Asbury Park Press wins FOI Award
The New Jersey Asbury Park Press won this year’s Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information award for its series describing the problem with New Jersey’s public records law, titled “The Right to Know Nothing.” Asbury Park Press reporter Paul D’Ambrosio wrote the award-winning series and received the $3,000 prize at the Brechner Freedom of Information awards ceremony Nov. 9.
The series focused on New Jersey’s public access laws and why the New Jersey legislature consistently refused to allow the public access. The series detailed how public access varied from town to town and how ordinary citizens have difficulty getting the most fundamental information about public spending from their towns. In addition, the series showed how a host of court decisions obliterated public access and how the government lets a select few computer contractors profit from otherwise non-public information.
“The stories weave the hypocrisy of a newly elected governor, the wearying indifference of a sluggish legislature, the arrogant capriciousness of local bureaucrats, and the heartfelt frustration of local citizens into an informative and interesting tapestry on “The Right to Know Nothing,” according to one of the judges. “Hopefully, this series will embarrass the New Jersey government to reverse this travesty of closed government,” said one of the other judges.
The independent panel of judges said the series should serve as a model for other newspapers wishing to explore the rights of citizens to know how their government operates. The judges for the competition included Tom Davidson, metro editor of last year’s winning entry, Miami media lawyer Ed Mullins, and Susan Ross, head of the journalism program at Washington State University.
The 13th annual award was established by the late Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando, FL, broadcaster. Previous winners include the Sun-Sentinel, The Times-Picayune, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, the St. Petersburg Times, The Dallas Morning News and the Colombia Journalism Review.