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FOG Recognizes Award Winners

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Albuquerque native Diane Dimond relied on publicly available court documents to reveal a secret multimillion-dollar settlement involving singer Michael Jackson, and used public records when covering the criminal trials of Jerry Sandusky and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

The nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, author, and television personality told a gathering at the New Mexico Foundation of Open Government’s annual awards luncheon Wednesday that members of the news media sometimes tell “inconvenient truths.”

But she said it’s to “everyone’s benefit that the media be as healthy and accurate as humanly possible. And that depends on access to information.

“Open documents help me help you,” she said. “You (the public) pay the taxes, you pay the bills and you deserve to know. I wish more people cared to know.”

Outside the event at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Albuquerque, a dozen protesters picketed in opposition to the open government group’s award to Mayor Richard Berry.

Berry was honored for his “unusually proactive” work in putting public information about city salaries, spending and other government data on the city’s Internet website, ABQVIEW, according to the nonprofit FOG.

Chanting “Mayor Berry is quite contrary,” protestors complained about the Berry administration’s openness on issues ranging from zoning to police shootings.

“This is a slap in the face and a stab in the back to the social justice community by FOG,” said Andres Valdez, of Vecinos United.

In accepting the FOG award, Berry told the audience that “even though my name was on the signs,” the protest was another example of the importance of the First Amendment, which allows freedom of speech as well as freedom of the press.

Other winners of the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award were Albuquerque attorney Jim Dines, recognized for lifetime achievement; Charles Wollman, communications director for the State Investment Council; Dolph Barnhouse, an Albuquerque attorney honored for his work on two court cases related to open records; and Jeff Proctor, a Journal reporter who covers public safety issues.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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