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SPJ announces winner of 2013 Black Hole Award



Linda Petersen, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chair, 801-554-7513, linda@valleyjournals.com
Christine DiGangi, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 205, cdigangi@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists announces the winner of its third annual Black Hole Award. This year, the winner is Oklahoma State University.

Oklahoma State was nominated by the Student Press Law Center for, among other things, ignoring the Clery Act by not notifying students, the public or its police department that university officials knew an alleged serial sex offender was on campus. When asked why, OSU officials cited FERPA confidentiality requirements.

“Using a federal education privacy law that pertains to grades to keep the campus in the dark about a sex offender who appears to be predatory is the textbook definition of egregious. If a municipal police force had pulled that shenanigan, they'd be in trouble on multiple fronts. FERPA was not meant to be a Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak that could turn any record that names a student into a protected document,” judge and SPJ FOI Committee member Don Meyers said.

Nominations come from journalists, open-government advocates and the general public, and the committee received four submissions this year.

The city of South Bend, Ind., and Mayor Pete Buttigieg was nominated for refusing to release tapes of telephone conversations at the police department that reportedly contain “unethical, racial and possibly criminal content.”

The Washington State Board of Accountancy was nominated for reportedly abusing the deliberative process disclosure exemption of the state’s Public Records Act.

A fourth submission was disqualified by judges because the nominee was a newspaper. Private businesses, including newspapers, are not subject to open records or open government laws.

Previous recipients of the Black Hole Award include the Georgia, Utah and Wisconsin legislatures and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

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. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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