After being named the UA outstanding journalism graduate in 1981, Gilbert Bailon became a leader in the newsroom and in national journalism organizations.
Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch since 2012, he was awarded the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award in 2014 by the National Press Foundation for overseeing coverage of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the tumultuous aftermath.
“If ever a newspaper and its editor faced a real-time stress test it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and editor Gilbert Bailon,” the press foundation judges said. “Gilbert was a strong presence both in the community and in his newsroom, fighting for access and striving to keep the coverage balanced and emotions in check.”
The Bradlee award “is made in recognition of imagination, professional skill, ethics and an ability to motivate staff,” the foundation said. It is named for the late editor of The Washington Post.
The Post-Dispatch also won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for its coverage in Ferguson.
“This recognizes everyone in the newsroom,” Bailon said of the Pulitzer.
Bailon got his start as editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat — he was later inducted into its inaugural Hall of Fame — and became a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Los Angeles Daily News, San Diego Union and Kansas City Star.
In 1986, he went to the Dallas Morning News, holding reporting and editing positions before being named vice president and executive editor in 1998. In 2003, he founded Al Dia, a Spanish-language daily, at the Morning News and became its publisher before moving to St. Louis in 2007 as editorial page editor.
Bailon is a past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2013. He was president of the American Society of News Editors in 2007-08 and also served a chair of its diversity, media convergence and readership committees. He is a former board member of Unity Journalists of Color and of the Maynard Institute. Hispanic Business magazine twice named him one of the Top 100 most influential Hispanics.
– Bobbie Jo Buel, ’77
GILBERT BAILON: IN HIS WORDS
“Ferguson has reaffirmed our vital role to tell human stories, to find facts, to investigate, to speak with a strong editorial voice and to hold public institutions accountable.”
"For others encountering a volatile, complex story with long-lasting story lines and impact: take care of yourselves when the emotions are highest and the adrenaline of pursuing a big story reaches its apex. Such a big story that lasts for months pulls together the mission of a newsroom into a tighter focus. The story reigns supreme over issues and how resources get deployed. Longer-term, dig and dig some more."
"As with Ferguson, many antecedents and deep threads run through the underpinnings of a big story. Aggressively use open record requests, gather your own data and pursue deep coverage that attempt to answer the how and why with greater context that can be hard to find among other media in mid-sized markets. The impact of photo and multimedia visuals tell powerful stories. All departments across all platforms must have a stake in the coverage."
— From interview with Poynter