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Kansas City Star receives Pulliam First Amendment Award


Jane Kirtley, SDX Foundation Selection Committee Chair, (612) 625-9038, jkirtley@spj.org
Christine Cordial, SPJ Program Coordinator, (317) 920-4788, ccordial@spj.org
Isaac Taylor, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 920-4785, itaylor@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Kansas City Star has been selected to receive the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for its work in exposing the secrecy of state government in Kansas last year.

Presented by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ educational foundation, the award recognizes those who have fought to protect and preserve one or more of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is awarded 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.

According to the Star, the Kansas state government had become one of most secretive in the nation over the past several years, growing worse under then-Governor Sam Brownback. The Star reporting team spent months investigating how officials had kept hidden the workings of the state government, obscuring details of legislation, policies and budgets and punishing agencies that did disclose information.

The resulting six-part series, “Why so secret, Kansas?,” spurred changes almost immediately. State legislators proposed 32 bills designed to increase transparency within government, the practice of anonymous legislation was ended in the House of Representatives and the governor put forth four executive orders to improve the accessibility of information to the public.

“In its investigation, Star reporters ran into stonewalling politicians and government officials who were upset that the Star was working to shine light on controversial subjects that might put said officials in a bad light,” said leaders of the Kansas Press Association in their joint nomination letter. “But, the reporting team persevered and the public loved it.”

According to the Kansas Press Association, the Star played an integral role in the state’s newly adopted efforts to increase openness among government agencies.

“Public servants are starting to be held accountable for the lack of transparency to the very people they serve — the people of Kansas,” the Press Association said. “While it is still not perfect, the state of Kansas is making progress and the Kansas City Star helped light the way.”

The series was also honored this year as a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize public service category.

The Kansas City Star will receive a crystal award and travel accommodations to the Excellence in Journalism 2018 conference in Baltimore, Maryland. There, the staff will be honored at the SPJ President’s Installation Banquet. In addition, the Star will be awarded $10,000 by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Learn more about the award and see a list of previous winners here.

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is a public foundation dedicated to ensuring that those who carry on the tradition of a free press are prepared for the challenge. The SDX Foundation supports educational and professional needs of journalists and journalism students. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


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