AUSTIN - Two Texas news organizations have won the Spirit of FOI Award for reports exposing the secrecy behind Austin’s city manager selection process and the peculiar lack of information following the resignation of the Bryan Independent School District superintendent.
The Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award, presented by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, highlights journalism that upholds First Amendment principles and promotes or uses open government laws such as the Texas Public Information Act.
The awards were presented at the FOI Foundation’s state conference in Austin.
One of the awards went to KBTX-TV in the Class A market category for stories and commentary on the departure of former Bryan Independent School District superintendent Tommy Wallis.
The television station worked for two years before obtaining public records in a grueling court battle in its efforts to hold public officials accountable.
The Austin American-Statesman won in the Class AA large market category for bringing to light the secrecy behind the selection of Austin’s new city manager.
Through public information requests, the Statesman reported which candidates the city had been interviewing as well as possible open meeting violations and explained why citizens should care.
“These Spirit of FOI Award winners show that accountability journalism is alive and well in Texas and that public officials at all levels must answer to the people they serve,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
“Our state’s open government laws are tools for journalists and all citizens who seek to watch over their government.”
The Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award is named for the Foundation’s former executive director.
The awards contest is open to newspaper, broadcast and online journalism.