Rewarding courageous journalists: Jon Leiberman, the former bureau chief of Sinclair Broadcast Group's Washigton office and a key source for two recent Alternet stories I wrote on the company [1, 2], didn't make any friends with his former bosses when he publicly characterized plans to air a blatantly anti-Kerry documentary "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election." Sinclair fired him, but among those who care about journalistic ethics, he's a bit of a superstar. The University of Oregon's journalism school will be awarding him a 2005 Payne Award for Journalistic Ethics, a prize established “to honor the journalist of integrity and character who reports with insight and clarity in the face of political or economic pressures and to reward performance that inspires public trust in the media.” Also recognized was one of my favorite Iraq bloggers, photojournalist Kevin Sites. The Payne committee celebrated his
“courage, deliberate thinking and outreach” after filming a U.S. soldier killing an unarmed Iraqi man. Sites, an experienced war reporter, shared the videotape with the military, then worked with NBC to create a well-nuanced story that aired 48 hours after the incident. As was required, the footage was also given to others in his pool. When he became a lightning rod for those reacting to the story and for foreign journalists using the footage without context, he responded by using a web blog to explain his decision and its reasoning to the public.  The judges felt the blog and reactions to it added a new dimension to the story.
Congratulations, Jon and Kevin.

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