Bangor Daily News to Receive NEFAC’s Annual Michael Donoghue FOI Award

Coalition to Recognize ‘Lawmen Off Limits’ Series at April 21 New England First Amendment Awards

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition will honor the Bangor Daily News with its 2021 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award.

The FOI Award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to those who overcome significant official resistance.

The Bangor Daily News will be honored this month at NEFAC’s 11th annual New England First Amendment Awards for its investigation into the misconduct of police and corrections officers in Maine. Its reporting led to at least three legislative proposals to institute more oversight over law enforcement in the state.

The awards ceremony will be online at 7 p.m. on April 21. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds will benefit civics education in New England. Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, will receive NEFAC’s 2021 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.

WBUR and Boston University are the program’s primary sponsors. Other sponsors and supporters include The Boston Globe, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Robertson Foundation, Morgan Lewis, Northeastern University, The University of Rhode Island, University of New Hampshire, The Tully Center for Free Speech, Emerson College, Northern Vermont University, Saint Michael’s College and Franklin Pierce University.

The Bangor Daily News series “Lawmen Off Limits” — reported by Erin Rhoda, Callie Ferguson and Josh Keefe — involved filing public records requests with Maine’s 16 county sheriff’s offices. The newspaper successfully pushed back against unwarranted redactions in two counties and showed how a third county failed to keep discipline records at all.

Using thousands of pages of emails and other public records, the Bangor Daily News team also published an in-depth look at how one former sheriff sent explicit images of himself to employees and others, and propositioned them for sex. The investigation revealed how local county commissioners have no power to place elected sheriffs on leave while they are being investigated either internally or criminally.

Previous recipients of the FOI Award are Hearst Connecticut Media Group (2020); the Hartford Courant (2019); Todd Wallack of The Boston Globe (2018); The Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine (2017); Jenifer McKim of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (2016); James W. Foley (posthumously), the war correspondent and New Hampshire native killed by the Islamic State (2015); Brent Curtis of the Rutland Herald in Vermont (2014); and Don Stacom of the Hartford Courant (2013).

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.