Journalism award nominations sought by Florida Bar


The call for entries is out for The Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida and the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award, The Florida Bar announced Wednesday.

For the Thomson awards, work submitted for consideration may include news stories, series, features, editorials, blogs, documentaries, columns, special sections — anything that is produced by a news organization and deals with law and lawyers, courts, law enforcement, the delivery of legal services, the effectiveness of the justice system, the work of the organized Bar or related matters.

Any newspaper, radio station, blog, television station, wire service or online-only publication located in Florida is eligible to enter. The entry deadline is July 31.

Entries must have been published or produced between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017. Content of entries may be current or historical, objective or analytical in nature. Special consideration may be given to entries that demonstrate courage or tenacity on the part of the news medium or the journalists who produced the entry.

Reporters receiving first-place awards will take home $500, and those receiving second place will get $250. If multiple reporters are bylined on a winning entry, the cash award will be divided evenly among them.

Reporters who choose not to accept the monetary prizes may opt to make a donation to the First Amendment Foundation. All honorees and their media outlets will receive plaques.

Media organizations large and small are encouraged to enter. Judging criteria are not based on the greatest amount of resources used, but whether those resources available are used well and to the fullest in the tradition of outstanding journalism.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors and the Media & Communications Law Committee renamed the media awards as a tribute to Miami lawyer Thomson’s countless contributions to media law.

Thomson, a Florida attorney since 1961, died in 2017 at 85. From 1968 to 1983, Thomson represented numerous prominent clients, including the Miami Herald, The New York Times, AT&T and Bank of America, in First Amendment cases. His expertise included helping newspapers obtain public records.

Thomson argued three cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miami Herald Publishing Company vs. Tornillo in 1974. He represented the Herald and won, overturning a state law that required newspapers to allocate equal space to political candidates on the editorial pages.

The Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award honors a retired or working journalist who has written or reported extensively in an outstanding fashion to educate citizens on the system of law and justice as it affects the people of Florida.

The award recipient will receive a cash prize of $500, a plaque, and travel reimbursement to attend the awards ceremony at the Florida Capitol. A reporter who chooses not to accept the monetary prize may opt to make a donation to the First Amendment Foundation.

Spencer-Wendel was a veteran Palm Beach Post courts reporter who died in 2014 after a well-documented fight with ALS. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Media & Communications Law Committee in 2012 and numerous other media awards throughout her career.

The Parker Thomson and Susan Spencer-Wendel media awards will be presented at the Reporters’ Workshop dinner on Sept. 24 in Tallahassee. Winners will be notified in advance.

For the nomination forms, click here.

Staff Reports


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