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The Columbus Dispatch, Student Press Law Center receive Pulliam First Amendment Award



Mac McKerral, SDX Foundation Selection Committee Chair, (813) 679-5662, mac.mckerral@wku.edu
Maggie LaMar, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 920-4785, mlamar@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Columbus Dispatch and the Student Press Law Center have been awarded the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for their fight against hidden campus crime rates and how crime is handled.

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.

In 2014, the Columbus Dispatch, with help from the Student Press Law Center, did an investigative series on campus security titled “Campus Insecurity.” You can read the full publication here.

“Most campuses are anything but secure. And worse, administrators have cloaked their campus crime rates and poor response to them in secrecy — failing to take some complaints seriously, shunting what should be criminal cases into closed-door campus judicial hearings handled by untrained faculty and students, and refusing public records about the cases or stalling when asked for them,” the authors wrote.

The report revealed many shocking aspects about campus security, including flawed and unreliable crime statistics being reported by university administrators. Self-reporting crime statistics has led to a misrepresentation of crime on campuses, the report showed. The Columbus Dispatch and SPLC uncovered through their investigation irregularities such as campus officials reporting no crime but which had violent crimes occur.

The series exposed lack of transparency on college campuses — particularly with regard to campus judicial hearings involving crimes — and other problems that cause campus insecurity, especially for victims of violent crimes. The two organizations faced opposition from the majority of the universities that they questioned and had to fight for access to important public records. Because of all of their hard work, they informed the public of a very serious issue and brought awareness to the importance of accurate crime reporting.

The two organizations will be honored Sept. 20 at the President’s Installation Banquet during Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando, Fla. The conference is hosted by SPJ, 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.


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