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New York Times’ Jim Dwyer awarded $75,000 to study Internet’s impact on human rights


For Immediate Release:

Lauren Rochester, SPJ Awards Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 210, lrochester@spj.org
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215, ascott@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Dwyer, columnist for The New York Times, is the 2010 recipient of the $75,000 Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing, which is presented annually by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the educational branch of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Dwyer is the first columnist to win the award under its expanded guidelines, broadening eligibility to include columnists in addition to editorial writers. He will be recognized Sept. 25 during an awards luncheon at the 64th annual National Conference of Editorial Writers convention in Dallas. Click here for a list of previous honorees.

With the funding, Dwyer plans to travel to the Middle East, Asia and Africa to observe countries that exercise tight control over Internet content and access. “The greatest invention of our age has given voice to the powerless, and also handed an unparalleled tool for suppression and surveillance to authoritarian regimes,” Dwyer wrote in his fellowship proposal. With his research, he will write a book on the relationship of human rights to the Internet and privacy.

“Like nothing in history, the Web has allowed people to connect and learn and speak up,” he said. “The benefits and impact of this arrangement is complex, but perhaps its most significant feature is that it allows businesses to fill giant data vaults with the ore of human existence – the appetites, interests, longings, hopes, vanities and histories of people surfing the Internet.”

Dwyer will also audit MIT courses on the development of Internet technology. The first draft of the book is expected to be finished in June 2011.

“Jim's inquiry will show how the Internet, that essential tool for journalists and bullhorn for the politically powerless, has also become a club for repressive regimes," said Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Steve Geimann. “It's important research as the Web evolves and reaches communities around the world.”

This marks the 30th time the fellowship has been awarded. It is named in honor of Eugene C. Pulliam, one of the founding members of the Society and former publisher of the Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette.

Paul McMasters, Todd Gillman, Jay Evensen and Dan Radmacher chose the fellowship recipient. McMasters is a former president of the SDX Foundation and SPJ and has been judging the fellowship for more than a decade. Gillman is a former president of the SDX Foundation, a past regional director of SPJ and is a current SDX board member. Evensen is a member of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, served six years as an SPJ regional director and is currently on the SDX board. Radmacher is the vice president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times, Roanoke, Va.

“There were several proposals that would have made terrific projects, but Dwyer’s ultimately emerged as a favorite because of the relevance, impact and urgency of the project he proposes,” McMasters said. “The relationship between Internet structures and human rights has global implications. Dwyer’s journalistic skills and record of achievement promise a thorough and accessible exploration of these critical issues.”

Evensen expressed a similar sentiment.

“(The Internet) already is, and will continue to be, a battleground between privacy and security, as well as between freedom and oppression,” Evensen said. “I am hopeful that Jim will use this award to document the front lines in this struggle and uncover facts and tactics previously not known. I also hope he will document and offer insights into Web decentralization and how it offers hope to the world’s oppressed.”

Previous honors for Dwyer include two Pulitzer Prizes for Metropolitan Reporting and for Commentary, the Meyer Berger Prize, the Peter Kihss Award and the Thurgood Marshall Prize.

Dwyer earned a bachelor's degree in general science from Fordham University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He has been writing for newspapers since 1980. For much of that time, he was a columnist, first at New York Newsday, then the New York Daily News, and now at The New York Times, where he has been writing the “About New York” column since 2007.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was embedded with the 101st Airborne division of the US Army.

The Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship was established to enable a mid-career editorial writer or columnist from a newspaper in the United States to have time away from daily responsibilities for study and research. The $75,000 cash award allows the selected Pulliam Editorial Fellow to take courses, pursue independent study, travel or otherwise enrich their knowledge of a public interest issue. First offered in 1977, the award is funded by a gift from Mrs. Eugene C. Pulliam, honoring the memory of her husband.

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. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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