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SPJ honors Joel Connelly with Lifetime Achievement Award

“Local institution Joel Connelly is a walking encyclopedia of all things political and environmental in the Pacific Northwest,” — Nomination letter for the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement

“Every day, it seems Joel Connelly views journalism as a tool for change and as a way to hold powerful accountable. Those uses of journalism seem idealistic; they are often the catch phrases used by young journalists, college professors or someone writing a mission statement. But after four decades of reporting, writing and examining, Joel still uses his carefully chosen words to check those in power and to give documented reason for change.” — Nomination letter for the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement

Letters like these show why the SPJ Western Washington Pro Chapter chose columnist Joel Connelly to be the most recent recipient of the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joel ConnellyConnelly will join other recipients of the chapter’s 2012 SPJ Gala Awards at the May 18 gala along with the winners of the Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

In one of the nominations supporting Connelly for the award, the writer shared this anecdote:

“When parts of the San Juan Islands were dedicated as a National Monument, Sen. Patty Murray credited Joel’s columns by name. When President Obama came here for pricey private fundraisers, Joel reminded the tens of thousands who read his column that the president had failed to take action on the monument for years. Joel’s work was not unnoticed by the White House, who reacted by preventing or limiting press access to Obama at multiple Seattle events.”

Connelly, who has worked at the PI for about 35 years, recalled this story when asked about winning this award.

“I am doubly honored, to be recognized by my colleagues and competitors, for my work, and to have the White House so irritated at that work that they wanted to give the breaking news about the San Juan Islands National Monument to somebody else,” said Connelly, reached on deadline at his office Thursday.

In the late 1960s, the SPJ Western Washington Chapter established the “Courage in Journalism” and “Service to Journalism” awards to honor organizations and individuals for special contributions toward the betterment of journalism within Washington state. They were later combined into one under the moniker of the “Distinguished Service to Journalism Award.” The board renamed the award the “June Anderson Almquist Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism,” following the trailblazing Seattle Times journalist’s death in 2000.

Learn more about the award categories in this post.

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