New Times founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin received the President's Award from the Valley chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at the group's Freedom of Information Awards banquet Friday, April 4.
The award was presented for a story the two penned last fall about unreasonable grand jury subpoenas issued by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office against New Times and its readers ("Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution," October 18, 2007). The subpoenas sought notes and information from writers and editors and the online viewing habits of the paper's Web site visitors. The authors were arrested and taken to jail the night after the story appeared in New Times.
The subpoenas were issued in an investigation of this newspaper's publishing of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's home address on its Web site years earlier in a column about the sheriff's suspicious personal real estate deals. Putting the address on the Internet was in apparent violation of an arcane and untested state law. Charges against Lacey and Larkin and the probe of New Times were dropped the day after the arrests by County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who was embarrassed by the local and national furor they had unleashed.
It was the second top award in as many weeks for Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, and Larkin, the company's CEO. The ACLU Foundation of Arizona named the two Civil Libertarians of the Year on March 29.
In his acceptance remarks, Lacey said he and Larkin were proud to receive an award from an organization whose members have produced such stellar journalism in the Valley.