Deseret News reporter Jan Thompson is the recipient of the 1992 Cliff Cheney Memorial Award for the "Doing Utah Justice" newspaper series that examined problems and proposed reforms in the state court system.
She and local NAACP president Alberta Henry will be honored with awards during the American Civil Liberties Union's annual dinner on Saturday, April 4, at the Little America Hotel. Henry will be lauded for her progressive work in civil and human rights.Bertice Berry, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Kent State University, will be the guest speaker.
A former minority counselor in the Salt Lake City School District, Henry has served as local president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for several years and established the Alberta Henry Education Foundation, which has provided scholarship funds for minority students. Active in civic and social affairs, Henry has received numerous awards for her civil rights work, including the state's first Black Beehive award from Gov. Norm Bangerter. She was inducted into the Salt Lake Council of Women's Hall of Fame in 1983.
Thompson's "educational, critical and investigative" look at a court system in transition began in January 1990, when she took a 21-month leave of absence from the Deseret News to coordinate the "Doing Utah Justice" project. The project was funded by a federal grant from the State Justice Institute in Virginia.
Through a series of polls, Utah leaders participating on the Commission of Justice in the 21st Century asked the public: "How can
justice be more accessible and equitable? What changes are needed to meet the challenges of the next century?"
Publicized polls and town meetings exposed strengths and weaknesses of the justice system, frequently creating controversy. A few examples of headlines include: "Is Utah Rich in Lawyers but Poor in Justice?"; "Tilting the Scales: Victims' Rights Out of Balance" and "Women Rarely Win Judgeships in Utah."
In addition to the newspaper stories, Thompson co-produced radio and television shows based on the commission's findings, working closely with Maggie St. Claire and Brenda Beienburg at KSL-TV and Tina Moulton at KSL-Radio.
The unprecedented multimedia project received a gold and a silver medal from the Utah Broadcasters Association in October.
Utah Court Administrator Bill Vickrey and policy director Cheryll May coordinated the work of the Commission of Justice in the 21st Century. Roy Simmons served as chairman and attorney Jim Lee as vice chair of the commission.
The award honors the memory of the late Cliff Cheney, a prominent Utah journalist known for his journalistic ideals.