Tickets on sale for Feb. 3 George Mason Award event

Tickets are now on sale for the ceremony at which the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter will present its 2020 George Mason Award to Jean Patterson Boone, publisher of the Richmond Free Press, and her late husband, Ray Boone, who founded the award-winning weekly.

The event, which had been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, 601 West Broad St., Richmond. (Because of the coronavirus, attendees must wear masks.) The ceremony, being held in partnership with the SPJ@VCU chapter, will be live-streamed as well.

SPJVA is offering a range of ticket options:

  • Early-bird tickets for in-person attendance, which includes refreshments and socializing at the ICA, will cost $25. (Be sure to buy your ticket soon: The price will increase to $35 on Jan. 16.)
  • A ticket for a student to attend in person will be $10.
  • A “streaming ticket,” to watch a webcast of the ceremony as it happens and later on demand, will cost $10.

More details about the event are available on our Eventbrite page. Besides buying a ticket and/or making a donation via Eventbrite, please spread the word about the award ceremony. We also are seeking sponsors to defray the cost of the event. If you know of a newsroom or group that would like to be a sponsor, please contact virginiaprospj@gmail.com.

$500 sponsorship level

  • 4 tickets to the event
  • Recognized prominently (larger type or logo) in the award ceremony program
  • Recognized in a welcome poster at the entrance to the ICA facility
  • Recognized by the emcee at the start of the ceremony
  • Recognized prominently (bold type) in SPJ Virginia Pro’s January newsletter
  • Recognized in at least three SPJVA social media posts
  • Recognized on the SPJVA website

$250 sponsorship level

  • 2 tickets to the event
  • Recognized in the award ceremony program
  • Recognized in SPJ Virginia Pro’s January newsletter
  • Recognized in at least one SPJVA social media post
  • Recognized on the SPJVA website

Since 1964, the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter has presented the George Mason Award to “a journalist or friend of journalism of exceptional character and dedication to the craft.” The award is named for the principal author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

During the Feb. 3 ceremony, we also will recognize the college students who received fellowships from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter, to support their newsroom internships last summer.

Besides honoring the publishers of the Richmond Free Press, the event seeks to raise money for the student fellowship program.

Ray Boone, who began his journalism career as a reporter at the News-Herald in his native Suffolk, Virginia, in the late 1950s, founded the Richmond Free Press in 1992, with his wife serving as advertising director.

Boone continued as editor and publisher of the paper until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Since then, Jean Boone has overseen the weekly, which has a circulation of more than 35,000.

Under the Boones’ stewardship, the Richmond Free Press has won numerous awards for journalism and advertising from the Virginia Press Association, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other organizations.

In nominating the Boones for the George Mason Award, Jack White, who has covered the civil rights movement and Black politics for The Washington Post, Time magazine and TheRoot.com, wrote:

“For decades, the name Boone has been synonymous with the best traditions of the American press. First as editor of the Richmond Afro-American and then as editor of the aptly named Richmond Free Press, Ray Boone fearlessly and tirelessly spoke truth to the entrenched powers that be in Virginia and throughout the nation. Ray’s wife Jean was his partner and ally in that relentless crusade and, after his death, she became its unflinching leader.”

Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, a retired Richmond journalist and longtime SPJ member, wrote that the late Ray Boone was “a champion for truth, justice, accuracy and correct grammar. He forced journalism to do its job and do it well.”

Later in the spring (we’re shooting for April), we plan to hold an event in Roanoke honoring Beth Macy, who was awarded the 2021 George Mason Award. We’re in the planning stages now. If you would like to help plan that event, please email us at virginiaprospj@gmail.com.

Published by SPJ Virginia Pro

SPJ is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 10,000 members; works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press through its advocacy efforts.

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