Left: Toledo Club, site of annual Press Club banquet
I usually eschew bragging, but I feel like crowing a bit on this one. For the second year in a row, I took home a Touchstone at the annual Toledo Press Club banquet. This year I had enough common sense to wear a tie; my wife bailed me out last year when I showed up at the toney downtown establishment in khakis and a short-sleeve shirt.
This year the print category was changed to "Excellence in Journalism," and the other recipient was - can you guess - a group award to the Toledo Blade writers for their excellent work on the Coingate saga. The four named Blade writers were James Drew, Mike Wilkinson, Steve Eder, and Christopher Kirkpatrick. No mention of Jim Provance, though; he is the Columbus bureau writer for the Blade who Kurt Franck said broke the Coingate story.
My story, "Productivity at Any Cost? Jeep Workers Question DaimlerChrysler’s Vision in the Aftermath of Tragedy" , was one of the most personally draining things I have ever written. I received death threats and web slander for writing it, but I had calls, emails, and letters from dozens of Jeep workers thanking me for writing it.
I thank the Jeep workers who had the courage to tell their stories of conditions in the plant. I only had to put up with a few weeks' worth of the bullshit; they have to deal with it every day.
Toledo Free Press intern Matt Zapotosky took home an award in the new "Student" category for his excellent "Driven to Kill" piece, as did BG News intern Kara Hull.
FOX-36 News won a Touchstone for their coverage of the January 2005 Jeep plant shootings, and Sarah Oehler also won an award in the electronic media category for her moving "Matthew Drake Story."
Winners of the Golden Touchstone for lifetime service were Diane Larson of WTVG and Richard Knecht, journalism guru of the University of Toledo.
The Blade managed to go through an entire article on the awards without once mentioning the Free Press, despite the paper having award winners. I guess I should be happy that they even mentioned me, given my occasionally-adversarial relationship with them, but I thought it was pretty cheesy of them to "overlook" the Free Press in the story.
Especially galling was the Blade's "ommission" of Tim Yarnell, who won a service award for his work in the Greater Toledo Red Cross. Tim's sin? Perhaps it was when he thanked in his acceptance speech Toledo Free Press publisher Tom Pounds for hiring him.
Pounds, in case you have forgotten, was once a VP with the Blade, and left this year to found the new paper.
Classy move, though, by the Blade reporters to shake my hand as I returned to my seat. It's good to know that at least some Blade employees have character.
In another interesting twist, one of the judges this year was UAW Region 2-B President Lloyd Mahaffey. When I heard that, I thought there would be no way in hell I could win, since my piece was critical of Local 12. To his credit, Mahaffey showed integrity in his role as judge, as three of the night's winners had work that did not put the UAW in the best of lights.