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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Act now! FOI primer, Work for us!

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SPJ Leads | 9/15/2006
Act now! FOI primer, Work for us!


By Christine Tatum
SPJ National President
Assistant Business Editor, The Denver Post

TIME TO SPEAK UP. The Senate Judiciary Committee is on track to hear debate concerning the need for a federal shield law. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. (Eastern), Sept. 20. It will take only a few minutes to call or write your senators regarding this incredibly important proposed legislation. It is particularly crucial for SPJ members who are constituents of key senators on the Judiciary Committee to contact their senators. Those key players are: Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Dewine (R-Ohio), John Kyl (R-Ariz.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). Not sure what to write or say? Then review a sample letter prepared by SPJ attorney Malena Barzilai.

Find more information about the hearing – as well as online resources detailing SPJ’s fight to support a federal shield – on Christine Tatum’s new blog.

BLAH, BLAH, BLOG. Want super timely scoops on all things SPJ? Check out Christine Tatum’s “Freedom of the Prez,” early and often. This week, she muses about the impact 9/11 has had on American journalism (do you agree with her?), Patricia Dunn's demise at Hewlett-Packard and the big showdown coming up Sept. 20 regarding a federal shield law for journalists. Post your thoughts. Let’s get a party – or at least raging debate – started!

MORE BLABBER. In the news this week, Tatum’s off-the-cuff (that’ll teach her) insult of Hewlett-Packard ran in several publications around the world, including Australian Reseller News, The Peninsula, and ZDNet Asia. She also chatted with SPJ member Brian Pittman of the Bulldog Reporter about her annoyance with some public relations “professionals.”

SCHOOLIN’ ON FOI. David Cullier, a chairman of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, presents an award-winning lesson plan that will show you how to engage students (and, with some modification, any audience, really) in the practice of accessing public records. Background searches of home and neighborhood documents will help students see the relevance of FOI to their careers and lives. The goal, of course, is to build stronger support for open government.

Have a lesson plan or other cool journalism teaching materials to share? SPJ is developing a dynamic new section on its Web site for those wanting to teach journalism. For more information and to contribute to the cause, e-mail Sue Kopen Katcef at

Check out resources already online for journalism educators.

SAY IT LOUD AND PROUD! SPJ is a very proud partner in National Freedom of Speech Week, coming up Oct. 16-22. Encourage your chapter to celebrate – and find a few neat program ideas online. This special celebration – in which all Americans are encouraged to participate – is sponsored by The Media Institute.

OUR MAN, BRUCE. Bruce W. Sanford, SPJ’s general counsel and partner of media-law powerhouse Baker Hostetler in Washington, D.C., is the new chairman of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council. The council, is composed of veteran journalists, communications attorneys, constitutional scholars and various First Amendment experts. Sanford, widely considered one of the most influential lawyers in the United States, is sure to keep everyone busy – and on their toes.

WORK FOR US! SPJ seeks candidates for three new staff positions: Ad Sales Representative, Graphic Designer, and Administrative Assistant. The jobs will be based at the Society’s headquarters in Indianapolis. Log onto and have your username and password handy to view the descriptions. Spread the word to the qualified folks you know! People of color are encouraged to apply.

ANOTHER OPENING! The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication seeks applicants interested in a six-semester visiting assistant professorship in the field of online journalism. The initial appointment is for three semesters from January 2007 through May 2008. The appointment may be renewable for the 2008-09 academic year pending a favorable teaching review. Ideal candidates will have at least three years of professional experience in writing, editing and producing online news content. They also will be proficient in database production and an array of software. Interested applicants should submit a (hard copy) letter of application that includes a section on teaching philosophy, a (hard copy) resume, representative examples of online work (CD/DVD), graduate transcripts (if any) and three letters of reference. Send applications to Judy Polumbaum, Online Search Chair, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, E-305 Adler Journalism Building, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-2004. Screening will begin Oct. 2.

STILL MORE OPPORTUNITY. Members may search SPJ’s online Job Bank (have that member ID number and password handy). Anyone may post job openings at no cost. Take the time to post openings you know about (and encourage your managers to post, too) to make this a great resource for everyone.

