NEFAC to Honor Two New Englanders for Public Records Fights on Behalf of Children’s Welfare, Special Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefirstamendment.org

The New England First Amendment Coalition will honor two New England residents this month for their fights to open public records and expose gaping deficiencies in the areas of child welfare and special education.

Jenifer McKim, senior investigative reporter and trainer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, will be presented NEFAC’s 2016 Freedom of Information Award for work leading to her series “Out of the Shadows – Shining Light on State Failures to Learn from Rising Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths” in Massachusetts. The FOI Award is presented annually to New England journalists who protect or advance the public’s right to know under federal or state law.

Michael A. Champa will be presented the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award for his court battle to open records related to special education in Weston, Mass. The Citizenship Award is given annually to an individual from one of the six New England states who has tenaciously fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or the actions/inactions of its government.

Both McKim and Champa will be honored at NEFAC’s New England First Amendment Awards luncheon from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, 50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street, Boston, Mass. During the luncheon, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy from Vermont will also be honored with the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased here.

Previous recipients of the NEFAC FOI award include: James W. Foley (posthumously), seasoned war correspondent and New Hampshire native, in 2015; Brent Curtis, a reporter for the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, in 2014; and Don Stacom, of the Hartford Courant, in 2013. 

Previous recipients of the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award include: Harriet Cady, longtime open government activist in New Hampshire, in 2015; Kit Savage, of Connecticut, who uncovered violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, in 2014; and David Lang, who exposed mismanagement of health insurance premiums, resulting in a court order to refund $53 million to New Hampshire public employees, in 2013.

About Jenifer McKim | 2016 Freedom of Information Award

mckimshot-144Jenifer McKim has a stellar investigative journalism record, including two recent Publick Occurrences awards by the New England Newspaper & Press Association. In 2015, she won the award for two reports on homeowner debt, which raised public awareness of growing debt problems disproportionately affecting lower income communities and the elderly. In 2014, she won the award for her stories on child fatalities in the Massachusetts welfare system. This year’s Freedom of Information Award is in recognition of her series, “Out of the Shadows,” a 2015 investigation into child abuse and neglect that was first published by The Boston Globe.

Before joining NECIR in 2013, McKim worked as a social issues and business reporter at the Globe, where she earned a 2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for a story on the sex trafficking of minors. She finished in second place for the same award two years later for an investigation into a global child pornography network.

Prior to joining the Globe, McKim was a member of the investigation team at the Orange County Register in California where she led a group of reporters in writing about lead-tainted candy imported from Mexico. The project created awareness of a growing public health threat and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

McKim was a 2008 fellow at the Nieman Foundation of Journalism at Harvard University. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

About Michael A. Champa | 2016 Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award

champa-144Through his own personal experience, Michael Champa uncovered systemic failures and inequities in special education services in Weston, Mass. He filed a public records lawsuit and emerged victorious after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in his favor. His victory has leveled the playing field for all special education students and ensures that school districts across the Commonwealth are held accountable. 

Champa began his career as a social studies teacher at Stoughton High School in 1974. He held numerous posts within the Stoughton Teacher’s Association, serving as its president in 1978. During the past 30 years, Champa has become a successful entrepreneur and has held senior management positions in successful local communications technology companies, including Cascade Communications, where he was on the founding management team; Omnia Communications, where he was president and CEO; and Winphoria Networks, where he served as president and CEO.

Champa has a long history of interest in education and health care.  He currently serves as a trustee of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the New England Entrepreneurs Foundation. He has formerly served on numerous private company boards, as well as the boards of the Catholic Schools Foundation, the Museum of Science and the North Cambridge Catholic High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and master’s degrees in public administration and business administration from Suffolk University. Champa is a well-known Boston philanthropist and lives with his wife Maureen and their three children in Boston.

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NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include: The Robertson Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe and Boston University.

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