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IowaWatch honored an outstanding journalism educator and a long-time advocate for open government during its sixth annual banquet Thursday night, Sept. 27, at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.
Herb Strentz was given the Stephen Berry Free Press Champion Award for a working journalist, journalism group or journalism educator in Iowa. Bill Monroe was awarded the Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion Award for an Iowan who promotes the role of an unrestricted news media and open government in a role other than as a journalist. Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, accepted on Monroe’s behalf because Monroe could not attend.
Strentz is a professor and director emeritus of journalism at Drake University and a founder of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He was the council’s first executive secretary, from 1976 to 2000. “In that role, Herb guided the IFOI Council as it advocated free press ideals, especially those involving open records, open meetings and open courts in Iowa,” Cliff Brockman, a recently retired journalism associate professor at Wartburg College, wrote in his nomination of Strentz for the award.
Bill Monroe was the executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association from 1981 to 2009. In this role, Monroe pushed hard for transparency in government and newspapers as a tool for that transparency. After retiring from the newspaper association, he became a government transparency advisor for Gov. Terry Branstad and the first chairman of the Iowa Public Information Board. Monroe received the award in astentia because he was out of town.
IowaWatch also presented its 2018 IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter award for outstanding investigative reporting to Lauren Wade. The cash award, funded with a grant by former University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication Director David Perlmutter, goes to an undergraduate volunteer staff reporter from the U of I who shows an interest in pursuing investigative journalism. Wade is a senior at the U of I journalism school and a part-time IowaWatch reporting intern.
The Iowa Freedom of Information Council also presented its annual Harrison “Skip” Weber Friend of the First Amendment Awards at the banquet to Dave Busiek, Rita Bettis Austen, Ann Wilson, Doug Burns and Jared Strong.
Dave Busiek is retiring at the end of this year after 39 years as news director at KCCI-TV in Des Moines. Busiek has served as the Iowa FOI Council’s president, the national chair of the Radio and Television News Directors Association and several other industry leadership positions.
Rita Bettis Austen is the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa where she has been an effective voice on issues affecting free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Ann Wilson, Doug Burns and Jared Strong were awarded for their strong, unwavering commitment to the First Amendment. Wilson is the publisher of the Carroll Daily Times Herald; Burns is its editor, and Strong is a reporter whose skillful use of the open meetings and open records laws has led to many exclusive reports at the newspaper.
The banquet’s guest speaker was Stephen J. Berry, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and co-founder of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch. Berry spoke about trust in the news media.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan, investigative news service that does investigative and community affairs journalism in collaboration with other media and trains college student journalists to do this kind of reporting at a high level.
The center was incorporated as a non-profit in February 2010. Berry was the center’s interim executive director and editor during its first two years.