Open Vallejo has won a 2020 James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter for its work exposing records of police and government misconduct. Founder and Executive Editor Geoffrey King was recognized in the citizen category for Open Vallejo’s “rigorous reporting and relentless use of the California Public Records Act to shine a light on a troubled local government,” SPJ said in a press statement Thursday. Now in their 35th year, the awards celebrate individuals and organizations “who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and/or expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment.”
Open Vallejo “shed new light on police violence and misconduct last year and forced officials to disclose information they sought to shield from public scrutiny,” SPJ officials wrote. “At a time when there are perilously few journalists reporting in Vallejo, this citizen has provided a beacon of hope to a local community desperately in need of sunshine.”
“We are honored by this award, and for the opportunity to serve our community,” King told the Vallejo Times-Herald. “This project is inspired by values learned here in Vallejo — values like loyalty to community, respect for one’s neighbors, and the importance of speaking truth to power.”
One of Open Vallejo’s earliest milestones was compelling the disclosure of body camera video of Vallejo police officers killing Ronell Foster in 2018 and Willie McCoy last year.