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By Christine Tatum
Assistant Business Editor, The Denver Post
National President, SPJ
GAINING MOMENTUM. The OPEN Government Act (H.R. 867) has won approval from the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability. This stands to be the most comprehensive reform of the Freedom of Information Act in a decade. Wednesday’s vote came less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a Senate version (S. 394) of the act that also has bipartisan support. SPJ has worked with a coalition of media organizations, called the Sunshine in Government Initiative, to champion the legislation. While Congress isn’t expected to vote on the measure this term, the momentum behind these bills bodes well for approval next year. Find out more about what the OPEN Government Act would accomplish.
FOI FYI. That’s the name of SPJ’s new and very cool, blog manned by the national Freedom of Information Committee. Check the blog early and often for the latest, greatest information and insight about challenges to the free flow of public information. When you spot interesting items, please drop a line to Committee Chairman Joel Campbell: email@example.com.
SPEAKING OF BLOGS. SPJ member and veteran legal affairs reporter Andy Thibault’s Cool Justice Report is worth a look. Are you blogging, too? We’ll drive traffic your way! Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, AND HERE’S ANOTHER. Show the world how smart you are – and promote SPJ.org in the process — by chiming in on a thoughtful, new blog about foreign policy launched by the Washington Post. The blog, called PostGlobal, brings together sharp minds from around the world to debate pressing issues. Currently, the blog features an interesting discussion about global press freedom. When you post, write “Society of Professional Journalists,” and provide a link to spj.org in the appropriate fields.
NOT BLOGGING? LEARN HOW. The USC Annenberg School of Journalism is offering an intensive, hands-on workshop about the myriad ways journalists can use blogs and other tools to improve traditional reporting and storytelling. Learn ways to build a wider audience for your work and make money through blogging. Photoblogs, videoblogs, wikis, podcasting and whatever's next also will be discussed. When: Saturday, Sept. 30. Where: ASC 204 at USC Annenberg School for Communication. Paid parking available. Bring: A wireless-capable laptop and power cord. Or just take notes. Cost: Free. RSVP: Details online. Only those who register in advance can attend.
UNDER COVER? Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts take on the debate about a proposed federal shield law. Add your 2 cents to a rolling discussion on spj.org.
BLOWN COVER. Five private investigators accused of posing as journalists to obtain information under false pretenses for tech giant Hewlett-Packard have been subpoenaed to testify before Congress.
COVERED. SPJ National President Christine Tatum yammered this week with SABEW business blogger and SPJ member Chris Roush about why some business news coverage falls flat and her hopes for SPJ’s growing business savvy. She also chatted with Ken Spencer Brown of Investor’s Business Daily about the hard questions reporters caught in the Hewlett-Packard scandal should be asking themselves.
SPJ IN MOTION. Didn’t get a chance to join us for the national conference in Chicago? Boy, did you miss out! Members needn’t fear, however. They can check out video recordings of select sessions about blogging, multimedia skills, practicing journalism abroad, news councils and the Freedom of Information Act. Not a member? No time like the present to join one of the nation’s largest and oldest journalism advocacy organizations.
BACKING BOSTON. SPJ has joined an amicus brief supporting the Boston Herald’s appeal of a $2 million jury verdict awarded to Judge Ernest B. Murphy in February 2005 by a jury in Massachusetts Superior Court, the court on which Murphy sits. During a meeting with lawyers, Murphy reportedly said of a teenage rape victim, “She’s 14. She got raped. Tell her to get over it.” The Herald’s David Wedge interviewed the prosecutor who attended that meeting as well as two other prosecutors with whom the first immediately shared Murphy’s comments. Wedge also tried, but failed, to obtain comment from Murphy. All three prosecutors later testified that the comment attributed to Murphy was substantially accurate. Murphy denied making the comments – but waited more than three weeks after the Herald’s publication to make many any statements about the prosecutors’ allegations. Despite several other press accounts of Murphy’s controversial comments about cases he was handling, a trial court found that Murphy had proved “a false statement of fact” and that the Herald published with actual malice. Siiiiiigh.
SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund needs your help all year. Consider making a donation – or scoring cool loot to auction during our national conference.
SOCKIN’ IT TO ‘EM. During a hearing Monday, SPJ’s Sunshine Chairperson in Utah — Alison Barlow Hess — made no bones about where SPJ’s Utah chapter stood on a goofy proposal to place limits on pamphleteering and other speech activities inside and around the Capitol complex in Salt Lake City. Hess joined unanimous opposition from speakers at the hearing to proposed “free speech zones.” “How do we label everything that is not (a free speech zone)?” she asked. “Does it become a zone of no free speech?”
TAKING STANDS. Over the past two weeks, the Miami Herald learned that at least 10 journalists had accepted payments from the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in exchange for positive news coverage about Cuba. After discovering the unethical practice at El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Herald News Co. fired the journalists. Today, the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting is calling for a public ethical debate. Weighing in, The South Florida Pro chapter provided a statement to Editor & Publisher in support of the firings.
PRIZE FIGHTERS. Freelance videographer and blogger Josh Wolf is back in a federal slammer in California for refusing to give up unaired video he took of a 2005 protest for a grand jury’s review. San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada have been sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison for refusing to identify the sources that leaked them grand jury testimony concerning steroid use among professional athletes. All three have been named “Journalist of the Year” by SPJ’s Northern California chapter. Help celebrate their work at an awards ceremony honoring excellence in journalism. When: Nov. 9 Where: Yank Sing Restaurant in San Francisco. Tickets: Contact Eva Martinez at email@example.com or (415) 648-1045.
JOURNALISM TODAY. The Greater Los Angeles chapter will host an evening with Jerry Roberts, the award-winning editor who made headlines when he and eight other journalists from the Santa Barbara News-Press left the paper, putting ethical convictions above professional security. Roberts will draw on his long and illustrious career while discussing some of the most topical issues in our industry today, including the importance of ethics in managing the modern newsroom. WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 4; 6:30 p.m. no-host cocktail reception; 7 p.m. dinner. WHERE: Smokehouse Restaurant at 4422 Lakeside Drive; Burbank, Calif. COST: $27 for SPJ members; $32 for non-members. RSVP: By Monday, Oct. 2, at (323) 259-3350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS? See NiemanWatchdog.org for various perspectives about the questions journalists should be asking and often aren’t. Experts explain how reporters should examine the not-always-so-obvious costs of war and the correlation between upcoming elections and falling gas prices (coincidence?!). Look for the site’s “Ask This” feature for more interesting ideas.
TO THE RESCUE? The NewStandard, an independent publication managed by a group of journalists and published by a reader-funded, nonprofit organization, faces closure. Writes reporter Megan Tady: “We simply don’t have the funding we need to survive. But we haven’t given up. We’ve launched a huge fundraising effort to compel our tens of thousands of readers to support us financially; indeed, hundreds already have.” Hit the site to learn more about how you can help.
TAKE THE LEADS. SPJ’s popular weekly e-mail newsletter could use the help of an appropriately snappy writer. Consider joining our freewheeling team. Interested? Contact Christine Tatum: email@example.com.