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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Proverbial Convention and a Double First Amendment

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SPJ Leads | 5/21/2009
Proverbial Convention and a Double First Amendment


By Scott Leadingham
May 21, 2009
SPJ Communications Department

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM. The early bird gets the worm. Make hay while the sun shines. He who hesitates gets lost. So go the pearls of wisdom meant to inspire people not to procrastinate. You'd be well-served to follow such advice when registering for the 2009 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, Aug. 27-30 in Indianapolis.

SPJ staff is working around the clock to bring dynamic speakers such as CBS' Laura Logan and ABC's Dan Harris. Plus, with nearly 50 professional development programs, there'll be something for everyone, from students to seasoned pros. There are even programs to help newsroom veterans make the transition to collegiate instruction without a PhD. Freelancers and those interested in testing the freelance waters will benefit from multiple explanatory sessions. See a full list of professional development sessions here.

With all that's happening at the Convention with more events added almost daily now is the ideal time to register. This is an opportunity you can't afford to miss.

NOT A FREE LUNCH, BUT CLOSE. Students are important defenders of the First Amendment, especially on college campuses, where the ability to express one's views should be encouraged and unrestricted. Student SPJ members who have shown a commitment to the First Amendment perhaps through efforts at a student media outlet or a campus program are encouraged to apply for the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award. The $500 prize must be used to attend the SPJ Convention in August. With student registration set at $135, there's a sizable portion left for air fare or lodging. Hurry the deadline to apply is July 14. Get the application details here.

JEFFERSON + PULLIAM = PERFECT BEDFELLOWS. Thomas Jefferson regarded as a skilled inventor, among other minor accomplishments provides a favorite quotation for Fourth Estate advocates. His preference for a free press (often quoted as "newspapers") over government underscores the vital nature of the First Amendment. Indeed, there's a reason freedom of the press is a fundamental liberty. As free press defenders and advocates for free speech, SPJ and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation believe it's important to recognize substantial efforts on behalf of the First Amendment. That's why the Foundation funds the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for efforts of a group or individual. The award honors those who have fought to protect and defend the First Amendment and all its components. With a prize of $10,000, the recognition is truly a prestigious honor and will be presented during the 2009 SPJ Convention. Transportation and lodging is provided for the winners. Submit nominations by July 1. See the SPJ Web site for complete details and an application.

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. During the President's Installation Banquet at the Convention, SPJ will honor several members and professionals for their service. The national board will bestow honors such as the Sunshine Award, Ethics in Journalism Award and Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. Current SPJ members are welcomed and encouraged to offer their comments and feedback on the nominees for these and other recognitions. Log on to to see the nominees and offer your thoughts. (Note: Requires username and password. SPJ staff do not have access to forgotten passwords, for your security.)

SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT. Much like horses in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Narrative Writing Workshops are out of the gates and running at full speed. The successful program with Pulitzer-winner Tom Hallman is a fantastic experience for anyone interested in strengthening his or her storytelling skills. There are three programs remaining: Albuquerque, N.M. (June 13); Lowell, Mass. (June 20); and Boise, Idaho (July 25). If you're anywhere near these areas, consider attending. The recent program in Chicago was a great success. The dates, especially for Albuquerque, are rapidly approaching. See the program Web site for more details and registration.

JOINING THE ACADEMY. The ease with which anyone with Internet access can publish news and opinion items makes the need for journalism's tenets to permeate beyond the J-school classroom. Those well-intentioned enough to chronicle events in their communities should have a basic understanding of fair, ethical journalism practices. That's why SPJ is again sponsoring the Citizen Journalism Academies. In its second year, the program gives attendees a basic understanding of how to fairly and accurately report news. After a successful program in Denver, one academy remains: June 13 in Minneapolis. If you know of people in the Twin Cities area who may benefit, please encourage them to attend. It's through training like this that journalism gains strength and credibility. See the SPJ Web site for full details.

STICKY SITUATION. With almost daily news of newspaper contractions and shrinking print circulations, it's nice to hear of a paper expanding print runs. But, of course, there's a twist. The Carrboro (N.C.) Citizen will receive a $50,000 small business loan from the city to expand its staff and increase circulation from 6,000 to 10,000. Though heartening to hear of a growing paper and local entrepreneurship, the government-sponsored loan to a newspaper is leaving journalism ethicists a bit uneasy. Said Poynter's Kelly McBride in an article for The (N.C.) News & Observer: "It throws a monkey wrench into the whole watchdog role. Journalism organizations in general believe that, as bad as things are now, they would not take a public bailout. Independence is a key, core value of journalism."

WE HAVE A WINNER. Last week's quiz: Country music legend Marty Robbins would likely attend what SPJ Narrative Writing Workshop, and who would distract him?

Apparently Marty became so distracted by his undying love for Felina (i.e. "a Mexican girl") that he opted to completely forego the West Texas town of El Paso. Perhaps distressed by Marty's absence, SPJ cancelled the program. That might upset Mary C. Curtis of Charlotte, N.C., whose correct answer was selected through a meticulous process involving monkeys, darts and blindfolds.

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER QUIZ. When wandering around Indianapolis aimlessly Aug. 27-30, you might bump into a plaque commemorating the location of what iconic singer's last concert? It's too bad you can't go inside the venue, since what arena no longer exists?

Submit answers to Scott Leadingham. A winner will be selected at random from among the two people bored enough to respond. The prize is the greatest gift of all: your name printed in Leads. Think of it as an easy byline.

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