The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter, seeks nominations for its 48th George Mason Award, to be presented in June 2011.
The annual award recognizes a person in Virginia has done something extraordinary for journalism and the public: reporting and writing that has righted a wrong, caused a sea change in attitudes, changed a law, started a watchdog group that exposed violation of the public trust, defended a reporter or news organization from unjust persecution, forced a reluctant government to make the people’s business public, mentored young reporters who went on to outstanding careers, or some other specific, noteworthy accomplishment.
Past winners have included reporters, columnists, editorial writers, publishers, broadcast station owners, attorneys, directors of public interest organizations and professional development associations, among others. They have worked for organizations large and small.
SPJ Virginia Pro named the award for Mason, Virginia’s “forgotten founding father,” because he risked lifelong friendships and personal fortune by insisting that the fledgling United States protect freedom of the press and the other civil liberties by enacting a Bill of Rights. He was born in Fairfax County in 1725, helped frame the Virginia Constitution and in 1776 wrote its Declaration of Rights, the first authoritative formulation of the doctrine of inalienable rights. Mason’s work influenced Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
The chapter has presented the George Mason Award annually since 1964 to journalists and others who have supported freedom of the press and made significant contributions to Virginia journalism. It expresses the esteem of SPJ members, who are committed to ethics, freedom of information, education and legal defense of reporters in the practice of journalism. The award plaque carries Mason’s conviction regarding the role of the press: “Freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of Liberty and can never be restrained but by despotick governments.”
Nominations should be made in letter form, complete with reference to supporting information, to the chapter’s George Mason Committee chair, Brian Eckert, Director of Media and Public Relations, University of Richmond, 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173; email@example.com; fax 804-287-6491.
Deadline for nominations is May 1, 2011.