Please note: You can find a full list of winners at the end of this post.
Faribault Echo Students Win Freedom of Information Award from State’s Largest Journalism Group
Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists presents its Peter S. Popovich Award to high school journalists who started online newspaper to confront principal’s censorship efforts
Professional journalists are only too aware of the constant specter of censorship. But a group of high school students learned this lesson late last year as well when they delved into a story covering sensitive information about a teacher who was under investigation and on administrative leave.
Students from the Faribault Echo persevered when school Superintendent Bob Stepaniak demanded prior review of their story. They refused to give in to his demands, worked with the city’s professional paper, the Faribault Daily News, to publish the story, then started an independent, online version of the Echo when Stepaniak later shut the print version down. For steadfastly adhering to the principles of the Freedom of the Press, these students received the Peter S. Popovich Award, which is given each year by MNSPJ to “the person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment Rights.
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.
The award was presented Thursday evening at SPJ’s annual Page One award banquet in Minneapolis. The Minnesota chapter also presented awards in more than 90 categories to the state’s top print, broadcast and online journalists for their work in 2008. SPJMN consulted with magazine editors to revamp those awards, adding categories and making them more relevant to the industry. In a nod to continued growth, SPJMN also added more online categories for the second consecutive year. Entries were judged by SPJ chapters in Seattle, Chicago and Detroit, including by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press.
Will Wright, from the University of Minnesota, and Kevin Hurd, from St. Cloud State University, received student scholarships from the group. Both will graduate in 2010.
The full list of winners is below.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the oldest, largest and broadest-based organization of journalists in the U.S., was founded as Sigma Delta Chi in 1909. The Minnesota Chapter was founded in 1956. The chapter membership totals about 160. In 1998, the Minnesota chapter was named the national large chapter of the year.
Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, President, MN Pro Chapter
Scott Theisen, President-Elect