Media Rights Champion, Washington Post Columnist Margaret Sullivan to Receive NEFAC’s 2017 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award


CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |



Media rights champion Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for the Washington Post, will receive the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s 2017 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career.

NEFAC will honor Sullivan at its annual luncheon scheduled for Feb. 24, 2017 at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in Boston. Tickets can be purchased  here. The coalition also will present its Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award and Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award during the event. Nomination forms for these awards will be available later this month.

In four years as public editor at The New York Times, Sullivan successfully fought to strengthen the newspaper’s guidelines on the use of anonymous sources and earned praise as the readers’ representative and ethical watchdog. Since joining the Washington Post in May, she has applied consistent scrutiny to issues surrounding access to information, media intimidation and the media’s role as truth tellers during the most bizarre presidential election in modern history.

“This is a big deal, 10 years in the making,” Sullivan wrote in a June 21 column on reforming the Freedom of Information Act. “The reform clears away some of the obstacles to releasing information, codifying a ‘presumption of openness,’ rather than the norm, which often seems to be a presumption of just saying no . . . The changes represent a partial fulfillment of Obama’s pledge of unprecedented transparency before he took office. As I’ve written before, his record has been far weaker than promised. Not only has his administration prosecuted leakers and threatened to jail journalists trying to protect their confidential sources, it has been terrible about fulfilling requests for the government information that the public has a right to know.”

Sullivan began her career as a summer intern at her hometown paper, The Buffalo News, the largest news organization in upstate New York. She worked as a government reporter, metro columnist and city-desk editor before becoming the chief editor, a position in which she emphasized local enterprise reporting, diversified the 200-member news staff and established the paper’ s first investigative team.

Named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal, the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award previously has recognized 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 GlobePhilip Balboni, co-founder of GlobalPostJames Risen, investigative reporter for The New York Times; and, former federal judge Nancy Gertner.

“Margaret Sullivan has been a forceful advocate for stronger access to public information not just in words, but in deeds and in an array of journalism roles. At a time of historic distrust in the media’s role in a free society, she has consistently fought for the profession to hold itself to high standards and to hew to crystal clear ethics for the benefit of media consumers,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “We are very excited to have her join us in February to accept the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.”

A graduate of Georgetown University and Northwestern University’s Medill School, Sullivan lives in Washington, D.C. She is a former member of the Pulitzer Prize Board and was twice elected as a director of the American Society of News Editors, where she led its First Amendment Committee. Sullivan has taught in the graduate schools of journalism at Columbia University and City University of New York. She is the mother of two, both working in public defenders offices.

The Feb. 24 awards luncheon will be held in conjunction with the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s winter convention. Sponsors include The Boston Globe, Boston University and Prince Lobel Tye. More information about the event can be found here.


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. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include: The Robertson Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe and Boston University.