By Scott Leadingham
SPJ Communications Department
BYE-BYE, HOTLANTA. The 2008 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference is in the history books. If you were one of the 600-plus people who attended, you know it was an awesome experience. If you couldn't attend, handouts and audio from selected workshops will be available on spj.org. You won't want to miss the 2009 Convention Aug. 27-29 in Indianapolis. Because 2009 is SPJ's centennial celebration, next year's convention will truly be one for the ages!
PROPS FOR THE NEW PREZ. Aside from numerous workshops, events and presentations, the convention was time to take care of some Society business. Delegates elected new members of SPJ's board of directors and installed Dave Aeikens as our new president. Aeikens, a reporter for the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times, succeeds Clint Brewer, executive editor of The City Paper in Nashville.
WELL, IT'S WELLS, ISN'T THAT SWELL? Not only did SPJ elect new leaders in Atlanta, but we also took time to recognize a number of people for their outstanding commitment to the Society and the profession. Most notable was the awarding of the Wells Memorial Key to Bill McCloskey. The award is given annually to a member that has dedicated him or herself to advancing the mission of SPJ. It is the highest award given to a member. And that wasn't the only award given out in Atlanta. There were many more, including Fellows of the Society, Professional and Campus Chapters of the Year and the Pulliam First Amendment Award. The Working Press has a rundown of all award recipients.
PORTSIDE PRESIDENT. Our new president, Dave Aeikens, wasted little time this week speaking on behalf of SPJ during several media interviews. One aired today, Sept. 11, on Portsmouth Community Radio, with host Burt Cohen, a former New Hampshire state senator. You can catch the audio archives here. Look for the "Portside" program.
NO JOKE, THIS IS SIRIUS. Attendees at this year's convention were fortunate to hear from Hank Klibanoff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution (among other publications). Klibanoff shared his rather fresh views on why the newspaper industry is in decline and what should be done to reverse the trend. In response to his presentation in Atlanta, Klibanoff will be a guest on Mike Feder's show on Sirius Satellite Radio. If you're a Sirius subscriber, you can listen this Saturday, Sept. 13, from 5 — 8 p.m. ET on channel 146.
SOMETHING DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT HERE. That's what SPJ and First Amendment scholars are saying in response to Quinnipiac University's action to punish the campus SPJ chapter. What was the chapter's egregious offense? Supporting an independent student-run news outlet that was started in response to university control over the student newspaper. If the administration's actions sound fishy to you, you're not alone. Roy Peter Clark, vice president at the Poynter Institute, likened the university's act to "...something out of an authoritarian government, something I would expect to see in Singapore, not in Connecticut." SPJ is standing firmly behind the chapter while it continues to investigate the matter.
SPEAKING OF NOT RIGHT... Aside from a host of political speeches, the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions yielded a number of unfortunate incidents, namely the arrest of journalists who were merely doing their jobs. The most arrests came during protests at the RNC. These incidents prompted SPJ to issue two statements condemning the arrests. The first was issued on Sept. 3 and the second on Sept. 5, the day after at least 19 journalists were detained. In one of his last acts as SPJ president, Clint Brewer responded to The Hill Newspaper's request to leave a brief blog post on its Web site. Since last week, the story of SPJ's advocacy has been picked up by a number of news outlets and blogs.
FOR LOVE OF ETHICS. It's hard not to notice the amount of media coverage the SPJ Code of Ethics has received in recent weeks. It's one of the oldest ethics codes in the profession and recently received attention when SPJ denounced the practice of using print and broadcast news space for veiled, one-sided advertisements from health organizations. Here are two other recent references to the Code:
— An editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan by retired law professor James C. Mitchell lambasted the paper's story by a freelance writer who had a business connection to a speaker series the story described. In noting that the paper sacrificed its objective integrity, Mitchell states that the ethical lapse appeared to be more than an "innocent mistake." He then went on to reference the SPJ Code of Ethics.
— A new Web service called SpinSpotter debuted this week under the premise of flagging bias (both right and left) in media coverage. The program uses a mathematical algorithm to detect hints of bias in online news stories. One of the driving forces behind the algorithm is the SPJ Code of Ethics.
BETTER JOURNALISM, OREGON STYLE. On Oct. 25, the Oregon/SW Washington Pro chapter returns to the University of Oregon in Eugene for the second Building a Better Journalist conference. Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of ProPublica.org, will speak about emerging business models for the news industry. Registration is $20 for SPJ members, $30 for nonmembers and $10 for students with a college ID. Contact Chapter president Wendy Culverwell. And don't forget to visit the chapter's new and improved Web site, featuring RSS feeds from SPJ.
FREE NEWSPAPER? TO AN EXTENT. Most student-produced newspapers on college campuses are free... at least for the first copy. Taking more than one copy — or more correctly, a bunch of copies in an attempt to restrict access to content — is highly frowned upon in student journalism circles. That's especially true at the University of Tampa. A student who took and dumped hundreds of extra copies of The Minaret because she disagreed with the paper's content was recently punished. She was ordered to pay $150 and perform 20 service hours at the paper. And that incident is just one of many chronicled by the Student Press Law Center.
HERE'S SOMETHING FOR FREE: MONEY. SPJ will invest $5,000 to fund local chapter programs during 2008-2009, and your chapter could receive up to $500 for your program or activity. Grant applications are due by Midnight, ET, on Sept. 29, 2008. Any SPJ chapter in good standing is eligible to apply. Eligible chapters must have filed a 2007-2008 annual report with the national office by the deadline. Contact Professional Development Coordinator Heather Porter for more information.