'Salt Lake Tribune' Wins Ted Natt First Amendment Award

By: The Salt Lake Tribune's establishment of UtahsRight.com, an online clearinghouse of hard-to-obtain government records, has won the 2009 Ted Natt First Amendment Award.

The award is named for the former publisher of The Daily News of Longview, who died in a helicopter crash in 1999. It was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association in Seattle. Competition was open to newspapers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana that are members of The Associated Press.

The Tribune's site features databases of government worker salaries from every major Utah city, county, school district and special taxing district, as well as complete salary information on all state employees and elected officials.

Readers can also see restaurant inspectuions, drunken driving convictions, child-care center reports, bridge safety data, political contributions and teen pregnancy rates.

"Publishing such sensitive information is controversial, to say the least, and we have been pressed to desist by government officials and citizens alike," Editor Nancy Conway wrote in her letter to the judges. "But we believe that UtahsRight.com has helped created awareness about what information is public and should be available and accessible to citizens." The site has received more than 5 million page views, Conway said.

The judges said they were impressed by the enormity of the effort involved in establishing the site, its ease of public use and its potential as a reporting tool for the newspaper and others.

They also praised The Seattle Times for its continuing series on government earmarks, which won the Natt award last year; The News Tribune of Tacoma for its investigation of a Federal Way municipal judge; and the Yakima Herald-Republic for spending $30,000 on an open-records fight.

Judges for the competition were Sue Price Johnson, retired Associated Press bureau chief for the Carolinas; James Daubel, former publisher and editor of The News-Messenger, Fremont, Ohio; and John Strohmeyer, Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor and vice president of the Bethlehem (Pa.) Globe-Times.


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