39th Annual Awards now accepting nominations of 2023 achievements! 

DEADLINE: Friday, February 2, 2024, at 11:59 p.m., Pacific time. 

We are accepting nominations for the James Madison Awards, recognizing the people and organizations of Northern California who have advanced freedom of information and expression through journalism, activism and the courts in 2023. Our chapter has hosted these multidisciplinary awards for nearly 40 years because we recognize that protecting the First Amendment and open government takes an ecosystem that extends beyond the press – to officials, whistleblowers, citizens, nonprofits, educators and more, all working on different parts of the same goal. Of course, we honor journalists as well. 

There is no contest entry fee. Enter here.

The awards are named after James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment.  SPJ NorCal presents the awards during National Freedom of Information Week near Madison’s birthday, March 16. We’ll announce details as the date nears.  

We welcome nominations for individuals who, during 2023, have defended public access to government meetings, public records, court proceedings, or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know, publish, and speak freely about issues of public concern. 

You can nominate others or yourself or your own organization. Our committee members regularly submit nominations as well and sit out voting in any categories in which they have a conflict of interest.  

Our awards include: 

Professional Journalist(s) – with categories in Print/Digital, TV/Video, Radio/Audio, Data Visualization, and Podcast Journalism

Nominees are separated into larger and smaller outlets. Community outlets and small newsrooms are encouraged to apply.

Student Journalist(s) 

Nonprofit Organization 


Career Achievement 


Public Official 



Legal Counsel 


Electronic Access 

Write-In (for entries that don’t fit our other categories)

More details about award categories:  

Professional Journalist and Student Journalist awards recognize journalists who have fought for access to records, meetings or court proceedings;

and/or, have made exceptional use of public records in their reporting;

and/or, who have promoted education on open government and information freedom issues through stories, editorials or other advocacy. 

We are open to all scopes of work: from a single piece of journalism, to a series, to a collaborative effort by an entire newsroom or even a team of newsrooms. 

Note: The JMA journalism awards have a strong emphasis on accessing records, meetings, and the courts. Our awards do not focus on investigative work based primarily on human sources. That work should be nominated in the source/whistleblower category, honoring the source(s)/whistleblower(s). 

Radio / Audio division: Honors an individual or team for a single broadcast story or work in a series of programs. 

Podcast Journalism: Honors an individual or team for a serial program whose distribution is primarily digital, but may have also aired as radio broadcasts. Submit up to four episodes for judging.

The Nonprofit Organization category is for nonprofits that have advanced public records access or freedom of information in the past year. Nonprofit news organizations should apply in the journalism categories.

The Public Official award is given to a government official who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to keeping public records or meetings public, or otherwise has taken exemplary leadership on transparency or First Amendment issues. 

The Beverly Kees Educator Award recognizes remarkable efforts by educators to cultivate a devotion to the values of freedom of information and/or expression. It is named for the journalist, SF State professor, transparency activist and former SPJ NorCal president who died in 2004. 

The Norwin S. Yoffie Career Achievement Award is named in honor of a founder and stalwart supporter of the chapter’s Freedom of Information Committee, who died in 2000 after many years of distinguished service to SPJ and dedication to sunshine. 

The Citizen award recognizes individuals (of any immigration status) who are actively engaged with their communities to advance the cause of transparency and open government.  For example, a tireless open meetings advocate or a public records requester who goes on to serve as a plaintiff in an open records lawsuit may be nominated in this category. For individuals who are being nominated primarily for serving as a source for a story, please use the source/whistleblower category.

Some Source(s)/Whistleblower(s) want to remain anonymous. In such cases, we may honor them anonymously alongside the journalist they worked with, where merited, in our award language.

Qualifying regionFor the purposes of this contest, our California region extends from Santa Barbara County to the Oregon border. The nominees should be based in this area, though may have played a role in a more geographically dispersed effort.

Please submit your nomination in this Google Form

See our last year’s winners here; and our 2022 winners here

Send questions to Freedom of Information Committee Chairs Joe Fitzgerald-Rodriguez and Shaila Nathu at