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Home > About SPJ > Documentation > Resolutions

Documentation
Resolutions

Submitted to the National Convention of the Society of Professional Journalists in Las Vegas, Nev., for passage on October 5, 2010


Resolution No. 1 | Submitted by SPJ Resolutions Committee

Thanks to President Kevin Smith

Whereas, Kevin Smith reflected throughout his tenure as president of the Society of Professional Journalists the tenets established by the founders of SPJ 101 years ago: truth, talent and energy, and

Whereas, Smith has stoutly defended the value of journalism in the face of increasing challenges to it and defended the press freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and

Whereas, Smith worked to assure the SPJ remained the pre-eminent national journalism organization and worked to expand its reach and influence internationally, and

Whereas, Smith — a jack of all trades and a master of many — helped strongly position the SPJ to successfully move forward during challenging economic times and in the face of constant change in the world of professional communications, and never allowed the shining light of SPJ to dim in order to find a fair way to meet the needs of its members, and

Whereas, Smith gave selflessly of his time and talents for the benefit of the SPJ and its members, and

Whereas, Smith — despite the common signature of his name — was uncommonly successful as president and now is part of the “Trilogy of SPJ Presidents Named ‘Smith,’” joining Willard R. Smith (1943-45) and Mason Rossiter Smith (1955-1956), and

Whereas, Smith should strongly consider marrying someone named “Wesson” because people who knew him would get a bang out of it,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism commends President Kevin Smith for his dedication, hard work and sacrifice, and expresses its gratitude for a job well done.


Resolution No. 2 | Submitted by the SPJ Resolutions Committee

Thanks to SPJ headquarters staff

Whereas, the Society of Professional Journalists' headquarters staff has devoted countless hours to planning and staging this annual convention and conference, and

Whereas, managing a convention such as this involves long hours, little sleep and few rewards, and

Whereas, this year’s preparations reflect the difficult but deftly handled tasks performed seamlessly following the death of SPJ’s dearly missed Executive Director Terry Harper, and

Whereas, staff members produced a convention program that attracted a larger number of attendees during a challenging economic climate for the news media and journalists, and

Whereas, staff carried out its duties with great skill, good cheer and selfless dedication, and

Whereas, staff has looked “Mah-va-lous” (insert the voice of Ricardo Montalban) in its headquarters-issued team ensembles

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism expresses its sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the work of the SPJ headquarters staff.


Resolution No. 3 | Submitted by the SPJ Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter

Thanks to David Cuillier, penultimate ‘Toolbox’ toter

Whereas David Cuillier has faithfully and diligently served as chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ national Freedom of Information Committee, and

Whereas Cuillier has served as an SPJ newsroom trainer in Freedom of Information since 2005 and is a frequent writer of FOI Toolbox columns in Quill, and

Whereas Cuillier, a former journalist, gathered public records as a government reporter and city editor for a dozen years at daily newspapers in the Pacific Northwest, and

Whereas Cuillier is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, teaching public affairs reporting and access to information, as well as conducting his research in FOI, and

Whereas Cuillier has earned national honors for his access teaching exercises and research in FOI, including the 2007 Nafziger-White Dissertation Award by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication for the top dissertation in the field, and

Whereas Cuillier recently completed a national FOI training tour called “Access Across America” from April 27 through June 11, 2010, sponsored by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, and

Whereas Cuillier, with this national tour, provided training for chapters, newsrooms and open government coalitions through 55 programs in 33 states, covering 14,135 miles and serving 1,009 people, and

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ commends David Cuillier for his hard work and sacrifice, and expresses its gratitude for all he has done on behalf of the organization, as well as for his commitment to the cause of FOI and his dedication to educating all about the importance of access.


