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Home > SPJ News > SPJ delegates pass resolutions on First Amendment, treatment of sources and more

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SPJ delegates pass resolutions on First Amendment, treatment of sources and more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9/20/2002



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CONTACT:
Robert Leger, SPJ President, 417/836-1113 or 417/425-9140 or rleger@spj.org

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Delegates to the Society of Professional Journalists national convention in Fort Worth, Texas, called on news organizations to commit their time and money to remind Americans of the value of the First Amendment.

They also urged reporters and editors to take care in writing about people named as suspects but not charged.

And the Society’s board of directors approved a resolution emphasizing SPJ’s support of diversity in staffing and coverage. The resolution noted recent studies that show up to 92 percent of sources on the top three network shows are white and 85 percent are male.

Yet efforts to diversify coverage in newspapers and local television, even if only partially successful, “has helped the news be more representative of the full American voice.” Such efforts should be redoubled, the SPJ board said.

The resolution regarding the First Amendment noted that a recent Freedom Forum survey found 49 percent of those surveyed said the First Amendment goes too far.

“Such antipathy toward a bedrock American principle has made it easier for the nation’s leaders to violate traditional practices of open government,” said SPJ President Robert Leger, editorial page editor at the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader.

The resolution calls on news organizations to commit “staff time, advertising space and other resources toward a campaign that reminds the American public of the value of the First Amendment, the role of a free press and the principles of open government.”

The resolution regarding ethical treatment of sources noted that authorities have tried to use the news media to serve law enforcement objectives, including naming people as subjects of an investigation with no charges or further explanation.

Delegates urged reporters to remember to balance the need to seek truth and report it with the imperative to minimize harm. Reporters can do this, the resolution said, by being judicious in identifying criminal suspects. Reporters should press authorities for the release of all pertinent information, testing the accuracy of information from all sources. And, when the full story cannot be told, reporters should explain why not.

The full text of the resolutions approved by convention delegates follows:

Resolution No. 1: In support of the First Amendment
WHEREAS the patriotic pressures following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have put new strains on the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and
WHEREAS the news media derive their special role in our democracy from guarantees of the First Amendment, and
WHEREAS a recent national poll funded by the Freedom Forum shows that 49 percent of those surveyed believe the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees and about half believe the American news media has been too aggressive in asking for information about the war on terrorism, and
WHEREAS secret detentions and other forms of government secrecy have violated traditional practices and called into question the administration’s commitment to open government and the First Amendment, and
WHEREAS the public has therefore been deprived of the information it needs to assess and advise on the war prosecuted in its name and conducted by its men and women,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists call upon news organizations to commit staff time, advertising space and other resources toward a campaign that reminds the American public of the value of the First Amendment, the role of a free press and the principles of open government.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists reaffirm its dedication to the language and spirit of the following words and urge that the American people and government actively uphold their meaning:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Submitted by the Northern California Pro Chapter

Resolution No. 2: On the ethical treatment of suspects
WHEREAS in times of heightened concern for national security journalists face increased pressure from critics and government officials for restraints on First Amendment rights, and
WHEREAS an ethical journalist should balance the need for thorough, accurate and independent reporting with a sense of accountability and compassion, and
WHEREAS authorities have tried to use the news media to serve their law-enforcement objectives, and
WHEREAS individuals sometimes have been identified by authorities as the subjects of investigation without further explanation of the reasons for suspicion or specific potential charges,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists encourage reporters and editors to remember their responsibilities under the code of ethics to:
* Resist being used as tools of government investigators and prosecutors
* Report as fully as possible on the tactics used by government to accuse named individuals of serious crimes without legally charging them with those crimes
* Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations
* Be judicious about identifying criminal suspects
* Press authorities for the release of all pertinent information, and test the accuracy of information from all sources
* When the full story cannot be told, explain why not.
Submitted by the Ethics Committee

