Central Ohio SPJ celebrates local journalism on Founders’ Day

Our annual Founders’ Day celebration is a chance to recognize the achievements of local journalists in our community on behalf of our profession, and salute the work of young journalists who show great promise.

The journalists in Columbus and Central Ohio continue to do vitally important work fulfilling the goals of our profession, keeping the community informed and holding the powerful accountable.

We were pleased to gather on Sept. 21 in Upper Arlington to recognize the following individuals and groups with our 2022 awards.

Our attendees at Founders’ Day!

The First Amendment Award is given by the chapter to recognize outstanding efforts by local journalists in their roles as watchdogs of the public interest. 

  • This year, it is our pleasure to name the members of the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association for their coverage of redistricting. The members of the Ohio Statehouse press corps worked under challenging circumstances to help the public understand months of work by state lawmakers to draw new state and congressional maps, which were struck down several times by courts for being unconstitutional. The members of the Ohio Statehouse press corps were there to chronicle every step in this process and help shed light on a process that many in the state sought to keep opaque and out of public view.  We appreciate their professional work under difficult circumstances.
Noah Blundo of Hannah News Service accepts First Amendment award

Our chapter’s Appreciation Award is presented to an individual or organization that has made a notable contribution to journalism in Central Ohio. This year we are pleased to honor:

  • The staff of Columbus Alive: Columbus Alive, which folded in June after more than 30 years, was known for providing a valuable perspective on the city through its work as an alternative print weekly and a daily website. After the print publication shuttered in 2019, Alive staff members Andy Downing and Joel Oliphint continued to produce compelling, award-winning content, with some silly fun, too. Alive, in its own words, “broke big stories, uniquely documented the local music and arts scenes, added playfully pointed commentary” and more. Columbus is worse off without Columbus Alive’s journalistic presence in our city.
  • Julie Fulton: Julie was the former librarian and researcher for the Columbus Dispatch until the latest round of job cuts in 2022. We appreciate her service to the profession and to the newsroom.

    Joel Oliphint, formerly of Columbus Alive, talks about the importance of the publication.

We also honored several journalists with SPJ’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This award honors individuals for their lifetime of contribution to the journalism profession. This year, our chapter is excited to recognize the outstanding work and successful career of the following journalists: 

  • Alan Miller, Alan Miller served as executive editor for the Columbus Dispatch until his retirement at the end of 2021. He worked at The Dispatch for more than 37 years, but actually started his newspaper career at age 8 when he delivered The Daily Record to subscribers in his hometown of Orrville.
  • John Futty, retired from the Columbus Dispatch after 28 years, where he covered the courts beat after stints covering City Council and county law enforcement. He was described by his editor as being just as much of a fixture at the Franklin County courthouse as the judges and attorneys. We appreciate his work at the Dispatch!
  • Darrel Rowland, Darrel Rowland had a storied career at the Columbus Dispatch, serving as the longest-serving reporter. Among the stories he broke during his time at the Dispatch are how the state of Ohio improperly withheld millions in child support from single moms, and questionable activities by pharmacy benefit managers. He’s also delved into racial disparities and injustices, covered the underfunding of public schools and much more.
Darrel Rowland, John Futty, Alan Miller, and Julie Fulton.

This year, the Central Ohio Chapter is presenting an annual award to recognize historical journalism sites in Ohio. The award is sponsored by the Central Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. This year’s recognition goes to:

  • Richard Felton Outcault birthplace, recognizing the school and city that is the birthplace of Richard Felton Outcault, who created the Yellow Kid comic that led to the creation of comic strips. This award will be presented to the Fairfield County Heritage Association, a historical society based in Lancaster, for display at their organization.

And lastly, we presented our Brick Wall Award. The Brick Wall Award is a dubious distinction presented to an individual or organization that, according to chapter members, did the most to block citizen access to public records and proceedings or otherwise violated the spirit of the First Amendment during the past year. 

  • The Ohio Redistricting Commission receives this year’s dubious recognition for violating the spirit of the First Amendment for many attempts to flout the public’s right to know about the legislative and congressional map-making process, including by repeatedly fashioning maps behind closed doors, only to reveal them shortly before the final vote, and by rejecting calls to accept public testimony.