News & Observer wins national freedom of information award

From staff reportsApril 21, 2012 

The News & Observer won a national award Friday for its reporting on the state’s restrictive personnel law and the impact the law has on keeping public employees’ misconduct secret.

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida honored the newspaper’s 2010 series, “Keeping Secrets,” and its subsequent reporting. Reporter Dan Kane, who reported and wrote the series along with database editor David Raynor, accepted the award at a ceremony in Gainesville, Fla.

“These stories demonstrate the critical role investigative reporting and freedom of information laws play in exposing the misconduct and at times, criminal conduct of public employees,” said Sandra F. Chance, the Brechner Center’s executive director.

Kane’s reporting showed how abusive police officers, teachers who slept with their students and clerks who stole from the public could get new jobs with little risk of exposure. Following the series, the state legislature passed major reforms, opening up what had been one of the nation’s most secretive personnel laws to provide more information to the public.

The N&O is the 26th winner of the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award. Previous winners include the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The St. Petersburg Times and The Dallas Morning News.

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