Two journalists and one organization honored by SPJ with Sunshine Award
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chad Hosier, SPJ Awards Coordinator, (317) 920-4791, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellen Kobe, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 920-4785, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Donoghue, Seth Rosenfeld and the Sunlight Foundation have received the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The SPJ board of directors and Freedom of Information Committee honor people or organizations each year for their notable contributions to open government.
The recipients will be recognized at the SPJ President’s Installation Banquet at Excellence in Journalism 2013 on Aug. 26.
In April 2012, Donoghue began an investigation of a Vermont State Police sergeant who would be charged with defrauding the government. The sergeant was accused of faking hundreds of hours on his timecards and fabricating about 1,000 tickets. In an expose that spanned three different gubernatorial administrations, Donoghue produced original investigative work through data information search and relentless requests for public documents.
“The reporting delivered timely coverage of a criminal investigation in a way that rarely occurs in Vermont,” said Michael Townsend, editor of the Burlington Free Press. “Our reporter raised the bar on transparency for law enforcement, and his significant contribution was noted publicly by the state’s attorney.”
Indeed, T.J. Donovan, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, referred to Donoghue’s work in a press conference: “The media should be credited with this case. … because the media — some organizations rather than others — have been doing a good job about demanding transparency of government officials.”
Michael Donoghue has been an award-winning news and sports writer for the Burlington Free Press for over 40 years. He also has been an adjunct professor of journalism and mass communications at St. Michael’s College in Colchester since 1985. He also serves on the executive board of the New England First Amendment Coalition.
In Aug. 2012, Rosenfeld published the book “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power,” which uncovers the FBI’s covert operations at the University of California during the Cold War through the bureau’s involvement with iconic figures of the 60s — Governor Ronald Reagan, UC President Clark Kerr and student leader Mario Savio. Rosenfeld first began his report on the subject with his 2002 story “The Campus Files” in the San Francisco Cronicle. The book includes 10 more years of research plus two new lawsuits Rosenfeld brought under the FOIA.
Izabela Wojciechowska of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the company that published “Subversives,” credited Rosenfeld for protecting journalists’ public access rights.
“Rosenfeld has waged a remarkable fight using the Freedom of Information Act that has resulted in a series of court opinions bolstering public access to federal records, compelled the FBI to release more than 300,000 pages of documents and to pay his pro bono attorney’s fees totaling more than $1 million, and culminated in the publication of his book,” Wojciechowska said.
Rosenfeld pursued this project independently while maintaining his regular duties as a staff reporter for nearly 25 years at the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, which he left in 2009 to complete the book.
For almost seven years, the Sunlight Foundation has carried out its strategic vision for technology to transform the government to become more open, responsive, accountable and engaging with the public. The organization has strived to create transparency in the government and raise expectations for open data across all levels of the system.
Among the organization’s efforts are online tools that connect valuable government information with an audience that uses it most — often, journalists. The Sunlight Foundation goes through government websites, selects relevant data and compiles it into easy-to-use formats. In this way, the organization highlights areas of influence and creates a demand for more data.
“By bridging the information divide between government and citizens and redefining the idea of ‘public’ to now mean ‘online,’ we are able to lead by example in pushing government to be more open,” said Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation. “Our vision is to use technology to enable more complete, equitable and effective democratic participation.”
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 on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.