The UO School of Journalism and Communication is now accepting nominations for the 17th Annual Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for work published in 2016.

A hallmark of excellence in journalism ethics, this annual award recognizes journalists and news organizations that have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ethical decision-making and conduct, even when faced with economic, personal or political pressure.

“In these tumultuous times, ethical journalism is more important than ever,” said Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt dean of the SOJC. “The economic and political pressures facing journalists are incredibly steep and growing, but the work they do in exposing truth and informing the public is still essential to a healthy democracy. That’s why we at the SOJC feel it is so important to support the journalists and news organizations who choose to uphold the highest standards of their profession and to do the right thing, especially when it is hard.”

Last year, the SOJC gave a Payne Award to the Associated Press team that reported the Pulitzer Prize-winning Seafood from Slaves series. AP reporters Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan led a yearlong investigation into alleged human trafficking in Thailand’s $7 billion seafood industry. Their extensive efforts — from tracking ships and staking out factories to risking their lives to document the stories of captive fishermen — led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and forced both the Thai government and the American retailers selling their catch to take action.

“The reporters and their editors faced tough ethical questions, including whether or not to alert authorities pre-publication of the whereabouts of captive slaves, whether or not to remain on private property after being told to leave and whether or not to suppress their work until the slaves they had interviewed were safe,” said Payne Award judge Karen Miller Pensiero, editor of newsroom standards for The Wall Street Journal. “Their decisions, often made in the heat of the moment when they were in personal danger, led to impactful, meaningful and ethical journalism that opened the world’s eyes to a very inhumane story.”

A second Ancil Payne Award went to the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who fought for transparency by reporting the secret sale of the newspaper despite management’s warnings to stay away from the story. When the newsroom’s reporting turned up a trail of egregious business and ethics violations tied to Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, the journalists focused on their professional obligation to readers and published the story. As a result, the Nevada Gaming Control Board is now monitoring Adelson’s use of the newspaper.

“Somewhere in the world right now a journalist is wondering if he should go along to get ahead or if he should do the right thing no matter the personal cost,” said James G. Wright, former deputy editor of the Review-Journal. “This particular award honors the journalists of the Review-Journal, but it is really for everyone who chooses to do the right thing.”

The Ancil Payne Award selection committee also awarded an honorable mention in 2016 to reporter Jessica Terrell and the Honolulu Civil Beat for “The Harbor,” a three-day series portraying life in a 200-person homeless “village” on Oahu’s west coast. Terrell spent months getting to know the people living in Hawaii’s largest homeless encampment. Her insight and sensitivity in telling their stories resulted in part from of her own experiences growing up homeless.

The Ancil Payne Award accepts entries from news organizations and journalists in broadcast, print and digital media. Journalists and outlets can nominate [link to nomination materials] themselves or be nominated by a third party. Nominations for the Ancil Payne Award are limited to material published, broadcast or posted in the United States, or decisions made by journalists or news organizations based in the United States.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Payne Award winners will be awarded $5,000 prizes.

A panel of judges representing both the news industry and academia will determine the 17th Annual Ancil Payne Award winners. Winners will be announced in March 2017 and will visit the UO School of Journalism and Communication in Eugene, Ore., on April 27, 2017 to accept their awards and meet with students and faculty.

About the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism 

Established in 1999 at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication by Seattle broadcasting legend Ancil Payne (1921-2004), the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism honors journalists and news organizations that have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ethical conduct, even when faced with economic, personal or political pressure.

Ancil Payne, a leader in Northwest broadcasting and a lifelong contributor to the arts, politics, and education, helped establish King Broadcasting’s reputation for and commitment to ethical journalism as its CEO. Payne created the award to recognize journalists acting with integrity and character, restore public trust in the media, and inspire people to do good work.

For more information about the Ancil Payne Award, contact Tim Gleason, Director of the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism, at tgleason@uoregon.edu.