National Newspaper Association First Amendment Award Goes to North Carolina Publisher Tom Boney


National Newspaper Association will recognize the publisher of the Alamance News, Graham, NC, with its First Amendment Award on March 18, during Sunshine Week.  The award will be presented during NNA’s virtual Community Newspaper Summit. Sunshine Week is a nationwide celebration of free press freedoms and transparency originated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, now the News Leaders Association.

Boney made national headlines when he was arrested and handcuffed in Graham while attempting to cover a hearing on charges against protestors stemming from a March to the Polls event on October 31.  His arrest followed charges against News reporter Tomas Murawski, who was arrested while covering the rally, which was aimed at highlighting voting inequities in the area.  Boney also took on the local district court for holding hearings in high profile cases without journalists in attendance. He took an appeal to North Carolina Court of Appeals to force public hearings.  The appeal was dismissed in January after the district court agreed to make accommodations for journalists to cover proceedings. But charges against Murawski are still pending. 

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, publisher of Wesner Publications, Cordell, OK, said NNA applauded Boney’s determination to stand up for the First Amendment. “The impulse of governments to conduct themselves behind closed doors and limit journalists from access to events is ever present, particularly when the news is hot.  It takes grit and determination to force transparency and accountability when you live in the community where these events occur.  But it is what we do.  The case for the value of the local newspaper is never clearer than when a courageous champion of the First Amendment like Tom Boney puts his newspaper on the line for his readers,” Wesner said. “NNA appreciates his leadership on behalf of all of us who put the First Amendment into practice in our towns.”

NNA presents its First Amendment award periodically in recognition of valiant actions by community newspaper journalists.  During the virtual presentation, Boney will tell the story of the defense of his reporter and of his own knowledge of the inside of a local jail cell during the March 18 presentation.

Registration for the Summit is available here: 2021 NNA Summit - Formstack