By Megan Irwin
New Times founder and executive editor Michael Lacey accepts the Payne Award.
New Times was presented the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism at ceremonies at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
The award goes to journalists who “encourage public trust in the media by courageously practicing the highest standards of the profession in the face of political or economic pressures.”
New Times won for its investigation of how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas habitually abridge the constitutional rights of almost anyone who opposes them or their policies.
The newspaper's “Target Practice” series was written after the arrests of New Times founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. The pair were nabbed by Arpaio's clandestine Selective Enforcement Unit after they wrote a story, Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution, releasing details of grand jury subpoenas. They explained how the county officials have evolved over the years from abusing prisoners, Mexicans and other vulnerable people to attacking a newspaper and its readers.
Lacey and Larkin wrote their story after subpoenas demanded the notes and correspondences of the paper’s reporters and editors about Arpaio, as well as the viewing habits of any person who visited the paper’s Web site, back to 2004.
“If they were going to hang us, it was going to be a public hanging,” Lacey says.
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Out of the original story came the six-week series on how Arpaio and Thomas have run roughshod over anybody they conceive is opposing them, or their politics: journalists, judges, jail inmates, public office-seekers, undocumented immigrants.
Lacey, along with staff writers Paul Rubin and Megan Irwin, traveled to Eugene to accept the award and spent two days speaking with the university's journalism students.
Spokane, Washington’s Spokesman-Review and student journalist Ashley Gough of Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts also were honored.
The Payne Award winners taking journalism very seriously: Paul Rubin, Megan Irwin, Michael Lacey, Ashley Gough and Gary Graham, Spokesman-Review managing editor.