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2007 Contest Winners

August 6, 2007

PHILADELPHIA – Capitolbeat, the national association of state capitol reporters and editors, met in Philadelphia this past weekend to honor the best in statehouse reporting.

Winners came from across the country, from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and work in a wide range of media, from large and small newspapers and magazines to online, radio and television. The awards were handed out on Saturday, Aug. 4, capping a two-day conference.

Bruce Rushton, staff writer for The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Il., was winner of the John Aubuchon Freedom of Information Award for “Request Denied,” a six-story package on the people’s right to know what is happening in their government. The stories put a spotlight on state and local agencies for stonewalling public information requests by ignoring state public records laws and included stories about how the Illinois State Police investigate a myriad of crimes, from traffic accidents to deaths, in secret. The series also targeted the governor’s office for ignoring requests for information or using excuses to hide records.

The award, named in honor of Capitolbeat founding member John Aubuchon, recognizes extraordinary examples of persistence by journalists in obtaining access to documents and meetings that are critical for public understanding of state government issues.

“The competition was fierce, but The State Journal-Register did something that I’ve not seen another newspaper do: It made access to government information a front page story, above the fold, every day for an entire week,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation of Florida, who judged the entries. “It’s a fabulous series, focusing on citizens fighting for access to public records, the government’s reaction to open government laws and how the law can be fixed. I can’t think of another media organization that has done the same thing and I can only hope that other papers around the country will use The State Journal-Register as a model.”

Capitolbeat is the United States‘ only association expressly devoted to capitol bureau reporters and editors. Formed in 1999, it is a 250-member organization. To learn more about Capitolbeat membership, go to

Other winners from the weekend include:

Wire Services and Dailies with a weekday circulation 75,000 and over:


  • First Place – Don Thompson, The Associated Press, Sacramento, CA;
  • Second Place – Susan Livio, The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ;
  • Third Place – Brett Blackledge, The Birmingham News, Birmingham, AL;
  • Honorable Mention – John O’Connor, The Associated Press, Springfield, IL;
  • Honorable Mention – Ray Long, John Chase, Rick Pearson, David Kidwell, Jeff Coen and David Jackson, The Chicago Tribune, Springfield, IL.


  • First Place – Andy Furillo, The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA, “Prisons’ Legal Strain”;
  • Second Place – Robert Tanner, The Associated Press, New York, NY, “Arson on Trial”;
  • Third Place – Ted Wendling and T.C. Brown, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH, “Gas Tax”;
  • Honorable Mention – David Lieb, The Associated Press, Jefferson City, MO, “Forgotten Roads.”


  • First Place – Megan O’Matz and John Maines, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL, “License to Carry”;
  • Second Place – Michelle Breidenbach and Mike McAndrew, The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY, “New York’s Empire Zone”;
  • Third Place – Emily Ramshaw, Doug Swanson, Holly Becka, Amy Rosen, The Dallas Morning News, Austin, TX, “Texas Youth Commission”;
  • Honorarable Mention – Bob Paynter, Mark Rollenhagen and Diane Suchetka, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH, “Medicaid”;
  • Honorable Mention – Brad Bumsted, Andrew Conte and Debra Erdley, Pittsburg Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, PA, “Gambling With Time.”


  • First Place – Sheryl Harris, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH;
  • Second Place – John Brummett, Arkansas News Bureau, Little Rock, AR;
  • Third Place – Doug Lyons, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

DAILY NEWSPAPERS with a weekday circulation under 75,000 and weeklies:


  • First Place – Scott Rothschild, Lawrence Journal-World, Topeka, KS;
  • Second Place – Megan Poinski, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas, VI;
  • Third Place – Jonathan Rivoli, Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, ND.


