INDIANAPOLIS The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor three recipients of the 2009 First Amendment Award.
The Oklahoman/NewsOK.com, the Detroit Free Press and two journalists from the Sacramento Bee, Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton, will be presented the award Aug. 29 at the 2009 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference in Indianapolis. The individuals and publications are recognized for their extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment.
The Oklahoman launched an online campaign focused on informing its readers about openness in government and First Amendment rights. The Web site ‘Your Right to Know’ on NewsOK.com continues the publication’s endeavors. The site provides information about the public’s rights to open records access and government databases and follows related current events. When the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered court documents be removed from the publication’s Web site, The Oklahoman database editor Paul Monies, news publications and the public spoke out against the court order. Thanks in part to those efforts, the court backed off its decision.
Detroit Free Press
The Free Press revealed that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty lied about their intimate relationship and about the firing of a Detroit police investigator when they testified under oath in a case that cost the taxpayers more than $9 million. Thanks to the paper’s investigation, the Wayne County prosecutor launched an investigation. Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged with 15 felony counts in March 2008.
Additional reporting and a FOIA lawsuit exposed more abuse by the City Council. The Free Press staff weathered threats to their careers and their well-being to continue publishing fair and accurate journalism. And they have not slowed their efforts, turning the nation’s attention in another case to Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter’s fight to keep his sources confidential.
Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee
Marjie Lundstrom wrote a two-part series called ‘Unprotected,’ which along with subsequent stories by her and Sam Stanton, exposed the inadequacies of Sacramento’s Child Protective Services. The stories led to a grand jury investigation. To read some of the stories and learn more, visit the Sacramento Bee Web site.
Lundstrom was prompted to probe deeper into CPS because the last large focus on the system was a dozen years before, when the abuse of a 3-year-old led to a large reform movement. After five months of investigating, interviewing, and battling with access to court and confidential documents, Lundstrom discovered troubling problems still existed. Joining forces with veteran Bee reporter Stanton, the two fought to hold the system accountable.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.