Resolution No. 4: Thanking President Al Cross
WHEREAS Al Cross has set an example for all journalists through his leadership of the Society of Professional Journalists, and
WHEREAS he has been an active member of the Society since his days as a student at Western Kentucky University, and
WHEREAS he has worked tirelessly as a leader of the Society at both the local and national levels, and
WHEREAS he has long been an advocate and a living example of the ethical practice of journalism, and
WHEREAS he has been a spokesman for responsible journalism and a champion of the role of a free press in a democratic society both as the national Project Watchdog chair and as our Society’s president, and
WHEREAS he has been a leader in rallying other journalism organizations in responding to the threats posed to that watchdog role in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and
WHEREAS he has raised the profile of the Society of Professional Journalists, making numerous appearances on television, on radio and in print as a spokesman for the ideals of the Society of Professional Journalists, and
WHEREAS, he has given selflessly of his time and his talents for the benefit of the Society and its members,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists commend Al Cross for his dedication and sacrifice and express its gratitude for a job well done.
Submitted by the Resolutions Committee


Resolution No. 5: Congratulating Paul Steinle
WHEREAS Paul Steinle has served the Society of Professional Journalists as a member of its Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board of directors for 13 years, and
WHEREAS he was the board’s president for five of those years, and
WHEREAS it was Steinle who led the foundation during a time when it found itself for the first time with substantial resources to contribute to the causes championed by the Society of Professional Journalists, and
WHEREAS it was Steinle who helped to lead the foundation in the formulation of the policies and procedures needed to fulfill that role, and
WHEREAS Steinle with this convention is ending his long tenure on the board,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists congratulate Paul Steinle for his accomplishments and thank him for his leadership during a distinguished tenure.
Submitted by the Resolutions Committee

Resolution No. 6: Thanking Jay Evensen
WHEREAS the Society of Professional is best served by dedicated volunteers from all corners of our industry, and
WHEREAS the National Board of Directors conducts the majority of the business of the Society, and
WHEREAS Jay Evensen of The Deseret News has served three consecutive terms on the National Board of Directors with honor,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society thank Jay Evensen for his distinguished tenure.
Submitted by the Resolutions Committee

Resolution No. 7: Thanking the host chapter
WHEREAS the Fort Worth Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has long been a stronghold of the Society, producing such distinguished leaders as Phil Record, and
WHEREAS the chapter for many years had the distinction of hosting each SPJ president’s first official speech outside the convention, and
WHEREAS the chapter this year has the distinction of also staging that convention, and
WHEREAS a national convention of the nation’s largest journalism organization requires extensive planning, and
WHEREAS Kay Pirtle and members of the Fort Worth Pro Chapter have put in years of effort to make this convention a stellar event, and
WHEREAS the convention has indeed been both stellar and memorable in true Texas style,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that these delegates gathered in Fort Worth express their heartfelt appreciation for a job well done.
Submitted by the Resolutions Committee

Resolution No. 8: Thanking SPJ headquarters staff
WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists’ headquarters staff has devoted months of planning to the staging of this annual convention, and
WHEREAS that effort culminated in packing up and moving virtually the entire headquarters across the country,
WHEREAS many members of the staff are new to their positions and experiencing this convention and its frenzied pace for the first time,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the Society of Professional Journalists express their sincere appreciation to the dedicated members of the SPJ headquarters staff.
Submitted by the Resolutions Committee

The full text of the resolution approved by the SPJ board of directors follows:

WHEREAS newspapers and broadcast stations are making a concerted effort to improve the accuracy and fairness of the news by diversifying their staffs and content and yet those diversity efforts have only been partially effective and much remains to be done; and
WHEREAS media scholars and the news industry have documented that 45 percent of newspapers still have no minorities at all; and
WHEREAS media analysts have documented that sourcing in news stories remains heavily skewed, with the top three network shows relying last year on sources who were 92 percent white and 85 percent male; and
WHEREAS even the partially successful efforts toward bringing a broader perspective into the news over the past decade have uplifted the quality of journalism and helped the news be more representative of America’s full voice and its races, classes, genders, sexual orientations, generations, geographies, and abilities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists and its members pledge to reaffirm our commitment to reflect all of America in the news, and to continue striving for more effective methods to improve diversity in staffing and content.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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