Resolution No. 4 | Submitted by campus representatives on the SPJ Board

Support for free speech and free press rights for college journalists and their advisers

Whereas, a free and vibrant press is critical to providing members of the American public with information they need to make important decisions in their lives, and

Whereas, press freedom in America is guaranteed through the free speech and free press provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and

Whereas the press in America includes all students who work as journalists at colleges and universities throughout the country, and

Whereas institutions of higher education have a vital role in promoting civil discourse and should encourage rather than stifle the free flow of information and ideas, and

Whereas institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to cultivate critical thought, robust public debate and an informed citizenry, and

Whereas, student journalists continue to face threats of censorship from administrators, government officials and others, and

Whereas, some advisers to student news media organizations at colleges and universities have been threatened, fired, suspended or otherwise punished for supporting the First Amendment rights of their students, and

Whereas the Academy should encourage diversity of thought rather than deter it,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism urges administrators at institutions of higher education, public and private alike: to refrain from censoring student journalists; to actively defend the First Amendment rights of students journalists; and to support advisers who fight for student journalists’ freedoms.


Resolution No. 5 | Submitted by SPJ FOI Committee

The need for FERPA reform

Whereas, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, called “FERPA,” was intended to protect students from embarrassment by having financial aid information or academic records released to the public, and

Whereas, educational institutions from schools to universities have expanded the purview of FERPA beyond reason to make other types of records secret, including athletic budgets, parking tickets and school lunch menus, and

Whereas, the U.S. Department of Education interprets the law beyond its intent, thus allowing school officials to hide entire records, even with names redacted, if they suspect a journalist might identify someone named in the records, and

Whereas, a Columbus Dispatch 2009 investigation exposed the widespread confusion in applying FERPA and use of FERPA to hide records involving school finance, travel and malfeasance, and

Whereas, former Sen. James L. Buckley, who crafted FERPA, stated in the Columbus Dispatch series that “That’s not what we intended. The law needs to be revamped. Institutions are putting their own meaning into the law,” and

Whereas, campus record audits from throughout the country, including a 2008 audit in Georgia, demonstrated that educational institutions illegally keep records secret, often claiming FERPA as justification, and

Whereas, the public needs access to school records that shed light on government operations, such as budgets, school safety and performance,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism urges Congress to clarify FERPA to exempt from disclosure only information that would explicitly link financial aid information, poor grades, non-criminal disciplinary records or other deficient academic performance with specific identifiable students, and

Be it further resolved that SPJ urges Congress to shift responsibility of the records portion of FERPA interpretation and implementation from the Department of Education to an agency more knowledgeable about records policies, such as the National Archives and Records Administration.


Resolution No. 6 | Submitted by the Los Angeles SPJ Pro Chapter

Opposing checkbook journalism

Whereas, the Society of Professional Journalists is troubled by how widespread the practice of paying news sources has become and by the extravagant amounts of money changing hands in the process; and

Whereas, in recent years, major television networks have increasingly opened their checkbooks to pay in various ways for stories. For example:

— ABC paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for “exclusive rights to an extensive library of photos and home videos,” ABC stated. Casey Anthony now faces charges for murdering her daughter.

— NBC furnished a chartered jet for David Goldman of New Jersey and his son to fly home from Brazil after a custody battle. Then NBC got an exclusive interview with Goldman and video footage during that private jet ride.

— CNN paid $10,000 for the rights to an image taken by Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch citizen who overpowered an alleged Christmas Day bomber on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, and CNN subsequently obtained an exclusive interview with Schuringa, and

Whereas, news organizations that pay sources inject themselves into those stories and acquire an “ownership” interest, and

Whereas, that leads the public to legitimately question a news organization's independence and credibility, and sows doubt about fairness and accuracy; and

Whereas, the SPJ Code of Ethics advocates that journalists should “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news,”

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism urges news organizations to stop this unethical and professionally corrosive practice.


Resolution No. 7 | Submitted by the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee and the Fort Worth Pro Chapter

Support for a Federal Shield Law

Whereas, the free flow of information and the protection of democracy often depend on whistleblowers — people willing to expose wrongdoing and incompetence, sometimes at the risk of their own safety or financial security, and

Whereas, the First Amendment’s promise of an independent news media cannot be fulfilled unless journalists are able to protect the confidentiality of sources, without whose information democracy and justice would wither, and

Whereas, there are well-documented and numerous examples of prosecutors and civil litigators trying to force American journalists to reveal confidential sources, which can chill the willingness of whistleblowers and others to step forward with information of vital public interest, and

