At the Society of Professional Journalists national convention Oct. 3-5, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Journalism was honored with two major awards as well as a resolution of thanks for work on behalf of the organization.
Dave Cuillier was among three honorees to receive the SPJ 2010 First Amendment Award. Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, and Herschel Fink of the Detroit law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn also were honored at SPJ’s national convention in Las Vegas “for their extraordinary efforts to preserve and strengthen media freedoms.”
The three were selected by the SPJ Board of Directors for efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment. Previous recipients have included former National Public Radio news analyst Daniel Schorr, former U.S. Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and William O. Douglas, and former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon Jr.
The organization recognized, in particular, Cuillier’s efforts to educate journalists and other citizens about their rights to access government records. Cuillier is chair of the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists and testified before Congress last spring about government information issues. He traveled the country by car earlier this year to provide information-access training for SPJ chapters, news organizations and open-government coalitions as part of his Access Across America tour. The tour covered 15,000 miles through 33 states and reached more than 1,000 people.
Cuillier also received the President's Award, an award given out by the SPJ president, Kevin Smith, "in recognition of outstanding contributions of talent, truth and energy of the highest level for the better of the profession, the Society and its members." Cuillier received the award in 2008 as well.
In addition, SPJ delegates passed a resolution thanking Cuillier for his work, specifically his cross-country Access Across America tour.
“I am a longtime proponent of SPJ doing things that are very tangible, very visible and doing things that don’t only benefit our members, but for the public,” said Mac McKerral, resolutions committee chair, on SPJ's "Working Press" blog. “And that’s exactly what Dave has done.”
“This is a group effort,” Cuillier said as he took the stage to a standing ovation. “We as journalists have to keep this fight going. I can tell you, journalism is not dead. It’s strong. I was proud to see people working and doing awesome things throughout the country,” he said. “Government secrecy is rampant, and we have to stand firm and push back. This is what it’s all about.”
Cuillier’s research focuses on factors that affect public attitudes about access to government information. His articles have appeared in top-ranked journalism journals such as Communication Law & Policy and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Cuillier had a Udall Center Public Policy Research Fellowship in 2009 to further this research.
Cuillier, who joined the UA faculty in 2006, teaches graduate and undergraduate classes on information access. He is co-author of The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records, a textbook being used by students in journalism programs around the country.
Cuillier received the Nafziger-White Dissertation Award for the best doctoral dissertation in the country in 2007 from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Two years later he won first place in the organization’s Most Promising Professor competition. He also has received national teaching awards.