Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoes House Bill 1523

Today Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed House Bill 1523, which would have let state and local government agencies charge up to $20 per hour to fulfill requests for public records that take more than two hours to find.

The Indiana Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists had opposed the bill.

Read Holcomb's veto letter here:

Best in Indiana Contest Winners

An Associated Press reporter, an Indianapolis Star team and a Purdue University student are the top winners in the chapter’s 2016 Best in Indiana contest.

Associated Press Statehouse reporter Brian Slodysko was selected as the Indiana Journalist of the Year for work including investigations into state payments to one of then-Gov. Mike Pence’s top aides during the presidential campaign and the misuse of campaign money by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman.

Mark Alesia, Tim Evans and Marisa Kwiatkowski of The Indianapolis Star won the Story of the Year award for their investigation into failures by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics over many years to alert law enforcement about alleged sexual abuse by coaches.

Charlotte Tuggle from Purdue University was named Student Journalist of the Year in recognition of her work at public radio station WBAA.

Congratulations to all the winners from across the state for their outstanding broadcast, print and online journalism. You can download the complete list of winners here and share it.

Proceeds from the Best in Indiana contest help fund the chapter’s college scholarship program. The two winners of $2,500 scholarships for the 2017-18 school year are Kaitlyn Kendall from the University of Indianapolis and Sarah Bahr of IUPUI.

The awards were presented April 21 during the chapter’s annual awards banquet.

Statement on House Bill 1523

The Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists calls upon state lawmakers to reject House Bill 1523, a bill that would let state and local government agencies charge up to $20 per hour to fulfill requests for public records that take more than two hours to find.
This legislation goes against the idea that government is supposed to serve the people, would undermine government transparency and could easily be abused to hide public records from the public view. 
It is not hard to imagine local governments exploiting such a law to make it cost-prohibitive for journalists and concerned citizens to find out what their elected representatives are doing, and how their tax dollars are being put to use. Some citizens may not be able to afford such search fees and could be denied access to government records that are supposed to be available to all.
Government employees could deliberately drag their feet on such requests, racking up exorbitant charges to produce records the taxpaying public already paid for in the first place, either to shut down requests or deter them in the future.
If anything, the state legislature should be working to make public records more accessible, and available to anyone online. Local officials should not be given the tool of search fees to hide documents that belong to the public and should be open to the scrutiny of all taxpayers and voters.
The bill defeats the entire purpose of Indiana’s public access laws, and should be defeated. It has the potential to be an obstacle to the reporting of a free press and an impediment to finding out the truth that could shroud government doings in secrecy. This legislation is simply not in keeping with the values of Hoosiers or an open, democratic society. 
If government agencies are actually struggling with the burden of providing the public with public records, it should be addressed in another way — perhaps by automatically publishing everything on the government agency’s website so journalists and citizens can execute such searches themselves, freeing up government workers for whatever other tasks.

Statement on public records case

The Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists urges the Indiana Supreme Court to stand on the side of the taxpaying public and government transparency, the essential and irreplaceable lubricant that keeps the motor of democracy running.

The Chapter asks the Indiana Supreme Court to review records and information related to a 2014 lawsuit against an executive order on immigration that former Gov. Mike Pence's office withheld from Indianapolis attorney William Groth, and order the disclosure of any public documents that were improperly redacted or refused.

The Indiana Pro Chapter resolutely believes government records should generally be made accessible to the public, and no compelling reason for withholding them was presented in this case.

The public interest is clear.

The Board of Directors of the Indiana Pro Chapter of SPJ is concerned about access to all public records, including those that elucidate why public officials elected by the residents of Indiana would choose to spend tax dollars on a lawsuit against the federal government, a matter that is plainly and self-evidently in the public interest.

A ruling against the “disinfectant” of public access would deprive the public of information they deserve and are entitled to, and embolden elected officials to try to withhold more from the public view. In an era where more individuals embrace transparency on social media, it is inconceivable the government they elect and that is supposed to serve them would be permitted to skulk into a murky darkness that shields them from accountability and goes against the grain of our entire system of governance.

The press and public should be able to see documents that clarify why their elected representatives pursue courses of action, including litigation that transfers tax dollars from public coffers to lawyers' private bank accounts.

Election and Campaign contest category added

At popular request, we’re taking the unusual step of adding a special category to honor top journalism covering Indiana’s tumultuous 2016 political season. The new Election and Campaign Coverage category is meant to recognize outstanding political campaign and Election Day-related reporting.

The new category has been added to all divisions of the Best of Indiana Journalism Contest -- so coverage in broadcast, print and online formats by both professionals and students can be entered. We continue to have our Government and Politics category that recognizes coverage of the functions of our government institutions and political figures.

We hope this new category will capture some of the election drama Hoosiers saw over the past year.

Download the contest details now at this link:

 Submitting is easy. Most entries can be submitted in just a few minutes on our contest site:

Enter Now. The contest deadline is Friday, February 3. 

Best of Indiana contest open for entries

We are now accepting entries for this year's Best of Indiana Journalism contest. Help us honor the best work of our state's professional and student journalists while supporting the chapter's college scholarship program.

The contest has dozens of categories in online, print, radio, and television journalism. Full-time journalists, freelancers and students all welcome to enter. Entry fees are still just $20 for professionals and $15 for students.

The contest is for work published or broadcast during 2016, and nominations can be made for the Indiana Journalism Courage Award, Indiana Journalist of the Year, Indiana Student Journalist of the Year, Indiana Story of the Year, First Amendment Award and Slaymaker Service to Indiana Journalism Award.

All the details on rules and categories:

The link to the contest entry site:

The entry deadline is Feb. 3. The awards banquet will be Friday, April 21, at the Indianapolis Marriott North.

Email any questions to