“Hammer” honored with 2013 George Mason Award

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The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter honored a leading journalist during the 2013 George Mason Award Banquet Tuesday, June 18 at the University of Richmond.

Dick Hammerstrom of The Free Lance-Star received the George Mason Award for his relentless efforts in the arena of freedom of information.

Hammerstrom told the crowd of about 50 journalists that during his first job covering government, he and a colleague found out that the janitor emptied the city manager’s trash into a third-floor bathroom. Those discarded documents became a gateway to understand what was really going on in the city. Today, “Hammer” is noted as a go-to for FOI and a mentor to his newsroom and beyond.

Also during the event, which serves as the annual meeting of the chapter, two local students were honored with the Virginia SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation scholarships. Recipients are Mark Robinson, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Katherin Johnson, also a rising senior at VCU.

A silent auction during the event raised more than $400 for the Virginia SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation.

In a surprise, Region 2 Director Brian Eckert received the George and Francine Crutchfield Distinguished Service Award from outgoing President Paul Fletcher and Francine Crutchfield. Eckert, who serves on SPJ’s national executive committee, is also a past president of the chapter and most recently served as treasurer.

Newly elected officers include President Pat Kane of The Progress-Index, Vice President Robyn Sidersky of The Free Lance-Star, Secretary Jeff South of VCU and Treasurer Mary Ellin Arch of TransUrban. New to the board of directors this year are Peter Vieth of Virginia Lawyers Weekly and Rachel DePompa of WWBT-TV NBC-12.

See more photos from the banquet on our Facebook page.

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