Spokane Reporter Awarded 2010 Max Dalton Open Government Award

 

Betsy Russell, Boise reporter for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, has been named the recipient of the 2010 Max Dalton Open Government Award sponsored by the Idaho Newspaper Foundation.

Russell earned the award and accompanying cash prize of $1,000 for her years of work advancing the cause of open government in Idaho through her work with a variety of press, citizen and court groups.

The Max Dalton Open Government Award has been given each year since 1999 to a citizen or group judged to be an outspoken advocate of openness in either public records or public meetings on the state or local level.

Russell has been president of the Idaho Press Club on and off since 1997 and chair of Idahoans for Openness in Government (IDOG) since its founding in 2004. She also serves on the Idaho Supreme Court's Media/Courts Committee.

Through the Idaho Press Club, Russell has worked to defeat attempts in the Idaho Legislature to weaken the state's open meetings and public records laws and has worked with the Idaho Attorney General's Office and legislators to try and strengthen those laws.

Through IDOG, she encouraged Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to conduct a continuing series of open-government seminars for local government officials and employees around the state, with Wasden himself presiding.

Her work with the Supreme Court committee has helped improve relations between the courts and the press and encourage improved access by journalists to court proceedings and records.

"Betsy is one of those rare reporters who has the courage to put down her notebook and pen and stand up for the rights of journalists and the public to have full access to the government, whether it is in the meeting room or the clerk's office," said INF Executive Director Tom Grote, who is also publisher of The Star-News in McCall.

"Our selection committee previously had been reluctant to present the Max Dalton Open Government Award to journalists, thinking advocating open government was 'part of their job,' " Grote said. "But Betsy has risen above that definition and has truly become an advocate for all citizens as well as one of the state's most respected reporters."

Other Nominees

Other nominees for the 2010 award were:

  • The Idaho Freedom Foundation, whose companion Web site, OurIdaho.com, packages public information about agencies around the state in a convenient, searchable format.
  • The Boise Guardian and Caldwell Guardian, two activist Web sites that have worked separately and together on open government topics.
  • Paul Alldredge of Caldwell, a long-time open government advocate who operates the blog Caldwell Guardian.
  • Melody Finley, who has been a watchdog on government spending in the city of Wendell.

 

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