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The award is given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career.
Sponsors, contributors and table hosts include The Boston Globe, Boston University, Boston 25 News, Northeastern University, the University of New Hampshire and the New England Newspaper & Press Association.
Mayer, a writer for The New Yorker since 1995, covers politics, culture, and national security for the magazine. Mayer is perhaps best known for her accountability journalism and her ability to expose the underpinnings of powerful institutions. Her most recent book, “Dark Money,” is about the Koch brothers’ deep influence on conservative politics.
“The relationship between the reporters and the subjects that we cover in power is by necessity one that is adversarial and sometimes full of distrust and opposition,” Mayer said in 2013. “Those in power are rarely on the side of fully free and transparent coverage.”
Mayer previously worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the Persian Gulf War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1984, she became the paper’s first female White House correspondent.
A Yale University alumna, Mayer first worked as a journalist for two small weekly newspapers in Vermont, The Weathersfield Weekly and The Black River Tribune, before moving to the daily Rutland Herald. She speaks frequently about the value of investigative journalism — at news organizations of all sizes — and the need for a watchdog press.
“That is completely the job of reporters,” she said in 2008. “We are not there to be popular. We’re there to try to help the public understand what’s going on even when the government doesn’t want you to know it.”
In addition to “Dark Money,” Mayer also wrote the 2008 best-seller “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” which is based on her New Yorker articles and was named one of the top 10 works of journalism of the decade by N.Y.U.’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Her numerous honors include the John Chancellor Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; the Goldsmith Book Prize; the Edward Weintal Prize; and a George Polk Award for magazine reporting in 2012.
Named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal, the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award previously has recognized Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post; U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Anthony Lewis, the late author and columnist for The New York Times; Martin Baron, Washington Post executive editor and former editor of The Boston Globe; Philip Balboni, co-founder of GlobalPost; James Risen, former investigative reporter for The New York Times; and, former federal judge Nancy Gertner.
Above photo of Jane Mayer used with permission. Copyright Stephen Voss.
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 for this year include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.