PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The New England First Amendment Coalition is introducing a pair of annual awards to recognize private citizens and professional journalists who aggressively advance the people’s knowledge of what government is doing – or failing to do – on their behalf.
The Citizen Right to Know Award and the FOI Award will be presented for the first time at NEFAC’s annual luncheon Feb. 8, 2013, when Philip Balboni, founder of the regional, 24-hour cable TV news network NECN and the international news site GlobalPost, also will receive the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.
“NEFAC’s board wanted to recognize the fact that every breakthrough in the fight against government obfuscation is not made by professional journalists,” NEFAC Executive Director Rosanna Cavanagh said. “Often it’s the outraged or frustrated citizen who just won’t let go who makes the difference.”
Both awards will be presented to New Englanders for activity in the six-state region in calendar year 2012.
Candidates for the Citizen Award should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty in obtaining information the public has a right to know. Nominations are due Jan. 7; forms are available online and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 401-751-7542.
Cavanagh said the FOI Award will be a recognition of the news media at its best, standing watch against elected and appointed officials trying to cloak activities from the people they serve. Work in broadcast, online or print media is eligible.
The award will go to a journalist, pair of journalists or media institution for work that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference will be given to applicants who overcome significant official resistance.
Applicants should submit their story or series along with a cover letter explaining the process of getting the story, why it was a significant accomplishment and how it affected the public. Entries, which also are due by Jan. 7, may be submitted electronically, though originals will be checked prior to notification of the winner.
Balboni will receive the third annual Hamblett award, which NEFAC introduced in 2010 to highlight a career of First Amendment advocacy. The award is named for the late chairman and publisher of the Providence Journal. Previous recipients include Martin Baron, former editor of The Boston Globe, and retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.
The Feb. 8 luncheon will be held in conjunction with the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s 2013 convention and trade show at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. Members include lawyers, journalists, historians, librarians, academics and private citizens; Mo Mehlsak, editor of The Forecaster, is a member of the NEFAC board of directors.