Best Local Boy Made Good - 2003
Sylvester Brown, Jr.
Readers' Choice: Nelly
Putting out a newspaper by yourself is a labor we wish on no one. It took Sylvester Brown fifteen years to realize he was doing the impossible by publishing Take Five from his home. With help from his wife, Brown wrote and edited the stories. He sold the ads. He did the layout. He delivered the finished product to newsstands, staying a half-step ahead of creditors who didn't care that he was producing the city's best newspaper aimed at the African-American community. He usually walked away with an armful of Excellence in Communications awards at the annual ceremony sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists, topping bigger rags that published more often and with bigger budgets. With a family to feed, Brown time and again threatened to cease publication. In May he finally did. The city had lost an important voice. But not for long. Less than a month after the final edition of Take Five hit the streets, Brown became a metro columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a prize gig for any journalist. Brown's was not the traditional path to media star, and it shows in his plainspoken style. Raised a Jehovah's Witness, he left home at age seventeen and worked a series of low-paying jobs before Laclede Gas hired him as a construction worker. His academic credentials come from Forest Park Community College. While it's too early to predict his trajectory at the staid Post, it's already fun to read Brown as he works to find his voice within the constraints of a short column in St. Louis' only daily.