Marianne Salcetti

Meghan Foley / Sentinel Staff

Marianne Salcetti, assistant professor of journalism at Keene State, was presented the 2018 Journalism Educator of the Year award by Youth Journalism International in a ceremony on campus Friday. From left are journalism student Meridith King, Salcetti, journalism student Katherine Glosser, journalism student Savannah Hobbs and Jackie Majerus, executive director of Youth Journalism International.

A Keene State professor’s right-to-know dispute with the city, coupled with her long career, has earned her recognition by a New England-based nonprofit journalism organization.

Marianne Salcetti, assistant professor of journalism, was named 2018’s Journalism Educator of the Year by Youth Journalism International at an award ceremony on campus Friday.

The Maine-based organization provides free education to people worldwide, according to its website. Under its mission, it “connects student writers, artists and photographers with peers around the globe, teaches journalism, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and promotes and defends a free youth press.”

Salcetti, who has worked at Keene State since 2003, brought the pending lawsuit against the city of Keene on behalf of five students who were in her public-affairs reporting class during the fall semester.

As part of the class, students requested public records from the city under New Hampshire’s right-to-know law. The five students whose experiences prompted the lawsuit requested records on topics ranging from restaurant inspections to police use of force. In each of those cases, the city declined to produce some or all of the requested documents.

City Attorney Thomas P. Mullins has argued that the city’s response to each request was justified under exemptions in the right-to-know law. Salcetti, acting as a non-attorney representative for the students, alleges the city misused those exemptions to avoid disclosing information that should be publicly accessible.

“It’s classic Marianne that she’s teaching her students by leading the way and shepherding them through this,” said Jackie Majerus, executive director of Youth Journalism International, who was a student of Salcetti’s decades ago at the University of Iowa. “... Our country, our society will suffer if government officials are allowed to just shut the door and not hand over public documents, public information.”

As for the reason Salcetti was singled out for the journalism-educator award, Majerus said the right-to-know case is “on top of an entire lifetime of being an outstanding reporter, editor and teacher.”

Among the accomplishments of her teaching career was an investigative project she launched at Keene State, in which students examined whether Pamela Smart had received a fair trial. Smart is serving a life sentence behind bars after being convicted for her role in the 1990 murder of her husband.

The students’ findings, which were inconclusive, were published in the campus newspaper, The Equinox, in 2006, and the project was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists with the Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Award in In-Depth Reporting, Region 1, according to a profile The Sentinel published about Salcetti in 2012. The project was chosen for the award from more than 3,300 entries from colleges and universities in New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, contributing writer Joan Geary wrote.

In an emailed statement, Chad Nye, an associate professor of journalism at Keene State, touted Friday’s recognition.

The “faculty of the Journalism, Multimedia, Public Relations department are proud that our colleague, Dr. Marianne Salcetti, is receiving this award,” Nye, the department’s chairman, said. “It recognizes her commitment to teaching her students the value of reporting information in a free society and the value of upholding the public’s right to know.”