Lakeland newspaper wins FOI award from Brechner Center
GAINESVILLE, Fla. â€“ The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland has been named the winner of the 28th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award for its investigative series.Â The award-winning series highlights the difficulties reporters and citizens face when they try to exercise their fundamental constitutional right to access government information.
Ralph Lowenstein, dean emeriti of the University of Floridaâ€™s College of Journalism and Communications, presented the $3,000 prize toÂ Editor Lenore Devore and Investigative Reporting Team Editor Lyle McBride at the Florida Free Speech Forumâ€™s annual Buddy Davis award luncheon Monday.Â
â€śThe series exposed blatant violations of the law, and forced a number of local agencies and officials to change their procedures to comply with the law,â€ť Sandra F. Chance, executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said.
â€śThe two-year-long investigation uncovered a stunning lack of understanding of the stateâ€™s government in the sunshine law by many of Lakelandâ€™s public officials.Â They found an appalling lack of compliance with the law and a disturbing failure by these officials to understand the important role theses laws play in protecting our democracy and our ability to oversee our government,â€ť Chance said.
Devore, a UF alumna, said it was particularly meaningful to return to Gainesville for the special event and accept the award.
â€śOur staff has done an amazing job holding our government officials accountable,â€ť she said. â€śWe all believe in journalism and the first amendmentâ€¦I just could not be more proud.â€ť
The annual award was established by the late Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando broadcaster. Previous award winners include: the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The St. Petersburg Times, The Dallas Morning News, the (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel and the Houston Chronicle.
Located at UF,Â the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information exists to educate and promote freedom of information laws and policies. It serves the students of UF, Florida citizens, media lawyers and journalists nationally and internationally by providing training sessions, answering queries and conducting scholarly research on First Amendment and freedom of information issues.