Ian Marquand doesn’t like the dark.
At least that’s what his colleagues say. It’s a place where secrets can hide and truth gets obscured.
Marquand has battled darkness for years and dedicated much of his time to bringing sunshine to the government’s business. His longtime fight for access on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalist’s and the public was acknowledged Sept. 11 as he accepted the Wells Memorial Key, the society’s highest honor.
“When I think of the people who wear the key, I think of them at a level far above my own,” Marquand said. “That I should be considered in the same select group is both humbling and deeply moving. That it should happen with my spouse at my side, with fellow Montanans at my table … made it even more special.”
Marquand, who joined SPJ in 1988, also serves as president of SPJ’s professional chapter in Montana. And for four years he served as chairman of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee.
“It’s recognition of years and years of working with Freedom of Information,” said SPJ President Irwin Gratz. “He’s probably one of our most knowledgeable members on the subject. He knows the subject matter, is passionate about journalism and is not afraid to speak up for what journalists need.”
Marquand is a special projects coordinator with Montana Television Network/KPAX. Besides Marquand’s achievements, Gratz also praised the way he goes about getting things done.
“He’s always polite and courteous,” Gratz said. “I believe people will find he commands tremendous respect not only from those within SPJ but with people he’s worked with outside.”
Julie Grimes, SPJ deputy executive director, said Marquand has shown himself an SPJ stalwart.
“He’s been one of our most loyal and reliable volunteers,” Grimes said. “He’s a nice person. He cares about journalism. He cares about SPJ, and he cares about the people he works with.”
Grimes said the Freedom of Information Committee is one of SPJ’s most active. As part of his duties, Marquand networked with the Sunshine Act committees and monitored press issues throughout the country. He collaborated with SPJ’s legal counsel on First Amendment issues.
“I’ve been involved with the freedom of information effort in Montana for 20 years, and it’s always been something I believed strongly in and felt like I needed to participate in,” Marquand said. “My commitment and my belief have deepened the longer I’ve been involved with this subject.
Marquand was one of three members who reviewed cases for grant applications under SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund. He also wrote “Open Doors,” a 76-page instructional booklet on how to obtain access to government activities.
“Open Doors” was distributed at the SPJ National Convention in New York City, and free copies are available from SPJ headquarters.
At the convention, Marquand led a workshop on how to use the “Open Doors” booklet.
“If anybody deserves (a Wells Key), he deserves it for the Open Doors alone,” said past SPJ President Robert Leger. “That was a labor of love for him. It was his idea, and it was his execution. It’s a valuable resource not only for journalists but anyone interested in freedom and open government.”
Marquand accompanied SPJ representatives each March for a trip to Capitol Hill to lobby for freedom of information issues.
“He made those trips mostly on his own dime,” Leger said. “He was so knowledgeable. He is so eloquent. He expresses himself so well that even if people disagreed, they still understood our position on the issue.”
Leger is quick to praise Marquand’s ability to multi-task.
“As freedom of information chair, he was quick to get out alerts on it right away, all while juggling his job and his family responsibilities,” Leger said.
Last year, Marquand traveled with an SPJ delegation to South Korea for an exchange with the Journalists Association of Korea. Leger said the group visited a Buddhist temple and spoke with a monk at the temple grounds. Through a translator, the group asked the monk about the icons, statues and temple carvings.
One symbol the monk discussed was sunshine. He told the group that in Buddhism, sunshine is important because it cleanses.
“Ian immediately made the connection between the Buddhist concept of sunshine and the Sunshine Act,” Leger said. “He’s one of my heroes in this organization.”
Carrie Sheffield is a communications major at Brigham Young University. The senior covered the SPJ National Convention in New York City for The Working Press.