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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Gulf access and putting the spill in context

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SPJ Leads | 7/14/2010
Gulf access and putting the spill in context


By Scott Leadingham
SPJ Communications Department

GULF ACCESS ADVOCACY. There is growing concern — much like the growing size of a certain oil slick — that press access in the Gulf region is being hindered. CNN's Anderson Cooper has raised such concerns. Based on this and other recent issues in the region, SPJ released a statement this week calling for "unfettered access."

SPJ President Kevin Smith, who signed the open letter, wrote: "Indeed, transparency has become a clichι, but openness and unfettered access to newsworthy events and public places must remain cornerstones of our First Amendment rights."

Read the full news release and statement here.

The SPJ Executive Committee willdiscuss these issues at their July 24 meeting in New Orleans. If journalists or news outlets have concerns about access in the Gulf region, or would like to meet with members of the executive committee, they are encouraged to contact SPJ. E-mail Executive Director Joe Skeel or call 317-927-8000.

DONATION STATION. The Legal Defense Fund is one of many resources SPJ maintains to help journalists and news outlets in need. It's integral to the Society's mission of "improving and protecting journalism" (since 1909!).

To raise money for the fund, SPJ will hold the Legal Defense Fund Auction during the 2010 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Las Vegas. Of course, an auction requires items to auction off. Now is your chance to help fellow journalists (or yourself) by donating an item or service to the auction, which has silent and live components. Be sure to fill out and submit this form when sending items to SPJ Headquarters. The deadline to submit is Sept. 1. E-mail Lauren Rochester or call 317-927-8000 ext. 210 with questions.

Thank you in advance for helping SPJ protect journalists like you!

PLAYING TO PREVENT POVERTY. $1,250 in professional development stipends is available for Chicago-area unemployed and underemployed journalists, thanks to a score of musician-journalists including popular Chicago Tribune columnists Mary Schmich and Eric Zorn. They performed at a benefit arranged by Chicago Headline Club board members Steve Franklin and Flynn McRoberts. About 100 people attended and were asked to donate $10 each. The intent is for money to be used for "tuition" for upcoming programs such as the Headline Club's Digital Media Workshops, which will cost attendees a nominal sum. For more information, e-mail Susan Stevens.

"KA-CHING" IN LA. The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter will host a panel on checkbook journalism July 27 titled "Ka-Ching! Checkbook Journalism: An Old Dilemma for the New Media." Centered on the controversy involving technology blog paying to obtain a lost-and-found prototype of an iPhone, the program will address how old journalism ethics debates are contemporary issues in changing technological times. Panelists include Marc Cooper, contributing editor of The Nation; Jon Healey, editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times; and Sharon Waxman, founding editor/publisher of For more information, e-mail Navid Nonahal or call 818-317-2234.

WANTED: YOUR COMMENTS. SPJ leaders are in the final stages of selecting recipients for the annual national honors. The awards honor individuals and groups that have impacted journalism and First Amendment issues over the past year. All SPJ members are invited to view national honors candidates and leave comments for the SPJ Executive Committee's consideration. To comment, you must be logged in to the Members section of the SPJ website and provide your SPJ membership number on the feedback form. Anonymous feedback will not be accepted or reviewed. The identities of those offering comments will not be disclosed outside of the SPJ executive board and the headquarters staff. Click here for a full list of the candidates and to be directed to the feedback form.

COOL TOOLS. There's no shortage of news reports coming from the Gulf region in response to the largest oil spill in U.S. history. And the reporting will no doubt continue for months and years to come. But as all good journalists know, reporting is more than throwing out facts and hoping someone cares. Impactful news requires context for audiences to better understand why THEY should care.

Trimble Outdoors has developed such a tool for news outlets (and anyone else) wanting to put the magnitude of the spill in better context. The company recently launched a "Map the Spill" application free to anyone who wants it. According to Trimble, the application allows anyone "to use their mobile phone to record field notes, take photos and video, and mark locations on a map."

Another useful, and relatively simple, tool comes from, which uses Google Maps technology to superimpose the area of the Gulf oil spill on any land-based location, such as Chicago, Seattle or Denver (or whatever location you choose). You can easily grab the code for each map and share it on another website, giving more context to the enormity of the affected area.

And if you're looking for "all news oil spill," look no further than The Daily Glob, a website recently launched by our colleagues at the Society of Environmental Journalists. The site curates and aggregates stories, Twitter feeds and other outlets' destination sites devoted to oil-spill coverage.

LAST WEEK'S QUIZ. Q.The satirical news publication and website The Onion is a behemoth in the fake-news market, but it's not the only game in town. There are other folks mocking news and making up headlines, all with the point of getting a few laughs (and making some money). But unfortunately not everyone is always in on the joke. What news site is eating crow this week for citing information from a satirical news site as a factual account? And what was the fake news site that started it?

A. The AOL News Surge Desk reported fake information from the satirical site News Grind relating to a manhunt in Britain for alleged gunman Raoul Moat. See the full rundown from Journalism.Co.Uk (think Poynter with a British twist).

And the winner is... Janna Braun, an associate professor at San Diego Mesa College. Congratulations, Janna. A prize is on the way soon.

It seems that one was a bit harder than normal, as we received fewer correct responses than Larry King has months left in primetime. Should we take it easy this week or continue to make you work hard for the coveted prize?

Well, let's see...

THIS WEEK'S QUIZ. National Public Radio officially changed its name to NPR recently, causing thousands of tote bags and coffee tumblers to become instant collectables. But it isn't the only notable non-profit going through a rebranding. What national Chicago-based non-profit (hint: it's not news related) officially announced a name change this week? For extra credit: What similar organization did this non-profit in question help when the organization was in its infancy? And why is this year significant for that organization?

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