2012 First Amendment Awards

On Sept. 27, 2012, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press honored three journalists and a media lawyer at the First Amendment Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington.

The sold-out event was attended by more than 400 media, legal and corporate leaders in Washington and from around the country. For a complete list of donors and supporters, click here.

Reporters Committee founding member Fred Graham (at right) was presented with the Distinguished Service Award, which was renamed in his honor.

Receiving First Amendment Awards were Barbara Wall of Gannett Co. Inc. (center) and Josh Gerstein of Politico (left).

Brian Lamb of C-SPAN was also an honoree but could not attend due to a commitment to the Brian Lamb School of Communications at Purdue University.

Welcomes

Pierre Thomas, senior Justice Department correspondent for ABC News and a member of the Steering Committee, opened the evening:

"If we’re going to be successful at what we do – if we’re going to be relevant and give people the information they need to be good citizens and smart participants in this democracy – we must ensure that we always stand up for the truth. And that is what we celebrate tonight."

Bruce D. Brown, Reporters Committee executive director, noted:

"We don’t need to slip the word 'digital' into our name to make our mission contemporary. The people who founded this organization over 40 years ago, one of whom we honor tonight, named it with three strong and enduring nouns:  Reporters … Freedom … Press." Read more

Tony Mauro, Reporters Committee chairman and U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for The National Law Journal, thanked several people, adding:

"I also want to briefly tell you how gratifying it is for me to play a role in recognizing our award winners this evening. I don't know Josh Gerstein except through his great body of work at Politico, but the other three...have been important parts of my professional life for decades." Read more

John Fahey, chairman and CEO of the National Geographic Society and dinner co-chair, talked about the changing world of information:

"The news media tell us stories of global significance that are read in cities far away, and the stories of small communities that resonate around the world. Some of these stories are told by long-established traditional outlets — others by individuals acting on their own. In either case, thanks to new technologies, this reporting is no longer a one-way street." Read more

Katharine Weymouth, CEO of Washington Post Media, publisher of The Washington Post and dinner co-chair, reminded the group:

"The tools of our trade have changed radically from the time my great-grandfather bought The Washington Post in 1933 to today. What has not changed is the role of journalism – great reporting that holds the powerful accountable and gives voice to the voiceless." Read more

The Awards

After dinner, PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent and Co-anchor Judy Woodruff opened the awards presentation:

"We must fight for the people’s right to know what their government is doing. This is particularly important in an election year, when it is our responsibility to cut through the partisan chatter and ensure that the electorate has the facts it needs to make an informed choice at the voting booth," Woodruff said.

Fred Graham: The Distinguished Service Award

Reporters Committee founding member Fred Graham was awarded the first Distinguished Service Award, which has been renamed in his honor. Nina Totenberg of NPR (below, at left) introduced him.

"His life has been a kaleidoscope of achievement," she said. "And most of all, he is a mensch." Read more

"Over the years, we discovered that most of the issues of special interest to reporters were not the kind of clashes with government that involved [subpoenaing] Earl Caldwell, but rather more mundane matters such as freedom of information, libel, closed meetings and court secrecy," Graham said. "It seems likely that as events move forward, new issues will be added to the list. But I hope the Reporters Committee will make it a special priority to try to prevail on two matters of unfinished business: enactment of a federal shield law and cameras in the Supreme Court." Read more

Josh Gerstein: First Amendment Award

Josh Gerstein, White House reporter for Politico (at left), was introduced  by Bill Hamilton, national security editor at The New York Times.

"[The] greater problem for many reporters in this era is not getting access to the courts, but having the resources to actually cover them," Gerstein said. "The meat and potatoes of reporting on what’s happening in the legal system is achieved not by filing motions, but by actually sending reporters into courts to watch what’s happening. There is a lot of vital news happening in our courts today that is simply not being covered." Read more

Brian Lamb: First Amendment Award

Accepting the award on behalf of C-SPAN Executive Chairman Brian Lamb was  Corporate Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Collins (at left). Doyle McManus, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a member of the Steering Committee, made the introduction.

"[We] are presenting this award tonight for C-SPAN's service in defense of the First Amendment — the tireless work Brian and his colleagues have done to gain access to public proceedings — not only for C-SPAN’s cameras, but for all broadcast media and, by extension, for the public," McManus said. Read more

Barbara W. Wall: First Amendment Award

"Over the years, Barbara has worked with reporters, editors, producers and news directors on some of Gannett’s most important stories," said Gannett Co. Inc. CEO Gracia Martore (at left) in her introduction of the company's vice president and senior associate counsel, Barbara W. Wall. "Reporting...that changes lives and builds a better world, is central to Gannett’s mission. And it could not happen without Barbara’s efforts." Read more

"I want to start out by getting one thing straight: while I may be the one receiving this First Amendment award, it actually belongs to the reporters, editors, producers and news directors I’ve had the privilege to represent during my 27 years at Gannett," Wall said. "They are the ones uncovering truths that change lives, and they are the ones holding the powerful accountable. They are my heroes, and I am humbled — and honored — to be able to represent them." Read more