Valley of the Sun SPJ presents Freedom of Information Awards in Scottsdale

Phoenix, AZ, Sept. 20, 2014 — The Valley of the Sun Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) honored nine journalists, two newspapers and two television stations with its 2014 Freedom of Information Awards winners Saturday, Sept. 20, recognizing outstanding work done by members of the state’s media that substantially made use of public records in 2013.

The awards were presented during the Arizona Newspapers Association’s 75th annual fall convention and meeting at the Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale. Valley of the Sun SPJ joined in partnership with ANA for awards presentations for the first time this year, joining the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors, who have been making its awards presentations at the annual ANA event for several years.

In addition to its First Amendment Awards for outstanding journalism based significantly on access to public records and/or open meetings, Valley of the Sun SPJ also honored with induction into the Order of the Silver Key media professionals who have had long and distinguished careers in Arizona.

Gary Nelson, retired from The Arizona Republic, received the chapter’s highest honor, the Phil Alvidrez Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Here are the awards Valley of the Sun SPJ presented on Sept. 20, 2014:

First Amendment Awards:

  • Morgan Loew, CBS 5/AZ-KPHO, for “Sheriff Arpaio’s SVU”
  • Craig Harris, Beth Duckett and Dustin Gardiner, The Arizona Republic, for “Arizona’s public pension systems”
  • Wendy Halloran, KPNX-TV, for “Phoenix Fire Department arson squad members’ false claims”
  • Craig Harris and Rob O’Dell, The Arizona Republic, for “Troubled youths abused at residential treatment centers”
  • Arizona Daily Star, and education reporter Alexis Huicochea, team leader Joe Burchell, and Editor Bobbie Jo Buel, for lawsuit, “Pressing TUSD to release superintendent candidates’ names”

The First Amendment Awards recognize efforts that substantially relied on public records and open meetings to produce top-quality journalism.

Order of the Silver Key Society:

  • Pete Aleshire, Editor-in-Chief, Payson Roundup
  • Ed Sharpe of the Glendale Daily Planet
  • Kathy Tulumello, Business editor, The Arizona Republic

The Order of the Silver Key honors journalists who have been in the profession for at least 25 years, a significant majority of which were in Arizona, who have conspicuously contributed to the journalism profession and have inspired fellow journalists.

Phil Alvidrez Award for Excellence in Journalism:

Gary Nelson, retired from of The Arizona Republic

   The Phil Alvidrez Award for Excellence in Journalism recognizes the career of an Arizona journalist whose body of work has served to inspire fellow journalists, including a notable commitment to the cause of freedom of information. The award is named for Phil Alvidrez, who retired as news director at Phoenix’s KTVK-TV (Channel 3) after 20 years in that position. Alvidrez was a tireless campaigner for the free flow of government information, often committing his station’s financial resources to fight numerous court battles to open closed documents and meetings.

For more information, contact Teri Carnicelli, Valley of the Sun SPJ treasurer, at 602-410-1267 or

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. Our Valley of the Sun chapter has been doing the same since 1958.

Valley of the Sun SPJ extends awards contest

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the spring awards event originally planned by the Valley of the Sun Chapter of SPJ had to be postponed. The chapter now will be partnering with the Arizona Newspapers Association (ANA) to co-present its awards at ANA’s fall awards event, set for 12 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Chaparral Suites Resort, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

The Valley of the Sun SPJ’s annual Arizona Freedom of Information Awards honor excellence in journalism and in open government in Arizona during the previous calendar year. The nomination period has been extended, with entries needing to be postmarked no later than Friday, July 11. Self-nominations are welcome. Entries that were received earlier this year (for the original spring event) are still eligible and do not need to be re-submitted.

There is NO COST to enter the awards contest. The First Amendment Award nomination form, as well as the Phil Alvidrez Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Order of the Silver Key Society award forms, can be found on this website under “Awards & Scholarships.”

