By Scott Leadingham
SPJ Communications Department
A BRIGHT IDEA. Sunshine Week, March 15-21, is almost upon us, and you're invited to take part in all the activities. Created by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and supported by a Knight Foundation grant, Sunshine Week is a collaboration between journalism and freedom of information groups. The SPJ Freedom of Information Committee has been hard at work collaborating with other planners to bring you a wealth of resources. Check out the SPJ Web site for tips on how you and your chapter can be involved.
KEEPING BUSY. The SPJ Legal Defense Fund Committee sprang into action this week to support the cause of the Prison Legal News, a magazine covering incarceration issues. The News previously won a lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America mandating the company open records of prisons it operates in Tennessee. The CCA is appealing the ruling, claiming it's not a state entity and therefore not subject to open records laws. SPJ joined an amicus brief authored by the Tennessee ACLU arguing the CCA is indeed required to reveal prison records.
On Wednesday, SPJ joined numerous journalism groups and concerned citizens in calling for the release of Roxana Saberi, a U.S. citizen and journalist in Iran who was arrested Jan. 31. Her arrest only recently became known to the world when her father spoke with National Public Radio's Scott Simon.
WELLS, THAT'S SWELL. Nominations are now open for the Wells Memorial Key, the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the Society. The award is named for Chester Wells, the Society's second president, who died in office in 1913. Any current SPJ member is eligible for this award that recognizes extraordinary service, and any member or chapter can submit nominations. The deadline is April 15. See the SPJ Web site for complete details about this truly outstanding honor.
THINKING SPRING. It's not too late to register for one of 12 regional spring conferences happening in a location near you. All conferences offer in-depth professional development, valuable networking and, of course, a great time for all! Some conferences are coming up in just two weeks, while others will be held in April. Regardless, it's time to register and take advantage of any early registration rates. And remember — you can always bring your friends and colleagues, even if they aren't SPJ members. Who knows, you might even get them to join SPJ as a result. (And speaking of spring, don't forget to turn your clocks ahead this weekend.)
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. In light of the two most recent airline crashes in the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board is seeking input from SPJ members regarding media pool practices at accident scenes and other NTSB media events. Do you have any thoughts, opinions, experiences or best practices to share regarding the handling and organization of media pools by NTSB (or similar organizations)? If so, e-mail your ideas to Scott Leadingham and SPJ will compile and pass on to NTSB. The NTSB can contact you for more information, if you'd like, or you can specify to keep your comments anonymous. This announcement previously ran in January. There is no need to resend previously submitted comments.
SURVEY SAYS. Michelle Selig, professor of visual journalism at the University of Miami, is looking for the input of SPJ members and other journalists for a study on the economic viability of traditional news media transitioning to the Web. The survey is online and final results are available at your request. It should take 15 minutes or less to complete. Participation, of course, is voluntary and all responses anonymous. Click here to access the survey. (Disclaimer: Clicking the link is considered consent to participate.)
PAID INTERNSHIP IN D.C.? WHAT'S THE CATCH. Three months in the nation's capital, paid newsroom internship, free housing. What's the downside here? It's hard to find any cons to participating in the Semester in Washington Program from the Scripps Howard Foundation. While in D.C., student interns will write stories for Scripps' Web-based wire, with the potential for publication in one of 400 client newspapers. The next program dates are Sept. 14 — Dec. 18. Applications must be postmarked by March 18. All materials are at the Scripps Howard Web site. E-mail Jody Beck or call 202-408-2748 with questions.
LEARN LEGALESE FOR FREE. Loyola Law School Los Angeles is accepting applications for its fourth annual Journalist Law School, June 17-20. The application deadline for the competitive fellowship is Monday, March 23. The JLS is a four-day crash course in law. Fellows review constitutional, criminal and civil law all packed into a long weekend — plus fellows may choose breakout sessions based on current news topics and other preferences. To date, more than 100 journalists have completed the program from news outlets across the country. And the best part — it's free to journalists! Instruction, lodging and up to $300 of travel expenses are covered. Get application and other details here. For more information, e-mail Brian Costello or call 213-736-1444.
REINVENTING THE ROCKY. The Rocky Mountain News may be closed, but its former staffers are still producing quality journalistic reports, thanks in part to IWantMyRocky.com. The newspaper staff started the Web site several months ago in an effort to rally support for the struggling paper. Eventually it morphed into a de facto news site as well, and now contains reports and features that previously would have been in the Rocky. Take, for example, a story about a bus driver who was hit by a truck while helping a woman cross the street. The reaction to Denver losing one of two dailies has struck many people on an emotional level, as Past SPJ President Christine Tatum reported in the New York Times.
INTELLIGENT AT THE INTELLIGENCER. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the lower-circulation competitor of the Seattle Times, will soon follow in the footsteps of the Rocky Mountain News and close if no buyer acquires the paper from Hearst. Some P-I reporters are proposing to start their own venture, a community-funded news entity working off of the generous support of contributors and other donors. The proposal is similar in nature to Spot.us, the nonprofit creation of Knight News Challenge winner Dave Cohn.
ON THE CONTRARY. Among popular criticisms of media outlets is one that's heard quite often: there is a liberal bias in election coverage. In fact, it seems that the only sure things in life are death, taxes and cries of such unbalanced, left-leaning reporting. One recent study by telecommunications researchers Maria Elizabeth Grabe and Erik Bucy seems to dispute this claim, at least for network news coverage. Their research examined presidential elections from 1992 to 2004. The results? Republicans tend to have more positive image coverage than Democrats. The findings are chronicled in their new book, "Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections."