Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SPJ Celebrates Investigative Reporting, Open Government, Top Rookie at Oregon Awards Night

Matthew Kish, right, with Portland Business Journal won
this year's Bruce Baer Award, the state's top prize
for investigative journalism.

The Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists gathered June 21 at the Green Dragon in Portland to honor winners of several chapter awards and in SPJ’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.


The Bruce Baer Award, given by the Friends of Bruce Baer committee, is traditionally presented at the Oregon SPJ awards night. The award recognizes excellence in investigative journalism and is given in the name of Bruce Baer, who spent 13 years at KATU-TV before his death of cancer at age 40.

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Baer’s death, the Friends of Bruce Baer and the Portland State University Foundation are launching a campaign to create an endowment to support the award into the future and double the current award prize of $1,000.

For more information, contact Roger Anthony at 503-998-5509. To donate, go to

Matthew Kish with the Portland Business Journal won this year’s Bruce Baer Award for his article “The Shell Game.” Kish spent three years and dug through more than 6,000 public records for his piece about Oregon’s lax laws around shell companies, focusing on a run-down house in Aloha that was home to some 1,300 companies.

“It’s an incredible recognition and I’m filled with gratitude for it,” Kish said. “I’ve always viewed the Bruce Baer Award as this shared thread in our state’s journalistic history, and it’s humbling to be part of that experience.”

Nigel Jaquiss with Willamette Week also received special recognition from the Bruce Baer committee for his investigation into the Give Us This Day foster care agency. It was titled “Home, Sweet, Hustle.”


Shasta Kearns Moore, left, presents Oregon Attorney General
Ellen Rosenblum with the Oregon Territory SPJ Chapter's
annual First Freedom Award. The award recognizes
a non-journalist who has advocated for open government.

Oregon Territory SPJ also presented the 2015 First Freedom Award to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The award honors a non-journalist who has worked on behalf of government transparency.

Last year, Rosenblum’s office created a Public Records Law Reform Task Force to review Oregon’s 500 exemptions to public records laws, the state’s lack of any firm deadline to respond to public requests, and the fees associated with receiving public information. The chapter board hopes that these reviews will lead to positive changes to public records laws in the next legislative session.

“Our chapter thinks you have sparked a renewed movement toward transparency and we have high hopes that your task force can produce lasting change for our state,” said the chapter’s Sunshine Committee Chair Shasta Kearns Moore, who presented the award. “We are giving this award to you not only for the work that you have done, but the work you will do to pave the way for a more open government.”

Rosenblum thanked her staff for their help on the task force, including her communications director Kristina Edmunson and special counsel Michael Kron. She called public records a critical ingredient in the creation of quality journalism.

“I believe that you have a right to know and that the public has the right to know what government is up to,” she said. “We have an obligation as public servants, not only to serve but to lead and to educate and to inform, and how else do we do that if we aren’t able provide what you need in a timely and a reasonably priced fashion.”


Gordon Friedman with The Statesman Journal was the
2015 Rookie of the Year.

The Oregon Territory Chapter also gives an annual Rookie of the Year award to a journalist who has had his or her first full-time, non-internship reporting job in the prior calendar year. The honor comes with a $500 prize.

This year’s winner is government reporter Gordon Friedman with The Salem Statesman-Journal.

Friedman was nominated by his editor for his work covering the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover, as well as an investigative piece on worker lapses in Oregon prisons.

Friedman, who was surprised by the announcement at the awards program, said he had celebrated his one-year anniversary at the Statesman the prior day. He said he’s written more than 450 stories since he began at the paper.

“But really, it doesn’t feel like a job,” he said. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun, and it’s a lot of fun.”


The June 21 awards night was also a chance for area journalists to collect their awards from the five-state Region 10 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism competition.

A full list of contest winners can be found at www.spj.org/region10.asp.

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