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SPJ Will Honor First Amendment and Sunshine Award Winners


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Sarah A. Shrode, SPJ Director of Communications,
425/452-4846 or sshrode@spj.org

DOUBLETREE HOTEL, BELLEVUE, Wash. – The Society of Professional Journalists will honor the winners of the First Amendment Awards and the Sunshine Awards at the 2001 SPJ National Convention on Saturday, Oct. 6.

The ceremony for the annual awards will take place from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Evergreen Ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel, 300 112th Ave. S.E.

First Amendment Awards are presented annually in recognition of extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen The First Amendment.


The Independent Florida Alligator: For the independent student newspaper staff's legal battle in the Dale Earnhardt autopsy-photo case. The paper, which serves the University of Florida, went to court in Daytona Beach seeking permission to view autopsy photos of the NASCAR driver, who was killed Feb. 18 in a crash at the Daytona 500. In its quest, the staff faced death threats, vandalism and lost advertising revenue.

Attorney Bruce Orwin and Laura Cullen, Kentucky State University yearbook adviser: For their roles in a federal court victory against censorship. In March 2001, two former Kentucky State students settled their lawsuit over the confiscation of the 1993-94 yearbook. The university had confiscated the student yearbooks after they were published because school officials said they did not approve of the content or the yearbook's purple cover, which was not a school color. University officials justified their actions, saying the books failed to meet the university's standards. The federal court, however, ruled against the university's censorship. Orwin was the students' legal representative in the case and Cullen a key player in the case as the students' former adviser.

Sunshine Awards are presented annually to recognize those individuals or groups making important contributions in the area of open government.


SPJ Kansas Pro Chapter: For the creation of a new Kansas Freedom of Information Web site.

Linda Lightfoot, executive editor of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La.: For her leadership in advocating for open courts in Louisiana, especially during two corruption trials of former governor Edwin Edwards; also for her efforts to create an FOI advocacy organization in Louisiana.

FOIAdvocates in Eugene, Ore.: For creating a new national Web site for both federal and state-by-state FOI information.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.: For his advocacy in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make recordings available to the media of its historic hearings in the aftermath of the 2000 Election.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: For his advocacy in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make recordings available to the media of its historic hearings in the aftermath of the 2000 Election. Also for his continued efforts to allow cameras into federal courts.

Chief Justice Robert A. Miller and the South Dakota Supreme Court: For their decision to allow cameras into South Dakota courtrooms, making South Dakota the 50th state to allow cameras into court proceedings.

SPJ Queen City Pro Chapter, Cincinnati: For local advocacy and for raising awareness among journalists nationwide regarding new police radio systems that make it much more difficult for the public and journalists to monitor law enforcement activity.

Linda Tracy: For her courageous and successful stand against a government subpoena for videotape of disturbances in July 2000 between law enforcement officers and residents in Missoula, Mont.

Wyoming Attorney General Gay Woodhouse: For her successful efforts to change state law so that Wyoming residents have more information about people imprisoned in state corrections facilities. Also for her cooperation and partnership with Wyoming media in working for other laws to increase public access to information.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. 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.


MEDIA PASSES: Media passes for events at the Oct. 4-6 2001 SPJ National Convention may be obtained at the convention's onsite SPJ Office at the DoubleTree Hotel – Bellevue, 300 112th Ave., S.E., Bellevue, Wash.

For more information or to obtain a media pass, contact Sarah A. Shrode, SPJ Director of Communications, at sshrode@spj.org or at the convention's onsite SPJ Office.

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