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HCN WINS POLK FOR exposing secretive campaign

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February 20, 2007




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Ray Ring, Northern Rockies editor for High Country News, has won one of the most coveted journalism awards in the business — the George Polk Award. Today, the Long Island University announced that Ring is being honored for his political reporting in the July 24, 2006 High Country News cover story entitled, Taking Liberties.


The story raised the early alarm about a secretive libertarian campaign that aimed to torpedo land-use and community planning in six Western states. Ring’s exposé of deceptive campaigning ultimately lead to defeat of referenda by voters in three states and by courts in two states. Only Arizona approved the full measure.


Ring examined signature-gathering efforts for state-level libertarian ballot measures pursued across the West in the November elections. Paid political salesmen touted the measures to petition-signers and voters as a way to prevent governments from “taking” people’s land against their will. But Ring showed that that the measures went far beyond eminent-domain reform, including language that would force governments to pay owners any time a regulation reduced the value of property — a sure way to bankrupt governments or force abandonment of all land-use regulation. Ring also unmasked the primary instigator and funder of the ballot measures — who was not a Westerner, but the reclusive New York City-based real-estate mogul, Howie Rich.


“Taking Liberties” had huge national impacts, spurring major newspapers, Web sites and radio stations to do their own stories on the libertarian initiatives.


“I don’t think it’s even a contest: Ray Ring is the most knowledgeable, well-sourced and hard-working political reporter in the West,” High Country News Editor John Mecklin said. “I’m glad to see him get the national notice he deserves.”


Ring and “Taking Liberties” also won the American Planning Association Journalism Award in the small newspapers category. The contest judges said “Taking Liberties” provided “exceptional political analysis” of an organized campaign aimed at “shrinking government to the point where you could drag it to the bathtub and drown it.”


Ring’s recent honors add to the list of major journalism awards won recently by High Country News writers including the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism and Science Journalism Award (small newspaper category) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Utne’s Independent Press Award.


More about the George Polk Award:

One of the most prestigious prizes in American journalism, the Polk Award was established at Long Island University in 1949 to honor a CBS correspondent slain while covering a civil war in Greece. The list of Polk Award winners includes some of the most renowned names in American journalism, from Seymour Hersh to Jimmy Breslin to Ted Koppel to Edward R. Murrow. The contest also has a history of honoring less-well-known print and broadcast outlets (including, for its 1986 environmental reporting, High Country News).


A full list of 2006 Polk award winners is available on the Web at


More about High Country News

High Country News is a nonprofit news magazine that reports on the West's natural resources, public lands, and changing communities. Covering 11 western states, from the Great Plains to the Northwest, and from the Northern Rockies to the desert Southwest, High Country News is a respected source for environmental news, analysis and commentary on water, logging, wildlife, grazing, wilderness, growth and other issues changing the face of the West.


The 37-year-old news magazine has been interpreting the West since its founding in Wyoming by rancher and environmentalist Tom Bell. Now published from Paonia, Colorado, High Country News is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.


Thirteen years of HCN’s journalism can by found on its Web site,


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