Reading Eagle honored for freedom of information fight

By Zoe LaPorte

The Reading Eagle received many honors at the Keystone Press Awards on Saturday night, including the Sweepstakes Award for Division II.

But Garry Lenton, the newspaper’s editor and president of the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors, said his staff’s proudest moment was receiving the John V.R. Bull Freedom of Information Award.

This award honors Reading Eagle journalists for exceptional work to uphold and advance the cause of freedom of information during the past year.

The award was created in 2002 to honor John V.R. Bull, a retired Philadelphia Inquirer editor who was a founding member and leader of the First Amendment Coalition.

The Reading Eagle championed transparency in government and the public’s right to know with frequent challenges to release public information and by powerful reporting.

In 2017, the Reading Eagle submitted Right-to-Know requests about rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, medical marijuana and Pennsylvania’s drug abuse-fighting infrastructure.

The staff also wrote four editorials to alert the public to information blackouts, attempted reduction of government transparency, redactions on medical marijuana applications, and efforts to reduce public access to information.

Metro Editor Jim Kerr accepted the award.

“Since our first edition in January 1868 right up until today, there’s been one slogan that has appeared each day in the Reading Eagle and that slogan is simply: ‘For the good that needs assistance, but the wrong that needs resistance,’” said Kerr.

He said that phrase in the Reading Eagle reflects the principles of the John V.R. Bull Award: advancing freedom of information, access to public records, exposing secrecy, uncovering the truth, and fighting for just causes.

“We graciously accept this award and this honor tonight and tomorrow we’ll get back to work,” said Kerr.

The Reading Eagle also won the John V.R. Bull Award in 2015.

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