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College Media Adviser Wins Pulliam First Amendment Award


Paul McMasters, SDX Foundation President, 703/284-3511 or
Bobby Deckard, SPJ awards coordinator, 317/927-8000 ext. 215, or

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dr. William Lawbaugh, newspaper and yearbook adviser at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., has been named the inaugural winner of the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award presented by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Lawbaugh will be recognized for his defense of student press freedoms at the annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists Sept. 12-14 in Fort Worth, Texas. He will be presented a check for $10,000 and a special sculpture during the presidential banquet on Saturday evening, Sept. 14.

The longtime media adviser was selected from among more than 20 nominations for the award. The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation established the annual award to honor the First Amendment legacy of the late Eugene S. Pulliam. Mr. Pulliam was publisher of The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News until his death in 1999 and was well-known for his commitment to First Amendment rights and values.

“Doc” Lawbaugh, as he is known to his students and colleagues, was nominated for the award by the members of the Mountain Echo Editors Group, composed of Mount St. Mary’s College graduates and former editors of the college newspaper, The Mountain Echo. Lawbaugh serves as adviser to The Echo, an award-winning newspaper that has published for 120 years, and the college yearbook, Pridwin.

“Bill Lawbaugh embodies the character and courage this award was created to recognize,” said Paul McMasters, president of the SDX Foundation and First Amendment Ombudsman at the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center. “As a member of the faculty at a private college, Doc Lawbaugh and his students do not have the same First Amendment protections as those on a public university campus. Nevertheless, he fought to protect his students’ press rights at a great personal and professional cost to himself.”

“We feel that Dr. Lawbaugh, truly, is a hero without a shield or sword, and personifies the true spirit of the Pulliam Award,” the group wrote in its nomination letter.

Two years ago, when Lawbaugh was ordered by college administrators to submit the student journalists’ articles to prior review and other restrictions, he refused to intervene, saying that “students aspiring to careers in journalism need to understand and respect First Amendment freedom and its intended responsibilities.” As a result, the tenured communications professor was denied a salary increase, was threatened with removal as adviser to both the newspaper and the yearbook and endured public criticism from college officials. The newspaper’s funding was also cut.

Despite protests from the Student Press Law Center, College Media Advisers Inc. and other organizations - as well as coverage by The Washington Post, the Frederick (Md.) News-Post and the Associated Press - the administration continues its pressure on the media adviser.

Before joining the faculty at Mount St. Mary’s College, Lawbaugh had served as a journalism professor and student publications adviser at Ball State University, Catholic University, University of Maryland and George Washington University. He also is active in the Maryland Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of College Press Advisers, College Press Review, College Media Advisers Awards Committee and as a judge for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization. SPJ is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism, stimulating high standards of ethical behavior, and perpetuating a free press.

The Foundation is the educational arm of the Society and manages and distributes funds to the Society, other journalism organizations and individuals working on behalf of the Society’s mission.


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