By Kathy Choutea
Contra Costa College alumnus and former Journalism Department chair and advisor to The Advocate student newspaper, Paul DeBolt, has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California (SPJ NorCal) with the Beverly Kees Educator Award as part of the 37th Annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards.
The awards recognize people and organizations “who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment,” stated the society in an announcement on its website.
DeBolt, who retired in 2020 after a career teaching and advising the college’s student newspaper, was a champion of the First Amendment and dedicated himself to “working long hours in a place that is easily overlooked, for the benefit of people who are easily overlooked,” his onetime student, Marc Carig wrote in The Athletic and per the society. DeBolt’s former student went on to credit him with having “an indelible impact” on his path into journalism.
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier also heralded DeBolt’s contributions to the craft, noting while speaking at the U.S. House of Representatives that he “introduced Contra Costa’s diverse student population to the basics of journalism,” according to The Athletic via the society. He added that DeBolt taught students “the value the quality [and] accurate reporting can have on communities across the country,” noting that he counted among his students his own son, David, who eventually earned a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.
“While studying and teaching, DeBolt was a passionate proponent of journalism, sports, and the First Amendment and embodied the spirit of Contra Costa College and surrounding West County community,” said Contra Costa College in a Facebook post about DeBolt’s honor.
SPJ NorCal presented the awards March 16, which not only marks Madison’s birthday, but also Freedom of Information Day, during National Sunshine Week.