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SPJ honors Fred Brown with Wells Memorial Key award

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 507-8911,

CHICAGO -- The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor Fred Brown with the Wells Memorial Key, the Society’s highest honor.

The Wells Memorial Key is given to a member for outstanding service to the Society during the preceding year or over a period of years. The SPJ executive committee selects all recipients; nominations are open.

“Fred Brown demonstrates how to use our SPJ Code of Ethics, not as a club, but as a tool to reason with other journalists and members of the public on thorny issues,” wrote Irwin Gratz, SPJ past president, in his nomination.

Brown, columnist and retired Capitol bureau chief for The Denver Post, is currently co-chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee. Brown was one of the authors of the revisions to the SPJ Code of Ethics, the industry standard, in 1996. He writes a monthly ethics column for Quill magazine.

“As an officer, board member and ethics committee chair, he championed professionalism at every turn, led at every key occasion and quietly reminded everyone who would listen of the importance of ethics,” wrote Paul McMasters, SPJ past president, in his nomination.

Brown was nominated by 12 past presidents of the Society. He was the national president of SPJ in 1997-98, having stepped in when the president-elect left the position. He also has been the Region 9 director, president of the Colorado Pro chapter and is currently on the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

“Around these parts, Fred Brown is known informally as ‘Mr. SPJ’ and ‘Mr. Ethics.’ These are well-deserved titles based on his longstanding commitment to the organization and to the practice of journalism ethics,” wrote Paul Simon, president of the Colorado Pro chapter, in his nomination. “His commitment to the principles of ethical journalism and to SPJ never wavers, whether he is serving as national president, state presidents, program emcee, panel moderator, or ‘guru’ to those of us who periodically climb his mountain and ask the meaning of life.”

Brown has received the Journalist of the Year and the Board of Directors awards from the Colorado Pro chapter. He has won the Sigma Delta Chi national award for editorial writing, was inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame in 2003, and was the 2001 Colorado Newspaperperson of the Year.

“In essence, Fred is always there. He stands for the principles that SPJ holds dear: honesty, integrity, intelligence and an incredibly strong commitment to journalism ethics,” wrote Deborah Hurley, Region 9 director of SPJ, in her nomination.

The Wells Key was first presented in 1913. The award was named in honor of Chester Wells, Sigma Delta Chi’s second national president. Wells died in office in 1913 at the age of 26. Wells’ brief time in office was marked by an inspiring dedication to the work and ideals of Sigma Delta Chi, and after his death, members decided to award a jeweled key each year in his memory to a member who had performed meritorious service to the Society.

Brown was recognized during SPJ's President's Installation Banquet at the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Chicago.

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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