Business Journal Publisher Andrea Wood, Three Others Inducted Into Press Club Hall of Fame

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Dateline, Youngstown.

It’s a familiar entry shared by four legendary journalists and broadcasters who were inducted into the Youngstown Press Club Hall of Fame Wednesday evening.

Business Journal co-founder and publisher Andrea Wood, former Vindicator reporter and regional editor Ernie Brown, the late radio broadcaster Peter Gabriel, and the late television news anchorman Tom Holden were all honored.

Wood repeatedly injected the “dateline Youngstown” reference during her acceptance speech, underscoring the rich material for news in the Mahoning Valley that she immediately recognized when she joined WYTV Channel 33 as a reporter in 1974.

“This being Youngstown, I soon learned there was plenty to investigate,” Wood said to laughter.  “Youngstown was and is a great news town.”

The birth and death of the steel industry, organized labor milestones, organized crime turf wars, corrupt public officials and a “sheriff hauled off to prison,” are among the many stories that will be forever tied to the “dateline Youngstown” entry.

Reporters from across the country converged on the region to report the demise of steel and the rise of populist figures such as former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. and the mob, while the community had to cope with failed business ventures and scandals such as Phar-Mor, Avanti, blimp factories and the latest, Chill-Can.

But there is an equal amount of good business news, Wood says, emphasizing the reason she and businessman Ralph Zerbonia founded The Business Journal in 1984 as the region’s economy and steel industry disintegrated.

The comeback of the region’s downtowns, the growth of small businesses and the transformation of the Mahoning Valley’s economy into a hub for energy storage, electric vehicle production and advanced manufacturing are today all part of the region’s future.

“We’re becoming known for advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing, innovative workforce development programs and entrepreneurship support and training,” she said.

She credits the news organization’s success to the vision of early investors in the venture, as well as the company’s employees. In 2019, Wood was inducted into the Press Club of Cleveland Hall of Fame.

Born and reared in Pittsburgh and a graduate of Penn State University, Wood recalled her early days in broadcast television, when WYTV was “fifth in a three-station market” with a single studio camera and still shooting with black and white film.  Investments in equipment and personnel soon followed, as well as technological improvements such as cable television, that saved the station.

Wood then went to work for stations in South Bend, Indiana, and Pittsburgh before returning to Channel 33 in 1979 to pursue a story about a missing woman, 21 year-old Joanne Coughlin. Her coverage of Coughlin’s disappearance earned awards for investigative reporting from the Ohio Associated Press and the Press Club of Cleveland. 

“It has been my great privilege to report from this absolutely outstanding news town,” she said.

In accepting his honor, Ernie Brown thanked his three families – his wife, children and siblings; his church; and his Vindicator colleagues – as the major drivers in his professional and personal life.

Initially, Brown said he envisioned becoming a broadcaster and work alongside legendary Black journalists such as Ed Bradley.  However, his career took a turn in 1976 when he joined The Vindicator as one of its first Black reporters. In 1986, Brown became a regional editor of the newspaper, which closed in 2019.

Among the stories he recalls covering were the tornadoes that devastated the region in 1985 and run-ins with the bombastic Traficant.

An honors graduate of East High School in 1970, Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from The Ohio State University in 1974. He earned a teaching certificate in English for grades seven through 12 from Youngstown State University a year later.

Brown has been active and honored by numerous groups throughout the region. He has served as the publicity co-chair for the Youngstown Chapter of the United Negro College Fund, former publicity co-chairman of the Youngstown Area March for Jesus, board member of the Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Outreach Program, president of the William Swanston Charitable Fund board and member of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown where he also serves as an elder.

Accepting the honor for her father, Peter Gabriel, Lori McGlone recalled her family relocating to Youngstown when she was about five years old, not knowing much about the community.

Acknowledging her siblings had already moved several times, it was Youngstown that Peter, affectionately known as “Pete,” would call home for the rest of his life. In 1978, Gabriel joined 570 WKBN. His career with the station included introducing the talk radio format in 1984, and hiring some of the best-known voices in the Mahoning Valley.

She recounted his selfless commitment to the community and love for his family. 

Gabriel’s broadcasting career began with Armed Force Radio and Television while serving as an air policeman in the Azores.  His career then took him to stations in Pennsylvania, Kansas City, and eventually Youngstown. He was inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1996.

Gabriel retired from broadcasting in 2005 at local station WNIO after 48 years in the industry. He died in August 2021.

Among his most enduring legacies is the establishment of the annual Mahoning Valley St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is in its 45th year. 

McGlone said her father told listeners that he was determined to see the first parade go forward, even if he were the only one marching. Others jumped on board and an annual Mahoning Valley custom was born.

Accepting the honor for the late Tom Holden was his grandson, Kevin Holden.

Holden said his grandfather would have been proud to receive the recognition from his peers.  Tom Holden, he related, became a broadcast legend in the Mahoning Valley.

Holden began his career in radio at WBBW before joining WKBN-TV in 1972 as a news reporter.  He was named anchor in 1974 and quickly emerged as a respected voice in local television news. He was also an esteemed adjunct instructor at Youngstown State University, where he helped train new generations of broadcasters and journalists.

“Many of us met Tom at Youngstown State University, where for decades he was a favorite adjunct broadcast journalism professor,” said Michele Gatts, Tricia Perry and Gina Marinelli in a nomination letter to the selection committee.

Holden died in June 2005.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.