State Secrets, a five-part series about the increase in secretive practices by state and local governments, has been honored with a prestigious Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The series, published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, was among three Sunshine Award recipients chosen by the Society of Professional Journalists’ board of directors and Freedom of Information Committee to honor people or organizations for notable contributions to open government. The others are Nick Budnick from the Portland Tribune in Oregon and Grace Rauh with NY1 News in New York.
Veteran journalist Miranda S. Spivack chronicled the wave of secrecy that has occurred in states, counties and cities across the country and how a lack of access to critical public information can put the public at risk.
Spivack exposed how details of emergency plans for natural disasters can be hidden in the name of national security and how a sports development in a rural community was almost approved in near-total secrecy. She showed that government contracts, which involve billions of dollars in public funds, further obscure important facts by keeping information out of reach. State Secrets also explored the brave new world of police body camera footage and how private companies are controlling the release of that information. Spivack found that many state governments and courts allow agencies to keep secret studies, surveys and other data about dangerous roads, bridges and intersections. And, in her final piece, she revealed how the privatization of public information has led to delays and huge expenses to the public to uncover data and documents that should come swiftly and at a small cost.
“We are extremely proud that Spivack’s investigation helped enrich the vital national conversation about this subject,” said Amy Pyle, editor in chief of Reveal.
The stories ran on Reveal’s website, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and on the front page of the national edition of USA Today.
The recipients will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, California, from Sept. 7 to 9.