State Open Government Hall of Fame

“Heroes of the 50 States”

Next Nomination deadline: July 15, 2016

There are heroes among us. They are heroes who may or may not be well known within their respective states and communities, but whose labors have gone largely unrecognized elsewhere. They are heroes whose efforts have kept state and local government records and meetings open and accessible to their fellow citizens.

Well known for his public advocacy and a frequent panelist and speaker throughout New Jersey, John Paff this year becomes the 15th inductee into the State Open Government Freedom of Information Hall of Fame. 

 2015 Inductee
Pete Weitzel, Florida

Previous inductees

2014   John Paff - New Jersey
2013   Brian Sonntag —  Washington
2012   Toby Nixon  —  Washington
2011   John R. Finnegan Sr.  —  Minnesota
2010   Robert J. Freeman  —  New York
2009   Mitchell W. Pearlman  —  Connecticut
2008   Bill F. Chamberlin  —  Florida
2007   Frosty Landon  —  Virginia
2006   Byron M. Baer  —  New Jersey
2005   John Kuglin  —  Montana 
2004   Herb Strentz  —  Iowa
2003   Michael Donoghue  —  Vermont
2003   Sue Hale  —  Oklahoma
2003   Robert Johnson  —  New Mexico

Pete Weitzel began reporting in Miami in 1959 and remained at the Miami Herald as a reporter and editor for nearly 40 years. While president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in 1984, Pete, established the Florida First Amendment Foundation to serve as a government transparency watchdog and served as its president until 1995.  Following his retirement from the Herald, Pete taught at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. While working with the American Society of News Editors, he helped launch the first Sunshine Week.  Pete also helped launch the NFOIC and served as its second president.  Read more about Pete Weitzel...

Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states.


Specifically, induction into the Hall recognizes “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.”

Formal induction occurs at the annual  FOI Summit.


The State Open Government Hall of Fame is open to anyone who has made a substantial, sustained and lasting contribution to open government or freedom of information within one particular state. Even if the nominee has been active in national efforts or national organizations, the judges will only consider accomplishments at the state level.

Nominees may come from government, the media, the non-profit sector, the legal profession, or any other area of endeavor that involves citizen access to government records, meetings and procedures.

Nominees may be living or deceased; active or retired.



Deadline for nominations is July 15, 2016

All nominations should include the following:

  • Cover letter identifying the nominee and the person or group making the nomination.
  • Adequate support material to demonstrate the worthiness of the nominee.

Please send all nominations material to:

  • "Heroes of the 50 States"
  • c/o NFOIC
  • Missouri School of Journalism
  • 101E Reynolds Journalism Institute
  • Columbia, MO 65211
  • Phone (573) 882-4856;



Judging takes place each year following Sunshine Week. All nominations are evaluated by a Screening/Selector Committee that includes a representative of SPJ, a representative of NFOIC and at least one additional at-large Selector. To ensure the integrity of the process, Screeners/Selectors only become known to each other in the latter stages of judging in any given year.