Whereas, journalists can become reluctant to tackle sensitive stories when they see colleagues jailed or fined for failing to disclose sources, which deprives the public of information necessary to protect public health and an open, democratic society, and

Whereas, a federal shield law would deprive prosecutors and civil litigators the ability to pressure journalists to expose the identity of whistleblowers, and

Whereas, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Free Flow of Information Act,” a federal shield law for journalists by an overwhelming margin in March 2009, and

Whereas, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of the act in December 2009, and

Whereas, that bill has yet to come to the Senate floor for debate and a vote,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ urges the Senate to vote on and approve the “Free Flow of Information Act” before adjourning the 111th Congress, and

Be it further resolved that the House should provide final passage of the act, and that President Barack Obama should sign it into law.


Resolution No. 8 | Submitted by the SPJ FOI Committee

Demanding an end to censorship caused by ‘Mandated Clearance’

Whereas, it has become increasing common for public agencies at all levels of government to prohibit their employees from communicating with journalists unless agency public relations officials are notified and/or those officials grant clearance or permission for employees to speak, and

Whereas, surveillance of government employees who communicate to journalists inevitably chills and limits what many employees are willing to tell journalists, even when critical information that should be public is at stake, and

Whereas, these prohibitions are a form of government censorship through: restriction of the availability of interviews; requiring government monitoring of interviews; limiting what may be asked or said during interviews; imposing a lengthy clearance process through multiple layers of government; and enabling surveillance by government officials of what scientists and other sources say to journalists, and

Whereas, public agencies do not generally place such restrictions on communications with other persons, including lobbyists and other representatives of special interests, and

Whereas, such limits on journalists impede vigorous, frequent communication with agencies and impede learning about their culture and internal workings, and

Whereas, this hinders the practice of quality journalism and these restrictions hide and foster malfeasance and incompetence in the agencies, and

Whereas, President Barack Obama has declared, “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government,”

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ urges President Obama to declare that all such restrictions in the federal executive branch are to be ended and to establish a mechanism by which any continuing restrictions can be reported to the highest level of his administration and subsequently eliminated; and

Be it further resolved that SPJ calls on President Obama to create a model for agencies on all levels of government by declaring that, except in cases where information is legally secret or confidential, federal staff members have the right and the responsibility to discuss the workings of the public’s business with journalists, honestly and openly, without delay, restrictions, surveillance or mandated notification of third parties, before or after the communication, and

Be it further resolved that when journalists independently decide to contact public relations offices, agencies have the responsibility: to the public to respond promptly; to never forbid that conversations take place or monitor conversations; to never place constraints on who the reporter will speak to or what may be said; and to never clear conversations with third parties in the agency, unless there are specific legal reasons for doing so, and

Be it further resolved that state and local governmental agencies to lift similar restrictions, and

Be it further resolved that news media everywhere should, whenever possible, reveal in their reporting when these types of restrictions are placed on their newsgathering and that they expose practices that restrict the free flow of information and threaten the public welfare.


Resolution No. 9 | Submitted by SPJ President Kevin Smith

SPJ’s International Efforts

Whereas, during the past five years interest in the Society of Professional Journalists from international journalists has prompted more members to join the Society from outside America’s borders, and

Whereas, SPJ leaders are increasingly being sought for opinions on international journalism issues, many of the requests coming from foreign publications, and

Whereas, SPJ has had a working relationship with the Asian Journalists Association and the Korean Journalists Association, and members of SPJ have traveled to South Korea, North Korea and Taiwan to help establish greater relationships between these groups, and

Whereas, SPJ members have attended the International Journalist Conferences in South Korea the past five years and developed personal relationships with many journalists from other countries, and

Whereas, foreign-born journalists were added in 2009 to SPJ’s International Journalism Committee to create a better relationship between SPJ and international journalists, and

Whereas, SPJ has started developing working relationships with the Committee to Protect Journalists, The International Federation of Journalists and the European Journalism Centre, and

Whereas, SPJ just welcomed its first official international chapter at Northwestern University Medill School in Qatar and has received interest from journalists from India, Iraq and Qatar about developing professional chapters, and

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration that SPJ should set a course to ensure the Society is in a position to welcome all international journalists and expand beyond U.S. borders in the coming years.

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