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Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism

Parker Thomson Media Awards sealThe Florida Bar’s Media & Communications Law Committee presents the Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida to honor a longtime champion of the First Amendment and counsel to journalists. Any newspaper, radio station, blog, TV station, wire service or online-only media outlet located in Florida is eligible.

First place award winners will receive $500; second place winners will receive $250. All winning reporters and their media outlets will receive plaques. Recipients may donate cash awards to the First Amendment Foundation.

Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award

The Committee also presents the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award. This award honors a retired or working journalist who has written or reported extensively in an outstanding fashion to educate citizens on the system of law and justice as it affects the people of Florida. Spencer-Wendel was a veteran Palm Beach Post courts reporter who died in 2014 after a well-documented fight with ALS. She received a lifetime achievement award from The Florida Bar’s Media & Communications Law Committee in 2012 and numerous other media awards throughout her career.

The award recipient will receive a cash prize of $500, a plaque and travel reimbursement to attend the awards ceremony. A reporter who chooses not to accept the monetary prize may opt to donate to the First Amendment Foundation.

Email Awards Subcommittee Chair Sam Morley and provide the contestant’s resume along with a concise 500-word statement elucidating their merit for this award.

Parker Thomson Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards, which will cover materials published or produced between Jan. 1, 2023, and Dec. 31, 2023, are open. The submission deadline has been extended  to Friday, May 10, 2024. Final determination of eligibility is reserved for the judges.

All entries are required to submit a one-to-two page narrative summary and a letter of support from the managing editor, producer or supervisor. You  may want to have these on hand before you begin. Email Nellie Louis with questions or for more information.

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Entry Details

An entry is defined as a single piece, a series, or continuous coverage of one particular ongoing issue. For a series or continuous coverage entry, only three stories should be submitted in their entirety; others should be listed in the narrative summary, with the headline, date published and a brief synopsis. Participants are encouraged to submit diverse examples including features, hard news, profiles, trial reports, etc., that demonstrate the organization’s overall effort to report on Florida’s legal and judicial system.

Each news media organization, inclusive of all bureaus or regional sections, that submits an entry is considered an entrant. Each entrant may submit up to three entries.

Judging criteria are not based on the greatest amount of resources used, but whether those resources available are used well and to the fullest extent in the tradition of outstanding journalism.

Print Category

  • Any non-opinion-based news material in a newspaper with a printed component, whether presented in print or online.
  • Any opinion-based material in a newspaper with a printed component, including blogs, editorials and columns, whether presented in print or online.

Television Category

  • Any broadcast story or series that investigates a single issue.
  • Any broadcast story or series that continuously follows a single subject/trial.

Radio Category

  • Any broadcast story or series that investigates a single issue.
  • Any broadcast story or series that continuously follows a single subject/trial.

Online-Only Category

  • Any story or series in an online-only publication: commentary, editorial cartoon or photo focusing on a single issue.
  • Any story or series in an online-only publication that continuously covers a single subject/trial.

Parker ThomsonWhen he passed away in 2017, Parker Thomson left a legacy of legal excellence, civic duty and pro bono service. The Florida Bar Board of Governors and the Media & Communications Law Committee named The Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida as a fitting tribute to his countless contributions to media law.

An attorney since 1961, Thomson was a lawyer’s lawyer. The Harvard-trained lawyer was a founding partner of Paul & Thomson. He also was a partner at Hogan Lovells, and a mentor to several members of the Media & Communications Law Committee.

From 1968 to 1983, Thomson represented many major clients including the Miami Herald, the New York Times, AT&T and Bank of America in First Amendment cases. His expertise included helping newspapers obtain public records. Thomson argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miami Herald Publishing Company vs. Tornillo in 1974. He represented the Herald and won, overturning a state law that required newspapers to allocate equal space to political candidates on the editorial pages.