Better Newspaper Contest Celebration: First Freedom Award goes to three Indy Star reporters


2018 HSPA Better Newspaper Contest Winners PowerPoint PDF

2018 HSPA Better Newspaper Contest Winners List

Three Indianapolis Star journalists, who reported USA Gymnastics’ failure to deal with abuse of athletes, received the First Freedom Award from the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Saturday, Sept. 15.

The journalistic work of Mark Alesia, Tim Evans and Marisa Kwiatkowski resulted in a criminal conviction against U.S. Olympics Dr. Larry Nassar for 10 counts of sexual assault and leadership changes at both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, thus far.

This is the highest honor bestowed by the state’s newspaper industry. It’s the first time reporters have been honored since the First Freedom Award was created in 1978, when Father Theodore Hesburgh of the University of Notre Dame was the first recipient. The last time the award was given was 2007. Former Indiana Senate President pro tempore Robert Garton was that recipient for his efforts to legislatively pass the state’s Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act.

The award to the trio of reporters is only the 14thtime the First Freedom Award has been presented in 40 years.

During the Better Newspaper Contest Awards Luncheon, the top daily and non-daily newspapers were announced.

The South Bend Tribune was honored with the Blue Ribbon Award as the best Indiana daily newspaper. The Herald-Tribune (Batesville) earned the Blue Ribbon Award as the best non-daily Hoosier newspaper.

The staff of the Brown County Democrat (Nashville) won the Best Story Award. Lauren Cross from The Times (Muster) received the Best Photo Award.

Other special award winners were Anderson City Council member Ty Bibbs, who received the clear glass Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award symbolizing government transparency. First awarded in 2005, the O’Bannon Sunshine Award honors an individual, group or organization demonstrating outstanding effort to protect and enhance open government in Indiana.  It is named for former Gov. O’Bannon who was a longtime advocate for government transparency.

Ken de la Bastide of The Herald Bulletin (Anderson) received the Charlie Biggs Community Service Award. It is named after the former publisher of The Hope Star-Journal, who devoted his life to his community.

Winners of the Better Newspaper Contest of the HSPA Foundation are posted above.

Founded in 1933, the Hoosier State Press Association represents nearly all daily and weekly paid circulation newspapers in the state.

For questions concerning the HSPA Foundation event, contact Steve Key at