Three Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staffers receive Pulliam First Amendment Award
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INDIANAPOLIS — Gina Barton, John Diedrich and Ben Poston have been awarded the 2013 Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for their investigative series on the Milwaukee Police Department called “Police Problems: A Fight for Accountability.”
All three recipients were staffers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time of publication, but Poston is now an assistant data editor at the LA Times.
Presented by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ educational foundation, the award and its $10,000 prize recognize a person or organization that has fought to protect and preserve one or more of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is given in memory of Eugene S. Pulliam, publisher of The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News from 1975 until his death in 1999. He was a staunch supporter of the First Amendment. Click here for a list of previous honorees.
Barton, Diedrich and Poston collaborated to report multiple stories in 2012, which included exposing the ignorance of two police officers who were cleared of responsibility of a handcuffed prisoner’s death, revealing deep flaws with the city’s crime numbers as covered up by the chief, and examining how a group of officers routinely conducted illegal strip searches of African-American motorists under the guise of fighting crime.
Those who nominated the three reporters noted the exceptional work they produced over a continuous period of time.
“That step does not come from a news organization chasing the story of the day,” wrote Martin Kaiser, George Stanley and Greg Borowski — all editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — in their nomination letter. “Rather, it is a direct result of aggressive, sustained coverage of problems and a relentless determination to hold powerful officials accountable — even when they fight any and all efforts to do so.”
Award judges said the caliber of applications received this year made for an especially competitive decision-making process.
“The judges were faced with a very tough choice because of the number of entries and the quality of them,” said Mac McKerral, chairman of the judging panel. “In selecting this entry the judges focused on: the quality and depth of the reporting on one of the most difficult institutions to report on, the police, the commitment of resources by the MJC to the project, the dogged fight for and use of public records and the public service value to the community.”
McKerral, associate professor at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting, was joined on the panel by Jay Evensen of the Deseret News, Linda Petersen of the Valley Journal and Russ Pulliam of the Indianapolis Star.
The three journalists will be honored Aug. 26 at the President’s Installation Banquet during the Excellence in Journalism 2013 conference in Southern California. The conference is co-hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
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.