Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist to headline Stillwater banquet honoring Oklahoma’s best reporters
Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Pulitzer-Prize winning Oklahoman David Fallis will be keynote speaker at the 2017 awards banquet of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Oklahoma chapter.
Fallis led reporters who, for The Washington Post, wrote a 2015 series of stories that identified and analyzed some 1,000 fatal shootings by police across the nation. For that landmark work, Fallis and his team won the Pulitzer for National Reporting.
Besides Fallis’ speech, this year’s awards banquet, slated for Stillwater, on Saturday, April 22, will feature presentation of the Oklahoma chapter’s top three awards.
For the first time, the Lifetime Achievement Award will go to two individuals: Mary Hargrove and Thomas Maupin.
Hargrove, a long-time investigative reporter and editor for The Tulsa Tribune, was nominated for the lifetime recognition by Tulsa-based journalist Ziva Branstetter, until recently editor-in-chief of The Frontier, an online news organization. (Branstetter, one of Oklahoma’s best-known journalists, is headed toward a new job as senior editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in California’s Bay Area.)
Branstetter described Hargrove as “without a doubt one of the most accomplished journalists to have ever worked in Oklahoma.” She observed Hargrove is one of those treasures “whose work was done mostly pre-Internet; there’s not a lot of online proof of their accomplishments.”
Hargrove is probably best-known for an in-depth investigative series she wrote while with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It focused on a state-run juvenile facility, where pervasive abuse of the young residents took place. The six-part series triggered closure of facilities and won her more than a dozen national awards for reporting.
Hargrove also won the RFK (Robert F. Kennedy) award for her reporting. Among other service to the profession, she served on the board of directors of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).
Maupin, nominated by Don P. Brown, an Oklahoma journalist, is the retired copy editor for The Oklahoman. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he worked as a reporter and photographer for newspapers in Missouri, then as a copy editor in Kansas before coming to The Oklahoma Publishing Company in 1982. Maupin impacted several generations of newsroom reporters and editors during his tenure there, which lasted until fall 2016.
Brown wrote that Maupin insisted “that the spelling, grammar and style should be correct in every case. For at least 15 years, Tom served as copy chief, supervising a front-line editing staff of about 10 journalists. I had the pleasure of serving beside him as assistant copy chief for several years in the late 1990s. Anyone who worked closely with Tom could tell he was a pillar of knowledge in the newsroom.”
Among his lesser-known distinctions is that for the last several years of his tenure at The Oklahoman, Maupin wrote the daily prayers, continuing the newspaper’s long tradition of posting missives to the Almighty on page one. Recalling those petitions, Brown said he often felt the writings had put into words his own needs, including this one on October 22, 2016: “Here I am, Lord. Your love and mercy have guided me this far, and I know You will not forsake me. Amen.” Since leaving his full-time post at Oklahoma’s largest newspaper, Maupin’s stories on news and events in Moore have appeared in print and online.
SPJ Oklahoma’s Carter Bradley First Amendment Award goes to two individuals: Brady Henderson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, and Curtis Killman of The Tulsa World.
The ACLU’s Henderson, honored for his relentless work to force disclosure of public records the Fallin administration has sought to keep under wraps, came to the organization in September 2012. He “has been a member of the Oklahoma legal community since 2006,” as his ACLU biographical sketch notes. A former Assistant District Attorney, he managed his own law practice before joining the ACLU staff. His biographical sketch at the ACLU of Oklahoma website points out he spent “many years as a domestic violence prosecutor and advocate for the people of Cleveland County, Brady left public service in 2011 to pursue his own practice specializing in civil rights, criminal defense, and general litigation.”
M. Scott Carter, a journalism teacher at Oklahoma City Community College who worked with Henderson for a time at the civil liberties group, praised Henderson, telling The City Sentinel in an email exchange:
“Brady Henderson has fought for transparency in government and Oklahoma’s open records and open meetings act for years. His deep love of the Constitution, and his dedication to the Bill of Rights have inspired countless others. I’m very proud to have nominated Brady. He sets a great example that every journalist in Oklahoma should follow.”
According to his biographical sketch at the website of the largest newspaper in northeast Oklahoma, Killman has been a staff writer with the Tulsa World since 1995. Killman “covered City Hall for the World until 2004, when he became a member of the Projects/Enterprise Team. Killman’s interests include use of computer-assisted reporting and geographic information system software to help tell interesting stories. While on the Enterprise Team, Killman’s stories have won awards for projects whose topics ranged from puppy mills to child abuse to substandard housing.”
Today, according to a biographical sketch prepared for SPJ Oklahoma, “He continues to work on the Projects Team, focusing on data-driven stories. He also covers federal court news, maintains the Tulsa World database page and develops online interactive graphics.”
The First Amendment recognition is named for Bradley, a legendary reporter who worked for decades at the state Capitol, writing stories that appeared in newspapers large and small across the Sooner State.
SPJ Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year awardee is John Schmeltzer of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he is the Engleman/Livermore professor in community journalism. He worked at The Chicago Tribune for 35 years, beginning as a political reporter and ending as assistant business editor.
According to his biographical sketch on the OU website, Prof. Schmeltzer “was instrumental in expanding the readership of the Tribune by developing a suburban version of the newspaper for which he served as associate metropolitan editor from 1976 to 1991. From 1997 to 2003, he covered the aerospace industry and covered many of the events that led to the Tribune being awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.”
Last year, Schmeltzer supervised a team of student-reporters who traveled to Iowa during the lead-up to the major party caucus meetings. The young journalists filed some of the most detailed reports to appear in-print or online outside of that state.
Just days ago, SPJ Oklahoma’s keynote speaker Fallis and his reporters, Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham, won the George Polk award for medical reporting. Recognized were stories concerning “lax regulation of narcotic painkillers” at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a result of pressures from Congress and pharmaceutical companies.
His biography at the Post’s website reports, “In 2012, he was part of a team that investigated how the personal finances of federal lawmakers intersect with their legislative activities, which won a Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting.”
Last year, Fallis and a squad of Post reporters won notable recognition for the stories they had prepared on fatal police-involved shootings in 2015. For that year-long work, The Post was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, among other honors.
The 2017 awards banquet for the Oklahoma professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will honor scores of state reporters, editors, public relations professionals and others. SPJ OK will recognize a wide variety of reporting styles, including “Best of the Best,” Magazine, Newspaper, Online, Public Relations, Television and Radio.
The Saturday evening (April 22) festivities and opportunity for professional discussion will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by the awards banquet at 7 p.m., at the Meditations Catering & Banquet Facility, 1205 N. Country Club Rd., in Stillwater.
SPJ OK award banquet tickets are $50. To purchase tickets go here.
NOTE: Pat McGuigan, editor of The City Sentinel newspaper and founder of CapitolBeatOK, is a member of the board of directors for SPJ Oklahoma.