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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Stephen J. Berry, whose push for journalists to work thoroughly and ethically led him to co-found the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch, will be the annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet’s guest speaker in Des Moines on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.
The banquet is hosted by IowaWatch and the Iowa Freedom of Information Council with the Iowa Newspaper Foundation and several other sponsors who care about First Amendment rights. It will be at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, 700 Grand Ave., starting with a 5:30 p.m. reception and dinner at 6:30 p.m. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council will hold its annual meeting earlier in the day, at 2:30 p.m. That meeting will be in the Des Moines Register community room, on the ground level of Capital Square, 400 Locust St. All of the events on Sept. 27 are open to the public.
Berry retired in 2015 from his most recent job as an associate professor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Berry and reporting partner Jeff Brazile won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1993 while at the Orlando Sentinel for a four-part project – “Tainted Cash or Easy Money?” The series exposed abuses of power and racial targeting by an elite squad of deputies of the sheriff in Volusia County, Florida.
Berry went from Orlando to the Los Angeles Times, where he was a reporter for seven years before joining the U of I faculty in 2003. While in Iowa, Berry wrote a textbook, “Watchdog Journalism: The Art of Investigative Reporting,” that was published in 2009. The next year, in February 2010, the nonprofit news organization he and then-U of I doctoral student Robert “Ted” Gutsche co-founded was incorporated as the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. Berry was the center’s interim director until May 2012 and, is on the center’s board of directors and continues to assist with some reporting projects as a mentor and editor.
This year marks the sixth annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet. At the event, the Iowa Freedom of Information Council will present its annual Harrison “Skip” Weber Friend of the First Amendment award. IowaWatch will present its annual Stephen Berry and Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion awards, respectively to a working journalist or journalism educator and to an Iowan who promotes the role of an unrestricted news media and open government in means other than as a journalist.
Admission to the banquet is $55 per plate, with proceeds supporting IowaWatch’s reporting and journalism coaching programs. Registration is open until Thursday, Sept. 20. In addition to the presenting sponsors, the banquet is supported by the Iowa Broadcasters Association; the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication; the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication; the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm of Des Moines; the Des Moines Register; and the Associated Press.
The Downtown Marriott has a special group room rate through 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, for attendees staying overnight Sept. 27 after the banquet. Call 1-800-228-9290 or 515-245-5500 and ask for the IowaWatch banquet special rate.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit and non-partisan journalistic program dedicated to producing high quality investigative journalism while training journalism students on this work at a high, ethical level. IowaWatch provides mentorship to college students in Iowa who want to be journalists and helps in getting their work published by newspapers and news web sites, and exposed through broadcast outlets. IowaWatch.org also publishes their work.