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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Happy birthday, Constitution

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SPJ Leads | 9/18/2008
Happy birthday, Constitution


By Jeremy Steele
SPJ Region 4 Director and Lansing State Journal business reporter

SO WE NEVER FORGET.... Michigan high school journalists rallied Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol to celebrate Constitution Day and promote legislative efforts to pass a student press rights law. Joining the students was Mary Beth Tinker, who was among plaintiffs in the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines ruling that declared students don't lose their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. The event was supported by the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and SPJ's Detroit and Mid-Michigan chapters.

...BECAUSE IF WE DO.... SPJ and First Amendment supporters continue to speak out against Quinnipiac University's action to punish the campus SPJ chapter for being friendly with an upstart online newspaper. SPJ leaders this week sent a letter to Quinnipiac PresidentJohn L. Lahey expressing the organization's concerns. In part, the letter says, "We hope that you will realize that banning a student organization for actions that are not only legal but well-intentioned would send a message across the country that the University leadership does not support the principles of free speech, free press and free association that are outlined in the First Amendment."

FREE SPEECH, FREE PRESS, FREE ENTERPRISE? Student newspapers might not escape the pitfalls of authoritarian administrators, but they are largely avoiding the economic crises of their professional peers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. "There's no advertising downturn for us," said Kevin Schwartz, general manager at The Daily Tar Heel, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

PROTECTING THE PRESS AND THE PEOPLE. Montana's state shield law doesn't just protect reporters from disclosing anonymous sources, a Montana judge ruled recently. The law also protects the identity of anonymous commentators on a newspaper's Web site. The ruling was part of a libel case between two political rivals, one of whom had been seeking the identities of people who posted comments on the Web site of The Billings Gazette.

COME ONE, COME ALL. Applications are now being accepted for SPJ's Reporters Institute being held November 9-12 at The Poynter Institute. The program is designed for print journalists who have been working in the field for three years or less. During the program, participants will go through a crash course in the characteristics and techniques of exceptional journalism. The program is funded by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. Check out the complete details and apply today! Contact professional development coordinator Heather Porter with any questions.

"SCRIPP-TED" SEMESTER. Every journalist should spend some time in our nation's capital, including student journalists. Thanks to the Scripps Howard Foundation, you can receive college credit and get paid while you're there! Journalism students in their junior or senior years are encouraged to apply for the Foundation's Semester in Washington Program. Interns will work in the Foundation's downtown bureau and write stories for Scripps' Web-based wire. You might even see your stories distributed to 400 client newspapers. And did we mention furnished housing is provided? What a deal! Internships are available for spring, summer or fall 2009.

EXPENSIVE CORRESPONDENCE. "Iraq was so complex, its ways so labyrinthine, that trust, in the end, was all we had. If we had tried to understand what was really going on outside, if we had tried to understand the pressures the Iraqis were working under, we would have left the country." That's the view of Dexter Filkins in his book "The Forever War," which recounts his experience as Baghdad correspondent for The New York Times. He writes of the unease he and fellow journalists faced regarding security, and the great lengths they went through to protect themselves, including $1,000 a day for a "security advisor" and armored cars for $250,000. Read an excerpt of the book on Poynter.

THROUGH RAIN AND WIND. The Daily News in Galveston, Texas, may have lost its roof due to Hurricane Ike, but it still put out a newspaper. The Daily News reported that its editor was blogging as the eye of the storm moved over Galveston Island. The gas line that powered the paper's generator was cut as Editor Herber Taylor finished his last sentence: "We are about to lose contact." Thanks to the help of the Herald Zeitung in New Braunfels for doing the layout and the Victoria Advocate for printing, the Daily News kept publishing despite the loss of its newsroom. Talk about dedication.

THEY'RE PUBLISHING, BUT WHAT? The printing presses may have continued operating for the The Daily News (see above), but what the paper is actually printing might be another story. After all, it sounds difficult to write stories about hurricane destruction when city officials, i.e. the ones responsible for cleanup and response, aren't allowed to talk. Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas recently told city employees not to talk to reporters. As Thomas stated, the city employees are too busy at this time to speak to the press. The only city officials allowed to speak are the mayor and city manager. With such logic, does that mean the mayor and city manager aren't busy after the major hurricane? Hmmmm...

ADVICE: DON'T DO THIS. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, can't get fooled again...or something like that. When photographer Jill Greenberg staged children crying in a 2004 picture with the caption "Four More Years," it was obvious she didn't have much love for President Bush. But the freelancer who Fox News called "vehemently anti-Republican" showed just how much she bends the ethical rulebook recently when on assignment for The Atlantic Monthly. Greenberg was hired to photograph John McCain for a cover story. She was not hired, however, to take the photos, doctor them and post them on her personal Web site with captions like "I am a bloodthirsty warmonger." The magazine says it checks freelancers for professional track records, not political leanings. A piece of advice to Greenberg: don't put the doctored photos in your portfolio.

LIKE DESIGN? LIKE SPJ? HOW 'BOUT A JOB? SPJ is seeking a talented, motivated and innovative graphic designer to develop and design all publications, graphics and logos used by the Society and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. Qualifications: Proficient in a Macintosh and OSX environment and relevant design programs. Minimum two years design experience. B.A. or equivalent in Graphic Design preferred. See the SPJ Web site for the full job posting and application instructions. The job posting is also available at Journalism Jobs.

HELP WANTED. The Utah Headliners Chapter is looking for judges for its upcoming contest for the print categories. Judging will take place in March. Those interested should contact Allison Hess.

HELP REALLY WANTED. Region 10 and the Western Washington Pro Chapter want to take their annual Excellence in Journalism contests from "no tech" to "low tech." They are considering everything from submitting entry forms and clips online to online judging but they aren't sure exactly what to do yet. If your chapter has experience moving its contest from print to online, they'd love to hear your success secrets as well as learn what pitfalls to avoid. Please contact Dana Blozis or Hilary Reeves. They'll compile that information and would be happy to pass it on to other regions and chapters that are considering a similar move.

IT'S ELECTRIC! The Foundation for American Communications will present a free tele-seminar for journalists about what is fueling the rise in electricity rates. "Surging Electricity Rates: What's Next?" is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. ET. The seminar will provide journalists with background on how the current inflationary cycle fits within the history of the electricity industry. It will also explore how the various forces buffeting the industry contribute to climbing prices and what this means for the future of the industry. Participants will join this seminar via the Internet and telephone. Registration is free for journalists, but you must sign up in advance.

ALL IN THE FAMILY. The day before SPJ honored the late Tim Russert as a Fellow of the Society, his son was getting his break into the family business. The younger Russert appeared on the Today show, interviewing John McCain and Barack Obama. Luke Russert was hired by NBC News to report on youth issues. He's got some big shoes to fill, but the younger Russert may very well be on his way to becoming a future SPJ Fellow. Good luck, Luke!

ONO: OH, YES! Some of the same crew who rebuffed The Associated Press by creating their own news sharing group the Ohio News Organization also are teaming for election coverage. Eight Ohio daily newspapers have joined with the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research to release "The Ohio Newspaper Poll," a special initiative to provide unprecedented coverage of the most comprehensive, timely, and in-depth Ohio election polling results. Each of the newspapers will publish "Ohio Poll" results in their respective Sunday editions on Sept. 21, Oct. 12 and Oct. 26.

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