LONGVIEW — Capping a four-decade career, Daily News City Editor Andre Stepankowsky won the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement Award on Tuesday.
While the newsroom’s respect for him isn’t a surprise, news that he won the distinguished Society of Professional Journalists award was, Stepankowsky said.
“I was literally speechless. I had a hard time reading the blurb SPJ put out,” he said. “I’m genuinely touched.”
The award, which is presented by SPJ Western Washington, recognizes a journalist whose lifetime career has “left a substantial mark on the industry and public.”
According to former managing editor Bob Gaston, Stepankowsky certainly fits the bill. In his nomination, he wrote that Stepankowsky is “a well-rounded journalist.”
“He is honest, straightforward and accurate. He’s assertive with sources, but gets along with them — even after reporting that may irk them. He writes well, and is capable of producing engaging stories. He writes with perspective and has sound news judgment,” wrote Gaston, who hired Stepankowsky in 1979.
Stepankowsky dedicated 41 years to serving his community, reporting on school board meetings and the eruption of Mount St. Helens with equal care. He is set to retire at the end of the week, though he said he would still write columns here and there.
His career was bookended by both disasters and prizes, Stepankowsky said. Mount St. Helens erupted about a year after he started at TDN, and he contributed to the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage. Now, he exits during the COVID-19 pandemic with the lifetime achievement award.
That certainly imparts a “sense of gratification,” Stepankowsky said. “But you get brought down to Earth real fast in this business.”
Still, he said he’ll miss the job. After so many years, he said journalism “sort of grows into your bones.”
While his shared Pulitzer Prize could have “bought him a ticket to a more illustrious career at a larger newspaper, Andre made the conscious choice to stay in the Longview community,” the newsroom staff wrote when nominating him.
“That decision set him down a path to becoming one of the greatest pillars of institutional knowledge in Southwest Washington and the heart of the newspaper,” they wrote.
When he leaves the office, Stepankowsky will also leave a legacy of mentoring young reporters.
“They are each stronger writers for his crusade against mealy corporate jargon and tired cliches,” the newsroom staff wrote.
For Stepankowsky, he said his focus on mentoring allows him to pass on everything he learned from the journalists that came before him.
“It’s a way of projecting yourself into the future,” he said.
And the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement Award confirms that Stepankowsky has made a lasting impression, Gaston said.
“I never made a better hire than you, Andre,” he wrote in his nomination. “None other comes close to the value you have added to our newspaper, its readers and our community.”