The Society for Professional Journalists-Northern California announced Thursday that it is giving its James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the News Media category to Hercules Patch.
Every year, the award goes to “individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the advancement of freedom of information and expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment."
The SPJ honored Hercules Patch with this award for its coverage of what the judges delicately call Hercules’ “questionable financial management practices.” The SPJ noted that Patch produced 13 investigative stories and more than 100 daily articles to track this complex story. Patch has put the whole collection in one place and called it Crisis in Hercules.
The coverage was a team effort between , and two freelancer investigative reporters, Bob Porterfield and . Patch also worked closely with colleagues at its sister publication, The Huffington Post. Tim O'Brien, Huffington Post executive editor, shaped and edited several major investigative pieces and coordinated joint publication of that work on Patch and HuffPost.
And the shared mission extends beyond the immediate Patch family. In October, the SPJ gave its 2011 public service award to Tom Lochner and Daniel Borenstein of the Contra Costa Times for their first-rate reporting on the mess in Hercules. The two awards are a reminder of just how important a diverse and dynamic media are for the health of a community.
But here’s why this award really feels special. The SPJ also recognized how Patch's coverage connected with you. The judges were impressed with the commentary on Hercules Patch from residents who were experiencing the city’s financial collapse firsthand. In that very real sense, this award also belongs to you.