Reporters Targeted By DOJ Receive Colby’s Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism

Announcements4 MIN READ
Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
September 30, 2021

Colby College announced today that this year’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism will recognize eight intrepid and talented journalists who were subjected to the U.S. government’s subpoena of records related to leak investigations.

The reporters, whose phone records were secretly seized in 2017 by the Department of Justice in an effort to identify and silence their sources, include Washington Post journalists Greg MillerEllen Nakashima, and Adam Entous (now at The New Yorker); New York Times reporters Matt ApuzzoAdam GoldmanMichael S. Schmidt, and Eric Lichtblau, author and former New York Times reporter, as well as Barbara Starr from CNN.

“These journalists persist in their efforts to inform the public about important issues despite significant government overreach, and their work underscores the critical role of the press in a democracy,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “We need them now more than ever, and they truly deserve to be recognized in the name of Elijah Parish Lovejoy.”

Since 1952 Colby College has presented the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award to honor contemporary journalists for courage in reporting and writing. The award is named for Lovejoy, 1826 valedictorian at Colby, who was a crusading abolitionist editor shot dead by a mob in 1837 for his impassioned anti-slavery editorials. According to John Quincy Adams, he was America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.

“As long as the Constitution remains relevant, so does Elijah Lovejoy,” commented Apuzzo. “He stood for nothing less than the founding ideals of our nation.” Apuzzo, who graduated from Colby in 2000, recalled sitting in Lorimer Chapel as a student, listening to Lovejoy award recipients David Halberstam and John Seigenthaler. “Humbling doesn’t come close to describing how it feels to share in this award.”

The list of previous Lovejoy winners is long and impressive. Recent recipients include Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, Alec MacGillis of ProPublica, Alissa Rubin of the New York Times, and Katherine Boo of The New Yorker. Among many other previous recipients are Alfredo Corchado, Katharine Graham, Bob Woodward, and Jerry Mitchell. More information on Lovejoy’s story can be found here.

“Thank you to Colby College for this honor, and a shout-out to my other colleagues at the Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN. It’s humbling to be receiving this award in your company, and I’m so flattered and gratified that the selection committee chose us to receive this honor,” said Nakashima, a national security reporter at the Washington Post. “But I don’t want people to lose sight of the fundamental point of what it is we do. We work in the interests of truth, the public’s right to know, and of holding power to account. The true reward is being able to inform the public—the essence of a vibrant democracy.”

Pursuit of the Truth, Fidelity to Facts

This past spring the Biden Administration disclosed that the Department of Justice, under the Trump Administration, secretly obtained reporters’ communications records over a four-month period in 2017 in an effort to uncover their sources. Subsequently, President Biden said he would stop the DOJ from this type of action, saying it was “simply, simply wrong.”

According to Apuzzo, who was also targeted under the Obama Administration, this sort of surveillance is becoming bipartisan and that the goal is to silence anyone who dares to tell reporters how the government really works. “When the government turns its surveillance powers on reporters, it not only chills a free press. It also sends a dangerous message that reporting is something nefarious,” he said.

 Nakashima added that tensions between the press and the government are inevitable, and even healthy, if journalists are doing their jobs right. “It’s in that push and pull that the interest of the public is served,” she commented. “To up-and-coming reporters, don’t lose sight of what we’re about. Pursuit of the truth, fidelity to facts, holding the government accountable. Have a stiff spine and believe in your values.”

On Friday, October 1, at 4 p.m. ET, Colby will host a conversation on campus with New York Times reporters Apuzzo and Goldman about being targeted by the government. Nancy Barnes, senior vice president and editorial director at NPR and a member of the Lovejoy Award Selection Committee, will moderate the discussion, which will also be live streamed. President Greene will offer remarks and present the awards.

Current Lovejoy Selection Committee members include Martin Kaiser, retired editor and senior vice president, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (chair); Nancy Barnes, senior vice president and editorial director, NPR; Sewell Chan, incoming editor-in-chief, Texas Tribune; Marcela Gaviria, producer, PBS Frontline; Neil Gross, Colby’s Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology; Mindy Marqués, vice president and executive editor, Simon & Schuster and former executive editor of the Miami Herald; and Ron Nixon, global investigations editor, Associated Press. Apuzzo, a member of the selection committee, recused himself as a result of his connection to this nomination.