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SPJ Honors First Amendment and Sunshine Award Winners


Contact: Gail Kiles, Assistant Programs Director, 317/927-8000 ext.204 or

New York, NY—The Society of Professional Journalists honored winners of the First Amendment and Sunshine Awards at the 2004 SPJ national convention in New York City.

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

The 2004 First Amendment Award Winner is:

Beryl Howell: For a decade, Beryl Howell served as General Counsel to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for Senator Patrick Leahy. During this time, she led efforts to install the “Electronic Amendments” to the Freedom of Information Act, known as “E-FOIA.” She has also been a friend to SPJ, lending assistance on annual “Capitol Hill visits” and offering insight to improve the Society’s future legislative endeavors. For her work, she has been inducted into the National FOIA Hall of Fame.

SPJ Immediate Past President Mac McKerral said, "When I joined SPJ, I joined because of important role it played in defending the First Amendment. Through the years, SPJ has never backed off from that battle. And through the same years, neither has Beryl Howell. She has been a strong SPJ ally, and this award recognizes that and the important work she has done on behalf of all journalists and those who understand the significance of the government watchdog role the media must practice each day."

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

"Public access is what SPJ does better than anyone, hands down. These awards recognize the work to endure the public's right to know from the grassroots up. So, a day without this kind of work, truly is a day without sunshine. And these award recipients deserve many thanks, not just from journalists but from the readers, viewers and listeners we serve,” said McKerral.

The 2004 Sunshine Award winners are:

Joe Adams: In the state of Florida, Joe Adams has established himself as the foremost authority on Public Records. For a decade, he researched and wrote The Florida Public Records Handbook, which is now in its second printing with The First Amendment Foundation. Joe presents day-long seminars to give fellow journalists tips, techniques and ideas for writing stories using public records, and has created a website,, that educates people about the value of public records and provides links to current open government and FIO news.

Megan Fromm: Megan Fromm of Mesa State College, has already taken bold career moves in the pursuit of reporting the truth, including filing a suit against the board of trustees of her college for violating the Colorado Open Meetings and Record laws. Her advisers describe her as an intelligent, dedicated, willing to ask the difficult questions, and determined to set the record straight. Fromm currently holds the post of editor of The Criterion.

The Montana FOI Hotline: The last Sunshine Award goes to the Montana FOI Hotline, with special recognition to John Shontz and Lucas Tanglen. Over the last two years, the Montana FOI Hotline has completed two major projects. They planned and carried out the first public records audit of government offices in all of the state’s 56 counties, and supervised the creation of “The Montana FOI Deskbook.” This open government book has been distributed to every newspaper, and broadcast station in the state.

The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to improving and protecting journalism. It is the nation’s 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.


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