Jim Lockwood, staff writer for The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the winner of the 2015 Public Notice Journalism Award. Lockwood is recognized for his deft incorporation of public notice information into his coverage of local government.
The award will be presented March 19 at the National Press Club.
A second-place award for 2015 will go to the Monroe County Reporter, Forsyth, Georgia, for team reporting on a school district’s attempts to acquire property by condemnation, over the landowner’s opposition. The district wanted to build a Fine Arts Center on the site, a project it eventually abandoned in the face of public opposition. The public notice figured into the story when the school board advertised its condemnation plans.
PNRC President Bradley L. Thompson II, chairman and CEO of the Detroit Legal News, said Lockwood was chosen because his work was a pacesetter for journalists committed to informing their readers about the workings of local government.
“His coverage of a proposed new commuter tax was a terrific example. The city ran the notices, but citizens sued because they believed the action was taken too quickly and without sufficient information to the taxpayers. Lockwood’s story referred readers to the dates of the notices so they could check for themselves. Another story drew citizens’ attention to a possible 12-story cell tower to be placed in a local park. The Federal Communications Commission was receiving comments on the tower, but the owner of the tower would not confirm that it was looking at the location,” Thompson said. “In these stories and several others, he scoured the public notices and drew the public’s attention to them.”
Thompson said PNRC is encouraging journalists to count public notices as a key resource in news-gathering.
“Many worthy stories come to light when newsrooms tap into the rich body of information that comes from public notices. They simply add to the value of the public notices in newspapers, where the public is likely to find them. And they reinforce the importance of citizens’ participation in their government,” Thompson said.
Lockwood was recognized by Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association in its 2014 Public Notice award for his “persistent use of public notices in his reporting.”
The Public Notice Journalism award was established in 2013 by the Public Notice Resource Center, a consortium of newspaper organizations supporting public notice. The award is intended to encourage reporters and editors to incorporate public notices into their reporting and writing.