Michael Paul Williams Named 2010 George Mason Award Winner

RICHMOND, Va. – Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and reporter, has been selected the winner of the 2010 George Mason Award, given annually by the statewide chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for significant, lasting contributions to Virginia journalism.

Williams’ reporting and columns about minority issues in central Virginia have given voice to, and focused attention on, an often-overlooked part of the community, earning him a steady flow of passionate reader response.

“Williams has demonstrated courage in reporting news and publishing his opinions despite death threats and hate mail,” said Brian Eckert, chair of the chapter’s award nomination committee. “His passion for, and dedication to, journalism are undimmed.”

“Williams gives Richmond and all of Virginia a look at itself through the eyes of its minorities and downtrodden. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we believe his work reflects George Mason’s principles in a timely and meaningful manner,” Eckert said.

SPJ’s Virginia Professional Chapter named the award for Mason because he risked lifelong friendships and personal fortune insisting that the fledgling United States protect freedom of the press and the other civil liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

Mason wrote “that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotick [sic] government.”

Williams, a Richmond native and Virginia Union University graduate, will receive the 47th annual Mason award during a banquet in his honor June 29 at The 2300 Club. For ticket information and reservations, contact Brian Eckert at 804-287-6659 or email.

Also at the banquet, the chapter’s educational foundation will present scholarships to Roanoke resident Katie Thisdell of James Madison University and Mechanicsville resident Fred Shaia of the University of Richmond for excellence in college journalism.

The foundation has given more than 75 journalism scholarships since 1971 to students attending an accredited Virginia college or university.

Bonnie Newman Davis, a mass communications professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and member of the Virginia Pro Chapter board of directors, nominated Williams for the award. He was recommended from a field of five nominees by a selection committee of chapter past presidents including: Jim Mann, retired associate managing editor of The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg and 2005 Mason award winner; Louise Seals, retired managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch; and Eckert, SPJ’s regional director and media-public relations director at the University of Richmond. The chapter’s 13-member board of directors ratified Williams’ selection.

SPJ, the largest journalism professional organization in the country, promotes high standards and ethical practice of journalism, freedom of information, legal defense of reporters, journalism education and newsroom diversity.

Contact Nicole McMullin, chapter president, for more information.

Correction: We previously stated the incorrect number of board members. This post has been updated.