2020 George Mason Award Ceremony: Video and program

Feb. 3, 2022 | 6 p.m.
Webcast from the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University


Welcome and introductory remarks – Dina Weinstein, president of the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; Jeff South, the chapter’s immediate past presudent; and Bonnie Newman Davis, the chapter’s vice president

Recognition of student fellowship recipients – Martha Steger, president of the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation; Jess Kirby, University of Mary Washington; and Josephine Walker, Virginia Commonwealth University

Presentation of the 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 newspaper

Video testimonials from:

  • Jack White, former journalist for Time magazine, The Washington Post, The Root and other publications 
  • Hazel Edney, first reporter at the Richmond Free Press, now president and CEO of Trice Edney Communications
  • Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, journalist, author and longtime SPJ member
  • Reginald Stuart, former New York Times reporter, Knight Ridder editor and recruiter, and national SPJ president
  • Betsy Edwards, executive director of the Virginia Press Association
  • Bonnie Newman Davis, journalist, educator and CEO of the BND Institute of Media and Culture

Conversation between Mrs. Boone and VCU Professor Chioke I’Anson, director of community media at the VPM+ICA Community Media Center

Wrapup – Elliott Robinson, news director for VPM, Virginia’s home for public media, and a member of the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter’s board of directors

About the George Mason Award

The award is named for the principal author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the Bill of Rights, including First Amendment, in the U.S. Constitution. The plaque carries these words from George Mason: “Freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

Since 1964, the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter has given the award annually to “a journalist or friend of journalism of exceptional character and dedication to the craft.” (The ceremony to present the 2020 George Mason Award to Mrs. Boone was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.) Past recipients include Pulitzer Prize winners, renowned journalism professors, First Amendment advocates and others who have had a lasting impact on Virginia journalism.

About Ray and Jean Boone

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. 

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

During more than half a century in journalism, Mr. Boone was editor of the Richmond Afro-American and vice president of the Afro-American Newspaper Group in Baltimore. He also taught journalism at Howard University and served as a Pulitzer Prize juror.

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 Boones’ children also work at the newspaper: Regina H. Boone is a nationally known photojournalist, and Raymond H. Boone Jr. is the paper’s vice president for new business development, managing circulation and other operations.

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. Now their children – Ray Boone Jr. and Regina, one of America’s best photojournalists – are helping to carry the torch as the Free Press pursues its mission of giving voice to the voiceless. I can’t think of a family whose dedication and sacrifice better exemplify the values enshrined in the First Amendment.’

About our student fellowship program

Over the past half-century, the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter, has provided financial support to help about 100 Virginia college students launch careers in journalism and other fields of mass communications. 

The foundation offers fellowships for students at accredited Virginia colleges and universities to support their summer internships at print and electronic news organizations. Each fellowship includes a cash stipend of up to $1,500, which can be used for expenses incurred in performing a supervised, full-time summer internship of at least six weeks. April 15 is the deadline for applying for fellowships for the summer of 2022.

Ticket sales and donations from the George Mason Award ceremony help fund the fellowship program.

Our 2021 fellowship recipients

Josephine Walker of Centreville is a mass communication (broadcast concentration) and political science double major at Virginia Commonwealth University. With support from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, Ms. Walker spent last summer as an NBC-Universal Summer Fellow working for “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.”

Jess Kirby of Springfield is a double major in sociology and communication at the University of Mary Washington, where she also is editor of the student newspaper. Thanks to her fellowship from the foundation, she performed an internship last summer at The Springfield Connection newspaper in Fairfax County.

Thanks to our supporters & attendees

The Feb. 3 George Mason Award ceremony was held in partnership with the SPJ chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University. We especially want to thank Alix Bryan-Campos, the faculty adviser to the student chapter and a journalism faculty member at VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture.

We also want to thank sponsors who provided financial support for the event:

  • Dominion Energy, which has been a longtime advertising supporter of the Richmond Free Press and in 2003 honored Ray Boone as part of its annual Strong Men & Women awards program.
  • The BND Institute of Media and Culture, a nonprofit organization established by journalist and journalism educator Bonnie Newman Davis, vice president of the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter.

SPJ Virginia Pro also received donations from individuals including:

  • Susan Boisseau
  • Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield
  • Jannette Dates
  • David Poole
  • Elliott Robinson
  • Tom Silvestri
  • Jeff South
  • Martha Steger

Thanks also to Professor Chioke l’Anson and the staff of VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art.

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