Dallas, Corpus Christi newspapers win Spirit of FOI Award

HOUSTON _ Two Texas newspapers have been honored with the prestigious Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award for their in-depth reporting that promoted freedom of information and open government.

Presented by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the Texas Press Association, the annual award was given Saturday to The Dallas Morning News in Class AAA and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Class AA.

The Dallas Morning News won recognition for its work by reporters Reese Dunklin and Sue Goetinck Ambrose uncovering the lavish spending of Dr. Kern Wildenthal, who served as president of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Through a lengthy investigation using records obtained under the Texas Public Information Act, the News detailed Wildenthal’s questionable spending on such items as overseas trips, opera and wine. He ultimately resigned his university positions and was asked to repay some of the expenses.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times received the Class AA award for its numerous reports by Rick Spruill on the complex issue of windstorm insurance. By attending public meetings and obtaining records using the Texas Public Information Act, Spruill educated coastal homeowners about the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, an agency often shrouded in secrecy. Spruill detailed his findings in more than 80 stories in 2012. Documents he uncovered led to reporting on the state insurance commissioner’s travel expenses and the intricacies of identifying and spreading risk in insurance pools.

The Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award is named for the FOI Foundation’s former executive director, a longtime advocate for open government and the First Amendment. The award was presented to the two newspapers at the Texas Press Association’s summer leadership meeting in Houston.