Two Citizens Win Freedom of Information Award from Stateâ€™s Largest Journalism Group
Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists presents its Peter S. Popovich Award to two women working to keep public information available to all citizens
NOTE: All 2008 Page One Award Winners are listed below.
Reporters and First Amendment lawyers arenâ€™t the only ones who fight for freedom of information. With that in mind, the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists this year honored two non-journalists for their roles in keeping information public and available to all citizens.
Mary Flister, who has been recording Maplewood city meetings and making them available to the community, despite rebukes from to stop, and Robbie LaFleur, director of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, who has been an unyielding advocate of information accessibility for the general public, both received the Peter S. Popovich Award. The award is given each year by the by MNSPJ to â€œthe person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment Rights.â€
The awards were presented Thursday evening at the SPJâ€™s annual Page One award banquet in St. Paul. The Minnesota chapter presented awards in more than 80 categories to the stateâ€™s top print, broadcast and online journalists for their work in 2007, including coverage of the I-35W bridge collapse. In a nod to the growing number of local news web sites, organizers expanded the number of online categories, including blogging and web-design awards.
Allison McDonald, a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and Peter Valelly, a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, received student scholarships from the group.
After attending a â€œMayorâ€™s Forumâ€ in Maplewood, where people openly complained about their neighbors and elected officials, Flister began to tape record the public meetings and make them available to the city clerk, and thus any citizen. Flister, concerned the personal attacks would influence public policy, has dutifully recorded the meetings since then, despite numerous public admonishments that city officials make no attempt to diminish. Elected leaders are now considering officially recording meetings â€œsince theyâ€™re being recorded anyway.â€
Lafleur has led a years-long campaign to digitize information from the legislature, state agencies and commissions and make the information easy to navigate. He work has helped make www.leg.mn/lrl one of the most valuable websites in Minnesota, for journalists and citizens.
The award, presented since 1979, is named for the late Peter S. Popovich, a champion of open government in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as the chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals and as the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Minnesota SPJ would like to congratulate Erin Pfeiffer of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on her first-place award in the Page One contest category 7D. Newspaper – Page Design/Layout: News Headline for newspapers with a circulation over 50,000.
“The author made great use of a tight space with a concise headline that’s to the point and clever,” is what the judges said of Erin’s headline, “Add sports, subtract girls, boost literacy.”
In this category there was a tie for first place between Erin Pfeiffer and Jessica Fleming, also of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Unfortunately, an error was made during the compiling of the results and we failed to recognize Erin at the banquet. We apologize for the mistake.
Follow the links below to read a complete list of 2008 Page One Award winners.