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Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Brew win James S. Keat Freedom of Information Award 2018

For the second year in a row, there are two James S. Keat Awards.  The Baltimore Brew wins for its unswerving commitment to one issue and the Baltimore Sun for its body of work reporting with public records.  Four strong nominations were received for this award.

The award is named for Jim Keat, a retired editor and foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, who was a long-time advocate for public information access. Keat was inducted into the MDDC Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2013 and is a former recipient of MDDC’s Distinguished Service Award.

The nominees were judged by a distinguished duo:  Chris Eddings, retired publisher of The Daily Record and former Public Information Act Compliance Board member and Miranda Spivak, Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism, DePauw University and independent journalist for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The judges were impressed by The Sun’s ability to “make the issue real; showing why people would care.” The Sun’s focus on police accountability throughout the past several years has proven “detailed and extensive.” From their submission letter, The Sun has noted that ”the stories in this entry came to light through public records requests for documents and body camera footage, and even a court fight to unseal documents related to the federal racketeering case.” Through their commitment to pushing for access to public records, The Sun reporting creates real change.

The judges were also impressed with Baltimore Brew’s ability to “ferret out a significant issue.” The Baltimore Brew is currently acting as plaintiff in a grassroots effort to end the use of non-disclosure agreements in police abuse cases. In The Brew’s letter to the judges, they say that “Police misconduct gag orders, we argue, are a public policy choice—one that stifles reform. Allowing reporters to obtain a vivid and accurate description of police misconduct is essential information for those seeking to end it.” The panel judges believe that this lawsuit is “an interesting and creative approach for a small news organization.”

The Baltimore Sun won the award in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2012 and joins previous award winners Montgomery County Sentinel (2017), The Daily Times (2013), the Carroll County Times (2011), the Maryland Independent (2010), the Frederick News-Post (2008, 2009), and others.

Honorable Mentions

Capital Gazette

Nominated for their ongoing commitment to freedom of information. Per the Capital Gazette’s letter to the judges, “In 2018, staff members filed dozens of requests under the Maryland Public Information Act, obtained hidden documents from sources, filed complaints to open closed meetings and argued on its editorial page for the public’s right to know what government was doing.” Sometimes there is a price for freedom, and the Capital Gazette is unfortunately more familiar with that idea than most. Editor Rick Hutzell wants to let their community know that “the staff and leadership of the news organization remain committed to the role of a journalism: pursuit of facts and truths wherever it leads.”

Prince George’s Sentinel

Nominated for their role in raising awareness of racism and discrimination in both the Prince George’s Public Schools and Police Department. The Sentinel staff has experienced a multitude of newsworthy events, and according to their letter to the judges, “throughout all of these tumultuous events that occurred in 2018, our staff attended local meetings, gained access to public records and filed Maryland's Public Information Act (PIA) requests for law enforcement information pertaining to police municipalities and economic development that was documented in our coverage. We followed up on multiple lawsuits and scandals and integrated local ties in our national coverage.”

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