Boulder Weekly Editor Pamela White has received one of the top honors given by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), a lifetime achievement award called “Keeper of the Flame.”
Boulder Weekly took home eight additional awards at the annual Top of the Rockies award ceremony, held April 15 at the Denver Press Club. Region 9 consists of four states: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The Keeper of the Flame Award that White received recognizes “extraordinary dedication to ethical, responsible journalism and professional integrity.”
The Colorado SPJ President Cara DeGette presented White with the award, describing some of the highlights of a journalism career that began in 1984 at the Colorado Daily.
DeGette noted that White was the first woman editor at both the Weekly and the Daily, and in the late 1990s spearheaded an investigation into former CU President John Buechner’s Total Learning Environment initiative. The inquiry uncovered questions about Buechner’s relationship with his consultant, questions that led to Buechner’s resignation. The investigation garnered several honors, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service.
“Well-behaved women seldom make history,” DeGette said of White, lauding her for a career built on championing the poor and disenfranchised, from Native Americans to women in prison.
White’s coverage of the latter issue prompted the passage of a state law last year that ended the regular practice of shackling pregnant women inmates to the bed while they are in labor and delivery. (White and Managing Editor Jefferson Dodge won a second place award for public service from the SPJ for the series of stories about the issue.)
In her acceptance remarks, White says much of her success can be attributed to working for independent media like the Weekly and the Daily, which used to be employee-owned.
“There’s something special about working at an independent paper,” she said. “There’s a lot more flexibility, there’s a lot more freedom.”
White also said that while recent events in the field of journalism concern her, she remains hopeful about the future of the industry.
“It troubles me that I’m standing here tonight the day after CU’s journalism program has been discontinued,” she said. “It troubles me that Overland High School had its paper temporarily nixed by a principal who was uncomfortable with editorial content. I’m troubled that so many independent papers are being gobbled up, because in truth, we are all keepers of the flame.
“We are all in this battle to try to be a voice for the voiceless, to tell the truth, to be a watchdog against government, to tell people about what is going on in the world around them and, most of all, to empower them to make a change.”
White also won a second place award from the SPJ in legal feature writing for the July 15 story “Stripped of dignity” about prison strip-search procedures.
In addition to White’s honors, Boulder Weekly Arts and Entertainment Editor David Accomazzo won second place in education feature writing for the Oct. 28 story “Bleeding ink.”
And Dodge won five awards: second place in environmental general reporting for the May 13 story “Justice: Boulder attorneys’ battles against polluter pay off for poor Denver neighborhood,” third place in legal general reporting for the Nov. 18 article “Foreclosure crisis hits home in Colorado,” third place in business general reporting for the Oct. 14 story “Ruffled feathers: Flap over Boulder Creek Festival has nonprofit crying fowl,” third place in environmental feature writing for the March 18, 2010, article “Poop, plants and pollution,” and third place in health general reporting for the Sept. 2 story “Squatters’ rights: Eldorado Springs says county is passing the buck on new sewer system.”