Four New Mexicans have been selected by our board of directors for FOG’s top honor – the Dixon First Amendment Award.
Given since 2002, the award is in memory of FOG co-founder and longtime board member William S. Dixon, who was an Albuquerque attorney and leading defender of the First Amendment and the state’s sunshine laws.
This year’s recipients and the categories for which they were selected are Kent Walz, Lifetime Achievement; Peter St. Cyr, Journalism; Dr. Chad Painter, Education, and Mark Leech, Government. They will be honored at FOG’s annual “Your Right To Know Luncheon” on Wednesday, October 7 at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque.
“Transparency is more than a slogan, but an ongoing commitment to open the doors to government,” Gregory Williams, FOG president, said. “When you’re in it for the long haul, you’d better have a sharp intellect and a great sense of humor. Bill Dixon had both. We celebrate his memory and celebrate these Dixon winners who continue to shine a light on public business in new and innovative ways.”
Kent Walz, editor of the Albuquerque Journal, was one of the founders of FOG in 1991 and served on the FOG Board of Directors for 23 years as its secretary.
“His unwavering commitment to the organization has continued as a member of the legal panel, willing consultant and champion of the people’s right to know. It is fitting in FOG’s 25th anniversary year that we honor Kent with this long-overdue award,” Williams said.
For more than a decade, Peter St. Cyr, a freelance reporter based in Albuquerque, has used public records to cut through political spin, uncover corruption, expose fraud and analyze the “people’s data” to identify stories in the public interest.
Dr. Chad Painter, a professor at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, trains future journalists and other students in the principle and tenets of access and open records, and as faculty advisor for the campus newspaper has helped shift the focus to investigative work involving university documents and reports.
Mark Leech is the applications services group manager with the City of Albuquerque and is responsible for the open-data movement within the city, convincing resistant stakeholders on the merits of proactively releasing and posting databases on the city website.
“These individuals recognize that secrecy is inconsistent with democratic ideals and with access to information citizens can hold their public officials accountable,” Williams added.
This year’s speaker at the Dixon Award ceremony will be New York Times investigative assistant editor Walt Bogdanich. Before joining The Times in 2001, he was an investigative producer for “60 Minutes” on CBS and for ABC News. Previously, he worked as an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York and Washington.
The luncheon will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place, NE, in Albuquerque on Wednesday, October 7. Individual tickets are $60, and sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds benefit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a 501(c)(3) New Mexican nonprofit corporation. For more information, visit www.nmfog.org or call (505) 663-6401.