Dick Hammerstrom, local news editor for The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, has been selected as recipient of the 2013 George Mason Award by the Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter.
The Mason award, established in 1964, is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to Virginia journalism. Hammerstrom has worked for newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina and been an editor with The Free Lance-Star since 1997.
Journalists throughout the state know Hammerstrom as the go-to guy for Freedom of Information Act and open government issues. He also helps promote better access to courtrooms and court-record laws for journalists and the public around the state. He has been the chairman of the Virginia Press Association’s FOI Committee for more than a decade and involved in open government issues since the 1980s. He also served as vice president of the Virginia Co- alition for Open Government and as Virginia’s Sunshine Chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists.
Hammerstrom has conducted training sessions on press law issues to journalism organizations, on college campuses and in The Free Lance-Star newsroom.
“Dick is a most worthy recipient of this award,” said Nick Cadwallender, publisher of The Free Lance-Star. “He is a recognized expert on FOIA law and has always been willing to share his knowledge, especially with young jour- nalists starting their careers.”
Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, said Hammerstrom is well known to what she referred to as “the access community.” Stanley has known Hammerstrom since the mid-1980s and said he “has put his heart and soul” into the open government cause.
She praised him for leadership of VPA’s efforts fighting for open government and better access laws and noted his work to with other open government advocates and law en- forcement officials to make police information more acces- sible to the public.
SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter will present the Mason award to Hammerstrom at its 50th George Mason Award Banquet on Tuesday, June 18 at University of Richmond. The chapter and its Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation will also present two scholarships to Virginia college journalists.
Tickets are $50 a person and include an open bar reception, silent auction, dinner and the program. Proceeds benefit the scholarship foundation. For reservations and information, contact Brian Eckert at (804) 287-6659 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mason award is named for the Virginian who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, but refused to sign the Constitution because it did not include a declaration of individual rights. The Bill of Rights, eventually added to the document, is based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written principally by Mason in 1776.