John R. Finnegan FOI and John Borger Lifetime Achivement Awards

Each year MNCOGI celebrates Freedom of Information Day by presenting the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information award and the John Borger Lifetime Achievement award in the spirit of Mr. Finnegan’s and Mr. Borger’s demonstrated leadership and commitment to the freedom of information and its power to effect change. The Finnegan Award may be given to individuals or organizations; the Borger Award may be given to individuals. MNCOGI may give either a John R. Finnegan FOI award, a John Borger Lifetime Achievement Award, or both for any given award year. 

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.

MNCOGI’s John Borger Lifetime Achievement Award is named for the First Amendment attorney whose significant body of accomplishments helped to advance and preserve the public’s right to government transparency. It is given as needed. Borger, a long-time MNCOGI board member, worked for decades to protect Minnesota’s sunshine laws. In landmark public access cases and dozens of open-records and open-meeting battles, Borger fought to assure that public officials lived up to the demands of data practices law.

Who should receive this year’s Finnegan FOI Award? Feel free to nominate an individual or organization whose actions this past year have demonstrated leadership and commitment to freedom and the power of information to effect change. Who should receive this year’s John Borger Lifetime Achievement Award? Feel free to nominate an individual whose actions have demonstrated sustained leadership, defense, or advancement of freedom of information over many years. In both cases, actions 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.

Past FOI Award Winners


  • Elder Voice Advocates: John R. Finnegan FOI Award
  • Helen Burke: Borger Lifetime Achievement Award

Award Announcement


  • Brandon Stahl, A. J. Lagoe, Gary Knox & Steve Eckert of KARE 11: John R. Finnegan FOI Award
  • Leita Walker: John R. Finnegan FOI Award
  • James Barnum: John Borger Lifetime Achievement Award

Award Announcement


  • Mapping Prejudice and Hennepin County
  • Barry LaGrave, Director of Minnesota House Public Information Services, and Steve Senyk, Director of Minnesota Senate Media Services

Ceremony Recording


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

Ceremony Announcement


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 Gieseke
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