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Pittsburgh Black Media Federation honors WESA journalists with 6 Robert L. Vann Awards for 2024

The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation presented journalists from 90.5 WESA with six first-place awards at its Robert L. Vann Media Awards Dinner on June 13 at the O’Hara Student Center at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

The PBMF also recognized WESA with a special salute during the awards dinner, honoring the Pittsburgh public radio station “for its longstanding commitment to diverse journalism coverage.”

"We are humbled by these honors from the PBMF and grateful to its members for their leadership and support of journalism in Pittsburgh," said Cindi Lash, vice president of news for WESA and its parent organization, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.

The PBMF’s Robert L. Vann Media Awards, now in their 35th year, highlight the best in print, broadcast, photography and online journalism coverage of the African American and African diaspora communities of Western Pennsylvania.

More than 40 journalists from news organizations in Western Pennsylvania and four community pioneers were honored for their outstanding contributions to the Black community in coverage produced during 2023.

“We congratulate all the Vann winners, who work diligently to bring truth to storytelling and show that the stories of diverse and minority communities are valuable,” PBMF president Deborah Todd said.

WESA winners in categories for audio journalism included:

Health/Medical/Science/Environment: Jillian Forstadt, for "Mon Valley leaders have $5M in U.S. Steel fines to spend, but little has gone to public health"

News Feature/Profile: Glynis Board, for "Somali Bantu refugee-led halal goat farm takes root north of Pittsburgh"

Public Affairs/Politics/Government/Education (co-winners):

  • The Confluence Team (Kevin Gavin, Marylee Williams, Laura Tsutsui and Emma Furry), for "One year into Mayor Ed Gainey's tenure, he's looking to reduce youth violence”
  • Jillian Forstadt and Sarah Schneider, for "Ongoing coverage of PPS summary citations"

Sports: Katie Blackley, Priyanka Tewari and Doug Shugarts, for "Marking the graves of Negro League players"

Spot/Breaking News: Bill O'Driscoll, for "Pittsburgh Juneteenth founder says rules for the festival are racist."

“Independent journalism is needed now more than ever,” said Vann Media Awards chair Ervin Dyer. “So, the media federation can appreciate all of the work the journalists and their media organizations are doing to cover minority communities and the range of issues and concerns connected to those communities.”

The PBMF also presented special awards to organizations and individuals, including:

  • Lou Ransom, a retired award-winning editor and journalist who served as managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier and as a community editor, editorial page writer and business writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was honored as a Legacy Award winner for his focus on community and mentorship.
  • Mark Clayton Southers, founder and producing artistic director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, and producer of more than 160 full-length and one-act plays. He was honored as Communicator of the Year for his messaging on the importance of diversity and inclusion to strengthen the community through the arts.
  • Cynthia Mendoza, founder of the Brown Mama Monologues, a project of theater and social engagement that aims to amplify the voices and concerns of Black and Brown mothers. She was honored with the Trailblazer Award.
  • Future Kings Mentoring, a mentoring and self-development program begun by three young Black men — Terrell Galloway, Sean Spencer and Isreal Williams — to foster community uplift and cultivate the next generation of Black male leaders. They earned the Community Champion Award.

In 1988, the PBMF launched its journalism awards competition named for the late Robert L. Vann, the legendary publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, to honor his commitment to journalism and to create a voice for the Black community.

Founded in 1973, PBMF is a nonprofit organization of professional journalists, public relations specialists, and professors and college students in schools of journalism or related programs. It advocates for diversity in newsrooms, hosts programs that recognize excellent media coverage of minority communities, and trains young people to enter the media industry.