CT Staff Report
The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Managing Editor Hannah Eason of The Commonwealth Times with the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award on Tuesday. The annual award honors an SPJ member who has “demonstrated outstanding service to the First Amendment through their work in journalism,” according to the SPJ’s website.
Eason investigated and reported on issues of The Commonwealth Times being cleared from kiosks on campus in February, following a front-page story by Eason that was critical of VCU’s student government. The CT editor conducted several interviews and documented newspapers being thrown into the trash before publishing a follow-up article online.
“Campus newspapers being stolen and destroyed is an all too common form of censorship when coverage is deemed unfavorable,” a release from the SPJ read. “Eason demonstrated her commitment to and understanding of freedom of speech and of the press by using all means possible to bring to light the censorship.”
Congratulations to @hannaheason_ who won the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award! Eason demonstrated her commitment to and understanding of freedom of speech and of the press by using all means possible to bring to light censorship at her university. https://t.co/z279A1JpK7
— Society of Professional Journalists (@spj_tweets) August 4, 2020
As Eason’s reporting on the incident continued, state legislators passed House Bill 36 to protect the rights of student journalists at public universities and colleges to practice freedom of speech and press in institution-sponsored media.
“Hannah’s commitment to freedom of the press surely provided inspiration for passage of a law that recognizes the importance of First Amendment rights for student journalists,” the SPJ’s Journalism Education Committee stated.
Eason will be recognized at the SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference, which will be held virtually Sept. 12-13. For more information, visit spj.org.