For more information, contact Teri Carnicelli at 602-410-1267 or

Learn How to Access Public Records with David Cuillier on June 21

Join SPJ national secretary-treasurer Dave Cuillier, who is also director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona in Tucson, for a reprise of his 2010 Access Across America tour, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 21, in the Lecture Room at Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library.

During the 2010 tour, he spoke to more than 1,000 journalists on strategies for getting public records during his travels around the nation for several weeks that summer. This year, “AAA II” involves several people touring different regions, with Dave speaking to journalists and members of the public in the Southwest.

His presentation on gaining access public records that will address effective requests and how to use tactical strategies to overcome denials and exorbitant fees. Not just for journalists, this program is for anyone trying to access public records such as police reports, court documents and school records. His presentation is funded from a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

The Burton Barr Central Library is in downtown Phoenix at 1221 N. Central Ave., south of McDowell and north of the Central Avenue bridge over Deck Park. The Lecture Room is on the fourth floor in the southwest corner of the library. Admission is free and it’s light-rail accessible!

Phoenix SPJ Seeks Nominations for Freedom of Information Awards

Arizona media professionals who produced informative news items for the public by making use of public records requests are invited to submit their stories for consideration in the 2012 Freedom of Information Awards contest, presented by the Valley of the Sun Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Categories include:

  • First Amendment Awards – honoring published or broadcast work in 2011 that involved significant reliance on public records and open meetings
  • Sunshine Awards – honoring Arizonans (both journalists and non-journalists) whose actions helped foster greater openness in government in 2011 through improved access to public records or open meetings
  • Order of the Silver Key Society – paying tribute to journalists from any medium with at least 25 years of experience in the state of Arizona (consecutive or cumulative) whose careers exemplify high standards and consistent, top-quality journalism
  • The Lloyd Clark “How it Made Print” Award – honoring print journalists (all circulations) responsible for a published story, photograph or graphic design whose own story of how it became reality is exceptional. Unusually difficult circumstances, or unusual tenacity in pursing the story, will be the hallmark of the subject of the winning entry. Entries need not have been published in 2011.

There is no cost to enter the contest. Nominations can be from employers/supervisors as well as self-nominations. The deadline to enter is March 19, 2012. For more information, download the 2012 Freedom of Information Awards brochure.

Entry Forms

Phoenix SPJ Seeks Board Members

A message from Phoenix SPJ Immediate Past President Mark Scarp:

In the 17 years I have served on the Valley of the Sun SPJ chapter board, I’ve seen many changes in both our national Society and our local chapter. Locally one of the biggest changes is the changing composition of our chapter board. People naturally come and go for a variety of reasons after their board service has ended. But as American journalism in the past two years has suffered greatly–and virtually none among us has been spared some form of suffering–so has the need to be there for the future of our profession. Journalism needs SPJ’s guiding principles and the eager hands and minds of its members more than ever.

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Another court victory for metadata

A case before the Washington (state) Supreme Court cited — and agreed with — the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in Lake v. City of Phoenix. The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona (of which our chapter is a member) voted last year to spend more than $8,000 for Dan Barr and his staff’s cost to prepare the appellate argument before our state’s highest court.

Last week (Oct. 7) in O’Neill v. City of Shoreline, the Washington Supreme Court agreed with Arizona’s that metadata is an inextricable part of a public record and must be disclosed if it exists.

For anyone with legal inclinations, the decision is available at

(Info courtesy of Mark Scarp)

Upcoming Event: Public Records Lessons

Please join Phoenix SPJ on Thursday, October 21 for Access Across America. Hear David Cuillier, University of Arizona journalism professor and national co-chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, share the public-records lessons he’s learned from traveling more than 14,000 miles over 33 states and talking to more than 1,000 journalists, communicators, officials and citizens.

The event is 6 to 8 p.m. in rm. 202 of the Cronkite Theater at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Admission is free.