  • First Place – Ben Jones, The Post Crescent/Green Bay Press-Gazette, Madison, WI, “Tickets In Bounds, Candidates Say”;
  • Second Place – Ryan Mahoney, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Atlanta, GA, “Red State Laboratory”;
  • Third Place – Jessica Vanderkolk, Altoona Mirror, Altoona, PA, “Sense of Finality.”


  • First Place – Megan Poinski, Tim Fields, Lynn Freehill, Joe Tsidulko, Aesha Duval, Joy Blackburn, Christine Lett, Ian Morrison, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas, VI, “The Turnbull Era: 1999-2006, Eight Years at Government House”;
  • Second Place – James Sinks, The Bulletin, Bend, OR, “Changing Oregon: Our Shifting Political Landscape”;
  • Third Place – Dean Olsen, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, IL, “All Kids Prognosis.”


  • First Place – Jonathan Rivoli, Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, ND;
  • Second Place – Louis Jacobson, Roll Call, Washington, D.C.;
  • Third Place – Bernard Schoenburg, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, IL.



  • First Place – Nate Blakeslee, The Texas Observer, Austin, TX, “Hidden in Plain Sight”;
  • Second Place – Gabrielle Gurley, CommonWealth Magazine, Boston, MA, “Taking Off”;
  • Third PlaceBethany Carson, Illinois Issues, Springfield, IL, “Small Panel, Major Players.”


  • First Place – Charles N. Wheeler III, Illinois Issues, Springfield, IL;
  • Second PlaceBethany Carson, Illinois Issues, Springfield, IL.


Beat Reporting

  • First Place – Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network;
  • Second Place – Bente Birkeland, Rocky Mountain Radio;
  • Third Place – Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio.

Single Report

  • First Place – Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network, “War Protest”;
  • Second Place – Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio, “Anti- Climax as Strip Club Bill Becomes Law”;
  • Third Place – Chris Lehman, Northwest News Network, “Bicyclists Seek Three-Foot Buffer”

In-depth reporting

  • First Place – Amanda Vinicky, WUIS/Illinois Public Radio, “Electric Rate Shock”;
  • Second Place – Austin Jenkins and Chris Lehman, Northwest News Network, “Gay Rights in the Statehouse”;
  • Third Place – Emily Kopp, Georgia Public Broadcasting, “Peachcare Finances”.



  • First Place – Robert Kittle, WSPA-TV, Columbia, SC.


  • First Place– John Daley, KSL-TV, Salt Lake City, UT, “Follow the Money.”



  • First Place – Loretta Boniti, WVIR-TV, Charlottesville, VA; Second Place – Bill McAllister, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, AK.


  • First Place – Bill McAllister, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, AK, “Murkowski profile”;
  • Second Place – Loretta Boniti, WVIR-TV, Charlottesville, VA, “Political Outlook, Virginia Assembly.”


  • First Place – Joan Cartan-Hansen, Idaho Public Television, Boise, ID, “Dialogue.”



  • First Place – Bethany Carson and Deanese Williams-Harris, Illinois Issues, Springfield, IL;
  • Second Place – Pamela M. Prah,, Washington, D.C.;
  • Third Place – Dan Vock,, Washington, D.C.


  • First Place – Daniel Vock,, Washington, D.C.“Quick cancer mandate raises health concerns;
  • Second Place – Pauline Vu,, Washington, D.C., “Lake Wobegon, U.S.A.“;Third Place – Jason Bane, Colorado Confidential, Boulder, CO, “Trailhead to Nowhere.”


  • First Place – The Center for Public Integrity Staff, Washington, D.C., “Statehouse Revolvers”;
  • Second Place – Pamela M. Prah,, Washington, D.C., “Legislative Year in Review”;
  • Third Place – Christine Vestal,, Washington, D.C., “Abortion”


  • First Place – Leslie Robinson, Colorado Confidential, Boulder, CO;
  • Second Place – Daniel Vock and Pauline Vu,, Washington, D.C.;
  • Third Place – Derek N. Wallbank, Lansing State Journal, Lansing, Michigan.


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