Jake Wagman is your prototypical old-school reporterscrappy, dogged, endlessly prolific. He also embodies the quintessential rumpled look, as if he just rolled out of bed or stayed up all night banging out the last few grafs for a Sunday banner story. The frenetic newshound prowls the corridors of city hall, eternally on his cell phone, a pen in his mouth, a stained cup of joe in one hand, a tape recorder in the other. His prose is clean and dispassionate, particularly when the assignment involves government or political coverage (which is often). Wagman is what we in the biz call a hard-news guy. As such, he has a flair for taking a snoozer of a storya school bond issue, a tax battle, an arcane piece of legislationand turning it into something, well, interesting. When Jeff Smith won his race for the state senate, Wagman observed, "Watching Jeff Smith's victory party, it was hard to tell whether he had won a race for the Legislature or for student council. College-aged kids were drinking beer and chasing each other with water guns. A live band belted out 'Free Bird' [sic
]. And there was Smithplaying the drums. St. Louis, meet your next state senator." Our Wagman of the Year award goes to his dispatch about the four-foot lizard on the lam, which began: "It's still not a good time to be a bird in the Compton Heights neighborhood of St. Louis."