In recognition of the important role played by the state´s news media in improving public understanding of key legal issues, The Missouri Bar annually presents its "Excellence in Legal Journalism Awards."
Three separate awards are presented by the state bar - one each for the print media, radio and television - in recognition of individual stories, series or editorials which meet one or more of the following criteria:
Media representatives are invited to identify members of the news media - either within their own organization or elsewhere - who have performed exceptional work within the general criteria outlined above. Self-nominations are also encouraged. Individual reporters or entire news organizations which have performed notable work in improving public knowledge of the legal system are eligible.
Copies of pertinent articles, audiotapes or videotapes should accompany all nominations. In addition, letters in support of nominations are encouraged. These letters should set out the content of the item(s) and indicate their significance to the citizens of their area or the state as a whole. Any follow-up or reaction to the item(s) should be summarized, as well. Final selection of the winners will be determined by the President of The Missouri Bar with the assistance of The Missouri Bar´s Executive Committee.
2014-15 Missouri Bar President Reuben Shelton presented three journalists the 2014 Excellence in Legal Journalism Awards at the 148th Annual Missouri Press Association Convention held September 27, 2014, at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Columbia, Mo.
Alan Burdziak of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Dan Patterson of KWIX in Moberly and Bob Watson of the Jefferson City News Tribune were presented with the awards.
Alan Burdziak, a reporter with the Columbia Daily Tribune, was presented a Missouri Bar Excellence in Legal Journalism Award by Shelton. Burdziak contributed 13 articles to the Tribune’s coverage of a 2001 murder case of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt involving the conviction of Ryan Ferguson. In the fall of 2013, Ferguson was released from prison after a panel of the Western District Court of Appeals vacated his conviction on a Brady violation. Shelton said Burdziak’s reporting was unbiased, clear and accurate, and commended him for accurately reporting the facts of the court ruling, when many national and international media outlets got it wrong at first.
Dan Patterson of Moberly's KWIX was presented with a Missouri Bar Excellence in Legal Journalism Award by Shelton. Patterson is the host of a monthly, half-hour radio program, Letter of the Law, designed to educate the public on various areas of the law as well as the state and federal legal systems. Shelton noted two programs for special recognition including a conversation with Ryan Ferguson after his release regarding the death penalty, and another with the Randolph County Coroner which covered the scope and responsibilities of a county coroner when it comes to investigating a death.
Bob Watson, a reporter with the Jefferson City News Tribune, was presented with a Missouri Bar Excellence in Legal Journalism Awards by Shelton. A three-time winner and 42-year veteran of the capital press corps, Shelton recognized Watson for his extensive coverage of efforts to revise Missouri’s Criminal Code. Attending and reporting on more than a dozen hearings on the bill, Shelton said Watson’s coverage details specific revisions to the code and why they were needed. Shelton added when concerns were voiced after the Legislature passed the bill, Watson contacted the bar and the bill’s sponsors about them, making sure all sides were heard. Shelton noted his coverage of the revised criminal code helped educate the public about this important issue.
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Paid for by The Missouri Bar Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director PO Box 119 Jefferson City, MO 65102