Home > SPJ News > Bruce W. Sanford receives Wells Memorial Key, SPJ's highest honor

SPJ News
Latest SPJ News | RSS

Bruce W. Sanford receives Wells Memorial Key, SPJ's highest honor


Christine Cordial, SPJ Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, ccordial@spj.org
Anna Gutierrez, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, agutierrez@spj.org

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Bruce W. Sanford has been awarded the Wells Memorial Key. Sanford received this award, the highest honor for a member of SPJ, at the President’s Installation Banquet tonight during the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California.

Awarding Sanford with the highest honor is an honor that is far overdue, said David Carlson, SPJ President 2005-06 and 2013 Wells Key recipient.

“We needed him a lot more than he needed us, that’s for sure,” Carlson said.

Sanford has been SPJ’s attorney since November of 1980. Before attending law school, Sanford was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Now, he’s one of America’s leading media lawyers at BakerHostetler (B&H), a name every SPJ leader knows well.

Sanford stayed with SPJ for 37 years and worked to keep the Society’s interests at heart, despite our ability to pay the firm’s hourly rate. He has represented SPJ through First Amendment, FOI, employment contracts, tax law, real estate and much more.

“He has brought us much prestige, and seats at many important tables,” Carlson said. “He has provided invaluable legal advice at key moments in the Society’s history, including a libel suit over our ethics book and both of the largest bequests ever made by the Legal Defense Fund, Vanessa Leggett and Josh Wolfe.”

Sanford only received two raises in his time at SPJ – each at least 17 years apart – while B&H was providing over $100,000 per year of pro bono work for the Society.

“There were times when things got tight that we were forced to scrimp on his fees. I don’t believe he ever scaled back in his advocacy on our behalf,” said Kelly Hawes, SPJ President 1995-96.

Jim Plante, SPJ President 1987-88, said he valued his counsel as president and throughout his years on the board.

“I know he spent many hours working for us when he could have been billing much more lucrative hours for clients with much deeper pockets,” Plante said.

Sanford attended every convention and many committee meetings for many years. He always remained involved with SPJ, even as our work was passed along to more junior lawyers at B&H.

Named after Sigma Delta Chi’s second national president, Chester C. Wells, the Wells Memorial Key was first awarded 99 years ago. Each year, it is given to a member who has performed outstanding service to the Society in the preceding year or through a period of years.

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.


Join SPJ
Join SPJWhy join?