scholarships, named for the late editor-in-chief of The Blade, were presented to Andrew Kurtz from UT and Abby Welsh from Bowling Green State University.
The Press Club’s Touchstone awards for community service were chosen by a panel of local judges. The Touchstone Contributor Award went to Mark Rodriguez, who is chief executive of Hickory Farms Inc., and to the Falzone family and the Mary Ellen Falzone Diabetes Center. Clyde Scoles, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, won the Touchstone Award for lifetime achievement.
In a talk before the awards, Jim Tankersley, economic policy correspondent for the Washington Post, spoke about the changing world of journalism and his tenure at The Blade, — “a formative experience,” he said.
Mr. Tankersley, while Blade politics writer, and then-Blade staff writer Joshua Boak shared a prestigious national award for a series of articles about the roots of Ohio’s economic decline.
“Political dysfunction and economic stagnation aren’t just Toledo or Ohio problems any more, and I’ve learned in the last six years in Washington that seeing them on the local level has helped me to tell that story nationally,” Mr. Tankersley said.
He said that at The Blade, he came to embrace a breed of journalism that helps people figure out the sources of problems and points them toward good solutions.
Such stories are increasingly important, “at a time when Washington can’t even agree on whether or not we should keep the lights on, at a time when our middle class hasn’t had a raise in four years, and actually has gone backwards in that time,” Mr. Tankersley said. “In these times when real people are really struggling to get ahead, when Ohio’s problems have become America’s problems, it’s our job as journalists to help people understand the roots of those problems and to help them empower themselves.”
Mr. Tankersley was part of the team of Blade staff writers who were Pulitzer Prize finalists for investigating the Coingate scandal. Since leaving Toledo, Mr. Tankersley has been Washington reporter for the Chicago Tribune Media Group and economics correspondent for the National Journal.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.