Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Black Hole Awards

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Black Hole Awards

Article excerpt

EIGHT UTAH PUBLIC agencies and officeholders have qualified for an SPJ "Black Hole Award" for their alleged skill at withholding information.

The dubious honor, bestowed annually by the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, is meant to "raise public awareness about government agencies and public officials who have failed to let the 'sunshine' into the workings of government," according to Janice Keller, executive director of the Utah Press Association and a member of the Headliners' board.

The Draper City Council earned its award, SPJ said, by taking a secret vote to reinstate a former police chief and pick a new city manager, "an action that clearly violated Utah's open meeting law" When SPJ blew the whistle on the council, it held a "corrective" open session in which the chief was again let go.

Also falling into the "Black Hole" were state officials who refused to tell the Salt Lake Tribune the names of 21 of Utah's 29 senators and 57 of its House members who, with their families, enjoy state health-care insurance benefits for $40 a month, a perk said to be worth more than their $5,000 yearly salaries.

Legislators claim that as public employees, they are protected from the Government Records Access and Management Act.

Replied SPJ: "They have misread the law, and the public interest in knowing this information certainly outweighs any reason to keep it secret?"

The Ogden School Board was cited for meeting in a six-hour dosed session and emerging with a press release supporting Superintendent James West in a controversy. …

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