Hartford Courant to Receive NEFAC’s 2019 Donoghue Freedom of Information Award

Newspaper’s Successful Legal Battle for Sandy Hook Information to Be Recognized at Annual Luncheon

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefac.org

The New England First Amendment Coalition will honor the Hartford Courant with its 2019 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award.

The FOI Award is presented annually to New England journalists who protect or advance the public’s right to know under federal or state law.

The Courant will be honored at NEFAC’s ninth annual awards luncheon on Feb. 15 for its successful efforts to obtain information related to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed during the shooting.

Following the shooting, many documents pertaining to the massacre were kept secret and an incomplete picture of the shooter Adam Lanza emerged. This secrecy made it impossible to fully explore how similar tragedies could be prevented and, on a national level, effectively debate mental-health policy and gun laws.

As the Courant’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Andrew Julien, explained:

“Many of the clues to what led Adam Lanza’s dark descent to depravity could be found in writings, psychiatric evaluations and email communications seized from Lanza’s home by state police in the days after the shooting. But those documents were locked away from the public, press and experts by state police who delayed and then denied the Courant’s yearlong efforts to win their release.”

The Courant won its fight for those records last year when the Connecticut State Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision and ordered more than 1,000 pages to be made public. The resulting stories provided a detailed picture of one of the country’s most notorious killers.

“The Courant did more than fight for records,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “It also explained to readers why those records were needed despite the intense privacy arguments against their disclosure. This type of public education not to mention the legal battle itself is incredibly important to our communities and we’re proud to honor the Courant this year.”

The FOI Award will be presented at NEFAC’s New England First Amendment Awards luncheon from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Tickets can be purchased here.

During the luncheon, Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica will be honored with the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. WCVB-Boston’s Janet Wu, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors, is master of ceremonies.

WBUR-Boston is the luncheon’s primary sponsor. Other sponsors, table hosts and supporters include Roger Williams University, The Boston Globe, Boston University, Emerson College, Northeastern University and Boston 25 News.

The New England First Amendment Awards luncheon is part of the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s winter convention.

Previous recipients of the FOI Award are 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 the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.