Established in 1989, the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information award is given to those individuals and groups who demonstrate through expression and action commitment to the idea that a popular and democratic government can never realize the aspirations of the founding fathers without the participation of an informed electorate. An informed electorate cannot exist without access to information.

Each year, the Minnesota Coalition of Government Information (MnCOGI) presents the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to honor a Minnesotan or Minnesota institution whose work demonstrates leadership and commitment to the power of information to effect change. Their activities are diverse and may include: using technology and other means to facilitate access to information; advocating for legislative and other policies that maximize the public’s right to know; educating the public on the importance of freedom of information; assuring that government and other institutions comply with policies that maximize transparency; operating libraries and other institutions in a manner that affords the greatest possible access to information; challenging any form of authority that would thwart the objective of assuring the existence of an informed electorate; and linking the idea of freedom of information to the Bill of Rights and especially to the First Amendment.

About John Finnegan
John R. Finnegan Sr., for whom the award is named, was one of the state’s strongest advocates for public access to government information and the public’s right to know. Finnegan was a retired editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a member of the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame.  He received the 2011 “Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame” award from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Nominations are accepted until the end of Friday, February 7th, 2020.

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Past Finnegan FOI Award Winners


APM Reports “In the Dark” team: Madeleine Baran, Samara Freemark, Natalie Jablonski, Rehman Tungekar, Parker Yesko, and Will Craft.


Brandon Stahl, Jennifer Bjorhus, MaryJo Webster and Renee Jones Schneider; Star Tribune

Ceremony Announcement

Chris Serres, Star Tribune
Paul Hannah, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Ceremony Announcement

Tony Webster
Ceremony Announcement
Ceremony Recording by The Uptake

The Uptake
Burnsville Police Chief Eric Geiske
event recording by The Uptake

Mary Liz Holberg, Minnesota legislator
press release

Marshall Helmberger, editor and publisher of the Timberjay Newspaper
Robert Shaw and Rogers Adams (Minnesota Government Data Practices Act), lifetime achievement award winners
press release

Michele Timmons, Minnesota revisor of statutes
event info
press release

Matt Ehling of Public Record Media; TV producer, documentary filmmaker and writer
event info
Interview with Matt Ehling
Interview with Amy Goodman
press release

Don Shelby, former WCCO-TV Anchor and MinnPost Columnist
Don Betzold, Minnesota State Senator
press release

Reed Anfinson, Publisher, Swift County Monitor
event flyer
Podcast interview with Reed Anfinson about the importance of Freedom of Information (conducted by Renee McGivern)
press release

Richard (Rich) Neumeister, citizen lobbyist and relentless advocate for the public’s interest
press release
Congratulation letter from Governor Tim Pawlenty
Congratulation letter from Attorney General Lori Swanson
press release

Martiga Lonn and Brian Bakst, Associated Press
Dan Browning, Kevin Diaz, Patrick Doyle, Mike Kaszuba, Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe, Star Tribune
event information
press release

Gary Hill, long-time journalist
event information
press release

Colleen Coghlan, Librarian and Professor
press release

Donald A. Gemberling, of the Minnesota Data Practices Act
remarks from Kit Hadley
press release

Marvin Roger Anderson, Director, Minnesota State Law Library
press release

Senator Mark Dayton
photos of presentation and award
press release

Minnesota E-Democracy

Marilyn Cathcart, Director, Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
Bridges – Minnesota’s Gateway to Environmental Information
press release

Mary Treacy, Director, Metronet
press release

MIGIZI Communications
press release

Access Minnesota
Telecommunications Access Grants

The North Star Project, State of Minnesota

Minnesota Legislature Gopher Design Group
press release

The Urban Coalition of Minneapolis
press release

Julia Wallace, Regional Depository Librarian and Head of Government Publications, University of Minnesota
press release

Alan Robinette (posthumously awarded), Director, Land Management Information Center, State of Minnesota
press release

Peter S. Popovich, Chief Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
press release

Sue Holbert, Minnesota State Archivist
press release

Mary Alice Harvey, Director, Grand Marais Public Library