Heather Porter, Programs Coordinator, (317) 927-8000, ext. 204, email@example.comBeth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS –The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor Johnson County(Kansas) Community College students Miguel Morales, Kevin Mimms and the staff of The Campus Ledger with a First Amendment Award.
The Society’s First Amendment Awards recognize individuals and groups for extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment. The awards are open to individuals and organizations, and are not limited to journalists.
An anonymous tip sent from a blind e-mail account alerted Morales to alleged sexual harassment accusations within the college’s administration. An investigation identified the writer of the e-mail. She agreed to go on the record with the students.
Another tip from a different source brought allegations of violations of overtime at the school. The students filed Freedom of Information requests and finally threatened lawsuits before gaining access to information that should have been public all along. They pursued their investigations, even working for free when the school’s board denied a request to pay student paper salaries during the summer. The two investigations eventually led to the college president’s resignation, but not without reports of health concerns.
“Miguel Morales, Kevin Mimms and the staff of The Campus Ledger have sacrificed time, money and perhaps even some degree of their academic and journalistic futures at Johnson County Community College because they needed to do what was right,” wrote Anne Christiansen-Bullers, advisor of The Campus Ledger in her nomination letter. “They have been professional in the face of pettiness and they have upheld the finest standards of journalism during a very troubling time.”
In another nomination letter on behalf of the students, Universal Press Syndicate columnist David Chartrand said the students’ reporting of the controversy would be remarkable even if its coverage had not led to the toppling of a longtime university president and community icon. He concluded by stating that the students should be commended for challenging old ways.
“The young men and women on the JCCC campus newspaper both shame and energize me,” Chartrand said. “They remind me that a free press is relevant only so long as it delivers the citizenry what it cannot get from government – namely an independent influence on public policy and an implacable voice that ask questions and question the answers.”
Morales, Mimms and The Campus Ledger staff will be recognized Saturday, Aug. 26 during the President’s Installation Banquet at the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.
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.