South Jersey Observer (SJO) has won the prestigious Tim O’Brien Award in the 2017 annual New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) contest.
The Tim O’Brien Award is awarded annually for the best use of Open Public Records Law. SJO won in the local journalism category for work that was posted in 2016.
SJO was founded in 2016 and is edited and published solely by Anne Forline of Bellmawr.
“Anne Forline of the South Jersey Observer, a website she herself started, won the first-place O’Brien award in the local journalism category for [a] series of stories she did on the creation of a borough administrator’s position in the town of Bellmawr, which a sitting councilman was to receive.”
One judge wrote: “This enterprising reporter saw a need for transparency in local government and did what was necessary to fulfill it. Congrats in starting SJO.”
How The Tim O’Brien Award is Judged:
This award honors the best reporting that uses the N.J. Open Public Records Act to expose issues of public significance. The award is made jointly by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, a non-profit, non-partisan group that advocates for government transparency and free access to government information, and the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Among the judging criteria are: significance of the issues to the audience for which the reporting was done; impact of the reporting, if any; creativity and ingenuity shown in finding and using public records to document matters of public importance; persistence needed to overcome obstacles to release the records, if any; integrity and honesty in presenting results.
This award pays tribute to Tim O’Brien, whose investigative reporting, first at The Star-Ledger and later at The New Jersey Law Journal, exemplified the qualities of courage, thoroughness, integrity, persistence and quiet idealism that we seek to honor.
2016 First Place Win
In 2016, Anne won first place in NJ-SPJ’s Health and Science Writing category with the story: “Bellmawr’s A.J. Gonzales is World’s Newest Superhero.”
A judge’s comment read: “This article was a great way to use a personal story to bring a very serious issue to light. You were drawn in with this great story of a cute kid, but at the same time you learned about his very rare disease and the battle both doctors and his family have trying to fight it. ”