SPJ announces Madison Award winners

NORCAL chapter winners include Chauncey Bailey Project

The Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter will honor champions of the First Amendment at the 23rd Annual James Madison Awards. Honorees include Dan Noyes, co-founder of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, whose lifetime commitment to in-depth journalism has garnered him the Norwin S. Yoffie Award for Career Achievement. The innovative performing arts instruction of Cliff Mayotte, a teacher at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School, will be honored with the Educator of the Year Award, named for the late Beverly Kees.

Other James Madison Awards include State Assemblymember Mark Leno, for his tireless efforts to reform California’s Public Records Act; KTVU-TV’s Roland De Wolk, Tony Hodrick, and Ron Acker, who
fought for public documents that uncovered millions of dollars worth of toll cheats; and KGO-TV’s expose on – and lawsuits with – San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency drivers. The work of Modesto Bee columnist Will DeBoard, Contra Costa Times reporter Thomas Peele, and the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and many others will also be honored. The Chauncey Bailey Project, an innovative collaboration of Bay Area journalists who are completing the work of murdered Oakland Post reporter Chauncey Bailey, will be receiving a special citation.

The March 18 banquet will be held in San Francisco and begin with a no-host reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and awards at the New Delhi Restaurant, located at 160 Ellis St., two blocks from the Powell Street Bart/MUNI station. Tickets are $50 for SPJ members and students, and $70 for other attendees. Reservation information is available at www.spj.org/norcal. Tables and hosting opportunities are also available. Contact David Greene at dgreene@thefirstamendment.org for more information.

The James Madison Freedom of Information Awards is named for the creative force behind the First Amendment and honors local journalists, organizations, public officials and private citizens who have fought for public access to government meetings and records and promoted the public’s right to know. Award winners are selected by the Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter.

Background information, including a complete list and a description of winners, is attached.


TUESDAY, FEB. 19, 2008


The following is a complete list of award recipients:


Dan Noyes has spent his life committed to investigative reporting for the public good. In 1977, Noyes, Lowell Bergman, and David Weir, recognizing that in-depth reporting was slipping through the cracks at many major news outlets, founded the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting. Over thirty years later, the increased ebb of news resources makes the non-profit CIR even more
important. Noyes’ work expanding the Center’s reach into different media outlets and his tutoring of fledgling journalists deserves great honor.


Cliff Mayotte, who heads the performing arts department at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School, gave his advanced acting students an assignment last year that was designed to raise free-expression awareness among the entire student body. Students participating in the “Censorship Project” performed extensive research, interviewing experts across the country and persons who had been involved in censorship incidents. The production was so well received that the cast and crew gave encore performances.


Will DeBoard, sports columnist for the Modesto Bee, uncovered details of a state investigation into recruiting violations by Franklin High School in Stockton, CA. Using the California Public Records Act,
and despite great resistance from the agency governing high school sports in the Central Valley, DeBoard obtained the 205-page report and reported extensively on its findings.

For his various efforts championing freedom of information, investigative reporter Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times will be awarded in the professional journalist category. Peele’s search for
Oakland mayor Jerry Brown’s records, which disappeared when he left office, resulted in the city’s recovery of thousands of the former mayor’s emails that otherwise would have been lost. Peele also played a key role, writing stories and training nearly a dozen other reporters, in Californians Aware’s audit of Public Records Act compliance by law enforcement agencies.

Roland De Wolk, a producer with KTVU-TV, the Bay Area’s Fox-TV affiliate, led the investigative team of photographer Tony Hedrick and video editor Ron Acker, that uncovered the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s shoddy work collecting tolls from drivers who illegally used FasTrak lanes on Bay Area bridges.

Overcoming great resistance from the MTC to disclose its public records, the team discovered millions of dollars in unpaid tolls and very little effort being made to collect them. The KTVU team continues their fight to access more MTC information on these toll scofflaws, including attempting to identify whether any of them are public officials.


KGO-TV, the Bay Area’s ABC-owned station, was sued by the Union representing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency drivers after reporter Dan Noyes [different from Dan Noyes awarded above] and producer Steve Fyffe, tried to obtain information from the city regarding complaints about Muni drivers. The lawsuit attempted to stop the city from providing KGO with the public documents, as well as enjoin the station from broadcasting any information it did obtain. KGO prevailed and ultimately obtained over 1,200 pages of complaints about 25 drivers, then filed two other lawsuits against Muni to obtain the identities of these drivers and videotapes of the incidents.


The Sacramento Bee is being honored for its institutional support of reporters and their use of public records for numerous stories. In 2007, Bee reporter Andy Furillo made extensive use of public
records while reporting on the costs of defending legal cases challenging inmate care. Reporter Andrew McIntosh also employed public information to investigate the lack of oversight of the state’s
paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Reporters John Hill and Kevin Yamamura reported on the misconduct by the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners, including its violation of open meetings laws.


The Berkeley Daily Planet won a victory at the California Court of Appeals to unseal 15,000 pages of court records from a class-action suit charging Wal-Mart with unfair labor practices.


The Chauncey Bailey Project, a team of reporters and editors from numerous Bay Area news outlets and journalism schools, is being cited for continuing the work of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, who was murdered while investigating the inner workings of the Your Black Muslim Bakery organization.


SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organized for Library Defense) fought long, hard, and successfully, to get the Berkeley City Council to lift onerous and unfair restrictions on public comment at council meetings.


State Assemblymember Mark Leno is being noted for his dogged efforts to amend the California Public Records Act and improve the public’s access to governmental information. Leno introduced and carried legislation that would have created penalties for violations of the Public Records Act, and required agencies to keep more records on the Internet. The legislation was passed by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger – twice.


The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley has compiled a massive collection of text, photographs, and audio clips documenting the loyalty oath controversy that roiled the entire UC system during the Communist witch-hunts by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.


Rachel Matteo-Boehm, of the law firm Holme, Roberts & Owen, has provided outstanding counsel on numerous matters in 2007. Matteo-Boehm has had a busy year, litigating successfully in the California First Amendment Coalition’s suit against the County of Santa Clara to obtain a copy of their GIS basemap, which the county had hoped to sell instead to interested users. She also successfully defeated efforts by a plaintiff in a copyright action to obtain journalistic source material from her client, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. The lawyer is currently representing Vallejo Times Herald and Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown who has been issued numerous subpoenas for his unpublished information.


Dan Cooke, a National Parks Conservancy employee who witnessed and logged a sewage spill stemming from a ferry crew’s mishandling of pumping tanks on Alcatraz Island in fall 2006, was later fired after discussing the incident on record with the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He had to file suit to get his job back and was rehired before the case went to court.


Carl Malamud, the founder of public.resource.org, a web site that is making public information, including federal court decisions, easily available and free on the Internet, has made great inroads to documents often costly or cumbersome to access.