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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Public Service in Newsletter Journalism


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Tuesday, July 3, 2007
SDX Awards: Public Service in Newsletter Journalism

Winner: Staff, Mine Safety and Health News

by Jim Poyser

In the wake of the Sago disaster, print, television and radio press quickly discovered they did not understand mining, the law or how to get needed information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. While having to cover the disaster for the Mine Safety and Health News, Managing Editor Ellen Smith also assisted more than 50 reporters in a two-week period. In addition, PDF copies of the Jan. 9, 2006, newsletter were e-mailed to anyone who asked for help.

Mine Safety and Health News, the only independent and credentialed legal news service covering the U.S. mining industry, published a question-and-answer guide to further assist the media.

While Smith helped reporters and conducted interviews, Washington correspondent Kathy Snyder kept abreast of developments on Capitol Hill, and legal editor Melanie Aclander focused on how the tragedy played out in the court system.

Judges lauded their coverage as informative and complete and in no way was led by the “disaster pack” of national media covering the disaster. … (It) provides its readers with insight and details not found in other coverage.”

Smith noted that she had been in a battle with the Mine Safety and Health Administration “over their change in FOIA policy. In the pre-Bush MSHA, ‘matters of record’ were made public during accident investigations. Under this administration, however, MSHA asserted that it could withhold this information.”

With the revelation of this policy of withholding in Smith’s newsletter and in her op-ed piece in the Washington Post, MSHA was pressured by Congress to change its FOIA policy and once again release information.

Smith called it a “huge victory for the press and the public.”

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