Writers for The Oklahoman won three First Amendment Awards this past weekend in Arlington, Texas.
Competing against other large-market print publications in Texas and Oklahoma, The Oklahoman won three of 10 categories in a competition hosted by the Fort Worth Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
That was more first-place awards than any other publication. The Oklahoman had seven finalists, including the top award winners. That also was more than any other publication.
“These stories are the heartbeat of our organization,” said Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news at The Oklahoman.
“Openness in government and giving a voice to the voiceless is at the core of our mission. These are the stories that touch lives. We are humbled to be honored by our peers.”
The Oklahoman won top honors in the “Defending the Disadvantaged” category for a series of articles by Nolan Clay, Robby Trammell and Randy Ellis that disclosed problems within Oklahoma's child welfare system.
“The Oklahoman is vigilant and the public benefits,” judges wrote, citing the newspaper's reporting efforts as “an excellent example of staying with a story and the kind of results it can bring.”
Ellis won another first-place award in the general news category for stories that exposed dangers to children in the state's juvenile justice system created when the state closed its only maximum-security juvenile correctional center.
Owen Canfield of The Oklahoman won the top First Amendment Award in the opinion or commentary category for editorials he wrote opposing an Oklahoma Supreme Court proposal to restrict full addresses and full birth dates from public court records.
The Supreme Court abandoned the proposal after listening to objections from news organizations, sheriffs, prosecutors, business owners and others.
Law enforcement entities use such information to make sure the right person is being arrested and news organizations use the information to make sure the right person is identified when more than one person share the same name.
Other finalists for The Oklahoman included:
• Megan Rolland, general news, for an investigative look at some charter schools.
• Paul Monies, opening the books, for a story about a large insurance company that took advantage of a possible legal loophole to receive about $20 million in job creation rebates and tax credits from two economic development programs.
• Clay, Trammell and Ellis, reporting on open government, for a story about the process used by the state Department of Human Services to select outside attorneys for a class-action lawsuit.
• Ellis, investigative, for a story about how costs escalated during the
conversion of the old Oklahoma Historical Society building into the new state Supreme Court building.