The Lovejoy Award, given annually to an American journalist for displaying courage in pursuit of the truth, is named for Elijah Lovejoy, an 1826 graduate of Colby killed defending his abolitionist newspaper against a pro-slavery mob in 1837.
Steve Mills and Maurice Possley are investigative journalists whose reporting for the Chicago Tribune led to pardons for wrongly accused death row inmates and to a blanket commutation of death sentences in Illinois. The pair will receive the 51st Lovejoy Award for journalism at Colby College's Lovejoy Convention. The Lovejoy Award, established in 1952, is presented annually to honor courageous contributions to the nation's journalistic achievement and to remember Lovejoy, a Colby graduate who was America's frist martyr to freedom of the press.
Possley has been a reporter for 31 years, the last twenty of them at the Tribune. His focus has been the criminal justice system, and he has written about prosecutorial misconduct, false and coerced confessions, the death penalty and wrongful convictions. Mills has worked at the Tribune since 1994, and for the past five years he has focused on the death penalty, miscarriages of justice and other problems in the criminal justice system. Together they have worked on investigative series including "Executions in America" and "Cops and Confessionals."
In a speech at Northwestern University, former Illinois Governor George Ryan credited Possley, Mills and other members of the Tribune's investigative team with influencing his decisions to halt executions and to pardon inmates who were wrongfully convicted. Ryan told the reporters, "One of the highest calliings in journalism is to save the life of an innocent person… You are commened."
Matthew Storin, chair of Colby's Lovejoy Selection Committee, said, "Steve and Maruice took up a cause that I believe was not popular in the Tribune circulation area and through their courageous reporting they turned around not only public officials but a good portion of public opinion as well. I think their work was not only exemplary journalism, but it was an excellent match to the ideals of the Lovejoy Award."