WANT TO GET AWAY? The International Reporting Project is accepting applications for its 2007 fellowships in international journalism. The submission deadline: Oct. 1. The 13-week fellowship will run from mid January through April 2007. The selected American journalists will study for eight weeks at The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and work five weeks overseas reporting on any topic of the journalist’s choice. Fellows will receive a $2,000 monthly stipend while in Washington, D.C., and free hotel lodging. Fellows also will receive roundtrip airfare to the country of their choice and a $4,000 travel stipend. Priority will be given to applicants suggesting health-related topics. Any journalist with at least three years of professional experience in any medium is eligible to apply. Applicants also must be U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens who are working fulltime for an American news organization. Find applications at For more information: (202) 663-7761 or

CRASH COURSE. When Comair Flight 591 crashed Aug. 27 in Lexington, Ky., the state’s two largest newspapers became broadcasters, reporting the news online. The Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader competed with area television stations that day. SPJ’s Louisville, Ky., chapter is presenting a talk about how the Web is changing the city’s newsrooms. When: 6 p.m., TONIGHT (Sept. 14). Where: 21C Museum Hotel. Cost: Free (includes a small reception and is open to the public). Contact: Chris Poynter, (502) 582-4475 or

NOT GEORGE – BUT CLOSE ENOUGH. Veteran television broadcaster Nick Clooney will speak abouthis recent travels to Africa with award-winning actor/director son, George Clooney. The title of his presentation, which will include a five-minute video clip: “In Search of Darfur.” When: 6 p.m., Sept. 18. Where: The University of Kentucky’s W.T. Young Library. This cool event is sponsored in part by SPJ’s Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky and Bluegrass Pro chapters.

I SPY. The Michigan Council of Private Investigators is, for the first time, opening its annual training conference to SPJ members. This year’s focus? Internet investigations. Get in-depth training on how to use the Web to get the goods on people and companies from respected ’Net investigator Cynthia Hetherington, who routinely instructs law enforcement agents. When: Sept. 19. Where: Walsh College in suburban Detroit. Look online for more details or call (800) 266-6274.

HOT TALK IN TEMPE.Newsweek’s new executive editor, Jon Meacham, will talk religion and politics over coffee with SPJ members in downtown Tempe, Ariz. Meacham, author of “American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation,” will deliver the Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Lecture at Arizona State University on Sept. 26. Afterward, he’ll meet for a mixer with SPJ members at Mill’s End Coffee House, 310 S. Mill Ave. When: Lecture starts at 7:30 p.m. Mixer expected to start around 8:45 p.m. Look online to order free tickets to the lecture. The event is sponsored by SPJ’s Valley of the Sun chapter.

BOOK THIS. SPJ’s University of Toledo chapter is co-sponsoring the university’s 9th Annual Banned Books Week Vigil. Eighteen speakers committed to what is billed a “celebration of the right to read diverse opinions and to think freely” will tackle everything from Harry Potter to Adolf Hitler. When: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sept. 28. Where: UT’s Sullivan Hall, fourth floor. Cost: Free.

STUDENT APPPRECIATION. SPJ’s Inland Southern California chapter is teaming with the California Newspaper Publishers Association to teach journalism to high school and college students. The seminar will include instruction on copyediting, design, Web production and writing. The Inland Empire Journalism Day is open to the public. When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 30. Where: Riverside City College. Cost: $15 (includes breakfast and lunch). For more information:

WEDDING BELLS! Dori Maynard, a director of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, on Monday wed Charles Lewis, an architect in the San Francisco Bay Area. SPJ sends its hearty congratulations to the happy couple.


Q: How many journalists does it take to change a light bulb?

• Nobody knows. Journalists don’t last as long as light bulbs.

• None. Journalists don’t change bulbs; they just report the change.

• None. However, a journalist does interview two bureaucrats while they screw in the light bulb. One assures the journalist that everything possible is being done while the other screws the bulb into a water faucet.

• None. However, the journalist covers all the board meetings of the city council, which last year approved a resolution to change the light bulb. The topic was resumed from last week’s discussion but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items. It will be continued next week. Meanwhile …

• One. But only if he can find “light bulb” in the AP Style Book.

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