Mary Ellen Klas, Rachel La Corte and ProPublica honored for contributions to open government
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INDIANAPOLIS — Mary Ellen Klas, Rachel La Corte and ProPublica have each been awarded the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. A judging panel, composed of SPJ Board of Directors and Freedom of Information Committee members, bestows the award each year to individuals and organizations for their notable contributions to open government.
Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald
Mary Ellen Klas is the Miami Herald's capital bureau chief and has been covering government and politics in Florida for 30 years. Her tenacity in accessing government information, reporting and writing it have proven vital in the progression of open government.
“[Klas] will go through every word of every public record before her byline goes on a story,” Florida-based lawyer Florence Snyder wrote in regard to Klas. “She attends court hearings and public meetings in person, even if the proceedings are on cable TV. Mary Ellen’s contributions to open government are more than important. They are singular.”
Rachel La Corte, Associated Press
Rachel La Corte has been a reporter for the Associated Press for more than 20 years.
She has covered Washington state politics since January 2005 and was previously based out of AP's Miami and Tampa offices, where she covered a variety of national stories, including the 2000 presidential election and the international custody battle between the U.S. and Cuba over Elian Gonzalez.
Last year, she spearheaded a lawsuit against the Washington Legislature over lawmakers' claims that they are exempt from the state's Public Records Act.
“La Corte’s ongoing efforts to open up the state legislative process have already produced one positive ruling and have sparked efforts to force the Legislature to simply make clear in statute that they are subject to public disclosure laws,” the Associated Press’ Northwest News Editor Chris Grygiel wrote in his nomination letter.
ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism.
The organization focuses on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Among other positive changes, their reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws, reversals of harmful policies and practices and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels.
ProPublica, while covering appointees to federal agencies made by the Trump administration, created one of the most exhaustive lists that details the names, titles and roles of hundreds of political appointees.
This initiative was taken to increase transparency regarding the newly appointed White House staffers and federal employees following Trump’s election.
The organization filed more than 200 FOIA and Form 201 ethics requests to obtain the data and worked with dozens of FOIA officers, ethics attorneys and nonpartisan groups for guidance. It is for this level of tenacity in government reporting that ProPublica is being recognized.
The recipients will be recognized at the SPJ President’s Installation Banquet at Excellence in Journalism 2018 in Baltimore Sept. 27-29.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member,give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.