George Mason Award Ceremony on Feb. 3

Dec. 31, 2021

Media Contact:
Dina Weinstein

Feb. 3 Award Ceremony to Honor Publishers of Richmond Free Press

Update: On Jan. 13, ICA officials informed us that because of the rising number of coronavirus cases, the event cannot accommodate an in-person audience. We are now selling only “streaming tickets” ($10). We will send ticket holders instructions on how to view a live-stream of the ceremony, which will feature a conversation between Mrs. Boone and VCU Professor Chioke l’Anson, the director of community media at the VPM+ICA Community Media Center and a radio announcer who voices NPR’s sponsorship messages.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists 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, at a ceremony Feb. 3 at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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, at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art, 601 West Broad St., Richmond. Tickets to attend the award ceremony in person or online are available at

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.

Jean Boone has been the publisher of the newspaper since her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2014. 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.

The SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter annually gives its 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.

Jean Boone will accept the award during the Feb. 3 ceremony, which is co-sponsored by SPJ’s VCU chapter.

Early-bird tickets to attend the event in person are on sale for $25 at After Jan. 15, ticket prices increase to $35. Student tickets and livestream tickets are $10.

In keeping with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in-person attendees must wear face masks when indoors at the ICA, regardless of vaccination status.

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, stated, “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.”

The Feb. 3 ceremony 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.

Besides selling tickets to the ceremony, the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter is seeking donations to underwrite the event and support the fellowship program. Donations can be made at People who donate $100 or more will be recognized during the award ceremony. listed in the award ceremony program.

The SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter represents print, broadcast and online journalists across the commonwealth. 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.

The Virginia Pro Chapter has been presenting the George Mason Award since 1964. Past recipients include Pulitzer Prize winners, renowned journalism professors and First Amendment advocates.

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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