Athens, Ga. – Student newspapers and reporters at the University of Georgia and the University of Texas at Austin are winners of the 2006 Betty Gage Holland Award for protecting the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. The award is sponsored by the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Newspaper Management Studies in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
The Red & Black and student reporter Todd South discovered sex offenders were attending the University of Georgia and officials did not know it. Interviews and outstanding records research found criminal background checks were made only when a student admitted to being a convicted felon. South’s reporting uncovered two sex offenders on campus who had lied on their application. The university now checks student applications against the registered sex offender list as part of a more thorough admissions review process.
“Todd South’s story started a dialogue among administrators they didn’t have before: Maybe we should see if people are lying on their applications,” wrote Ed Morales, Red & Black editorial adviser, in support of his newspaper’s winning entry. “And it started a dialogue among students: Maybe we shouldn’t accept the spin the university weaves about crime on campus.”
The Daily Texan and student journalists Mike Elliott and Jonathan York used public records requests and good investigative reporting to detail how surveillance cameras are used to identify student protestors on campus at the University of Texas. The Daily Texan persistently pursued information after its initial freedom of information (FOI) request was filed by York in 2003.
“Among the reasons given by the university for not providing the information were campus security and homeland security considerations,” wrote Richard Finnell, Daily Texan adviser, in support of his newspaper’s winning entry. “A bill was introduced and passed by the Texas Legislature, using actual wording from York’s 2003 FOI request that attempted to bypass FOI laws, making requests for information on security cameras exempt from such requests.”
The Red & Black and The Daily Texan will receive $1,000 awards as sponsor publications. Red & Black reporter South will receive a $1,000 award and Daily Texan reporters Elliott and York will share a $1,000 award.
“We are delighted to honor this year three current or former campus journalists and their newspapers for outstanding service to the public’s right and need to know,” said Conrad Fink, Grady College professor of journalism and director of the Cox Institute for Newspaper Management Studies. “If journalism has one compelling obligation it is to serve the public, and these winners demonstrate they have accepted that obligation.”
The annual award honors the late Betty Gage Holland, long-time friend of journalism education at the University of Georgia. For more information on the award, contact Cecil Bentley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706/542-4993. Holland Award information and submission guidelines are available at www.grady.uga.edu/hollandaward.
Established in 1915, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication offers seven undergraduate majors including advertising, broadcast news, magazines, newspapers, public relations, publication management and telecommunication arts. The college offers two graduate degrees, and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, visit www.grady.uga.edu.