Freedom of Information: 2007 James Madison Award winners

Society of Professional Journalists Northern California announces First Amendment award winners
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Click here for details on the First Amendment Awards Dinner.

Norwin S. Yoffie Career Achievement Award

DAN NOYES (COFOUNDER, CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM)

If journalists were the subjects of trading cards like baseball players, the Dan Noyes rookie card would be just as impressive as a 2008 career highlights card. Think Reggie Jackson: a long, impressive career, spanning multiple organizations and a propensity to come out swinging big at the end of a hard-fought battle.

Over a career spanning 30 years, Noyes has pursued serious investigations, some lasting as long as a year, into everything from questionable Liberian timber imports to illicit gun trafficking from United States suppliers to the Nuestra family gang. Journalism first interested Noyes during the crucial investigative reporting that sparked Watergate scandal in the early 1970s.

In 1977 Noyes cofounded the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), an independent news organization which produces in-depth stories and documentaries for all major news outlets. In 1979, reporting for the ABC News program 20/20, CIR broke a story on a swindling United Nations charity organization and its connections to international drug trafficking.

More recently, Noyes has done a series of print and broadcast pieces concerning gang violence in California and its effect on the lives of those surrounding the lifestyle. Noyes still holds an executive position at the CIR and continues to contribute to the world of investigative journalism.

Beverly Kees Educator Award

CLIFF MAYOTTE

Cliff Mayotte sees his Advanced Acting Class at Lick-Wilmerding High School as one that merges students' "consciousness and awareness as young adults with their skills and energies as performance artists."

The subtitle of the course is "Theatre as Civic Dialogue," and the eight students enrolled during the 2007 spring semester used all their abilities to pull off a notable show.

After an introduction to Documentary Theatre — a form he described as "oral history turned into performance" — the group selected a topic that was important to them, giving birth to the "Censorship Project."

The students interviewed their peers, teachers, and administrators to gather perspectives on the ways in which expression and opinion can be muted or altered, both voluntarily and involuntarily. They reached out to organizations such as Project Censored, the First Amendment Project, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. They transcribed interviews and studied subjects in order to capture statements, word patterns, and mannerisms of interviewees, then shaped the themes into a 60-minute performance.

Professional Journalists

WILL DEBOARD

"Being a high school sports guy, I don't get to do this very often," the Modesto Bee's Will DeBoard said of his first major foray into investigative reporting. He had gotten a tip that the California Interscholastic Federation was investigating recruiting violations by the football program at Franklin High School in Stockton, which competed with schools in his area. DeBoard asked the school and CIF about recruiting violations, but the football coach flatly denied the allegations and the CIF wasn't much more helpful.

So DeBoard decided to make formal requests for public records with the help of business reporter Joanne Sbranti, and after fighting through some initial denials, he obtained hundreds of pages of investigatory documents from CIF showing how the school was recruiting players from American Samoa. "It really was a treasure trove of great stuff.