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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Checkbook journalism and open records access

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SPJ Leads | 7/6/2011
Checkbook journalism and open records access


By Andrew M. Scott
SPJ Communications Department

CALLING OUT CHECKBOOK JOURNALISM. For the second time since 2010, the SPJ Ethics Committee is calling out the unethical practice of checkbook journalism, or paying for newsmaker interviews, most often at TV networks. In a June 30 statement, the Committee again chided TV news networks, specifically ABC, for the surreptitious use of paying "licensing fees" to people involved in the Casey Anthony murder trial.

"This is no longer a developing trend. It's a habit," said Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith in the statement. "Paying sources for exclusivity, under any name, calls into question the motives of the source and the news outlets."

Read the full statement.

SPJ DEFENDS WSJ REPORTER. SPJ recently joined an amicus brief, challenging a subpoena against Wall Street Journal reporter Jesse Eisinger involving the New York shield law for journalists. The subpoena stems from a federal court suit by a Massachusetts couple against Goldman Sachs for a breach of fiduciary duty arising from Goldman's role as "exclusive financial advisor" to the couple's company, Dragon Systems, and its merger with Belgian speech technology company Lernout & Hauspie.

Read the full press release.

OPEN ACCESS WORKSHOP IN ANCHORAGE. Freedom of Information Committee Chairman David Cuillier recently presented an open records access workshop at the invitation of The Northern Light, a student media outlet at the University of Alaska Anchorage. All working members of the media were also invited to attend. A recap of the workshop is at the UA webcast site.

ON THE BLOGS. The SPJ Blogs Network features trends and advice to help today's journalists. From freelancing tips, industry news from around the world, digital media help and more written by SPJ committee members and staff, the network has you covered. Here is a look at some recent posts:

The Independent Journalist: "Laughing at Uncle Sam Funny Taxes for Freelancers"
Okay, tax season is over, but I just found a gem a tongue-in-cheek tax form for freelancers which includes such perks as a Twitter allowance and a working-in-pajamas deduction. (Read more)

Net Worked: "Getting started with quick, easy data visualizations"
Charts, fever lines, maps and diagrams: They aren't just for the Graphics Department anymore. There once was a time when reporters dealt with words and someone else dealt with the numbers and the pictures. But not anymore. (Read more)

First Draft: "Bear Hunt"
The last, truly great advantage TV broadcasters have over other media is the ability to air live pictures. A satellite feed, a microwave signal or a picture from a helicopter takes viewers to an event they would otherwise not be able to witness firsthand. (Read more)

FOI FYI: "FOI DAILY DOSE: Another birthday for FOIA, gov goes mobile"
As children wielded sparklers and fireworks were shot off of rooftops to celebrate Independence Day on Monday, FOIA turned 45. For four-and-a-half decades, the United States' Freedom of Information Act has provided. (Read more)

Freedom of the Prez: "Thanks to those who protect press freedoms at home and around the world"
All our committees do good work, but some get more "press" than others. Google search SPJ and you'll get tons of hits for our Ethics Committee and the Freedom of Information Committee. At the same time, other volunteers toil quietly but to equally great effect. (Read more)

See the full blog network list here.

DID YOU KNOW? Our national headquarters at 3909 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis has not always been the home of SPJ. In the course of the Society's history, we've called several places home including Chicago and Greencastle, Ind. Our first national headquarters was established on 836 Exchange Ave. in Chicago in 1928.

That is not the only fun SPJ fact we are sharing this week! Learn more about the people and events that shaped the organization's history by visiting our Facebook page for a special series that highlights some of our most significant moments. The illustrations showcase cover art from the book "Talent, Truth and Energy."

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS. In addition to regular programming during the

Excellence In Journalism 2011 conference in New Orleans, we're offering a handful of half-day and all-day Pre-Conference Workshops on Sunday, Sept. 25:

The All-Day Video Storytelling Bootcamp
Great Bosses Bootcamp
Business Journalism Bootcamp for All Journalists
Backpack Journalism: The Story is the Destination
Mobile Tools for Journalists

Click here to read about each workshop and the trainers who will be conducting them.

Limited space is available. You do not need to register for the full conference in order to register for a workshop. You can also book your hotel room at the Sheraton New Orleans for only $129/night! For all information about pricing, travel and lodging, scheduling, and registering, click here.

CHICAGO HEADLINER DIES. Long-time SPJ and Chicago Headline Club member Lily Venson died last week at 86. The well-respected reporter and writer for Lerner Newspapers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for more than 100 articles, spanning eight years, on a successful community crusade to preserve 100 acres of private golf land, to establish Warren Park in West Rogers Park in Chicago.

Her love for journalism will be missed. Read more about Lily here.

WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK. Throughout the year; SPJ seeks nominations for its highest national honors. The awards seek to honor individuals and groups that have impacted the journalism field in the past year. SPJ welcomes you, its members, to view national honors candidates and leave comments for the SPJ Executive Committee's consideration. 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.

DONATE TO THE LDF AUCTION. Annually, SPJ's Legal Defense Fund Auction raises money to offset legal fees of journalists and news outlets who are faced with subpoenas that hinder their rights. Of course, any auction requires items on which to bid, so we need your help!

The auction will be held during the Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference in New Orleans.

If you, your chapter or other organizations in your area can help, we hope you'll consider donating to the LDF Auction by sending items to SPJ Headquarters. When doing so, please include the donation form, which you can download here.

LOOKING FOR A 2011 CONFERENCE ROOMMATE? Want to save some cash when you attend the Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference this year? Find other conference attendees who are interested in sharing the cost of a hotel room in New Orleans by posting your request on our conference roommate listing on the SPJ Works blog.

DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR DANIEL PEARL AWARDS. The deadline for the Daniel Pearl Awards for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting has been extended. Submissions must be postmarked no later than July 15, 2011.

The awards honor the best in cross-border investigative journalism. They are granted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. Held biennially, the competition is open to any professional journalist or team of journalists in any medium. To be eligible, the investigation either a single work or a single-subject series must involve reporting in at least two countries on a topic of global significance.

Two $5,000 first-place prizes will be awarded, one to a U.S.-based reporter or news outlet, and another to a non-U.S.-based journalist or news outlet. Five additional finalists will each receive $1,000 prizes. For application information and awards criteria, you can visit ICIJ's Daniel Pearl Awards website.

SO LONG, FAREWELL. From Scott Leadingham:

You've become used to the writing style and witticisms of Andrew Scott, SPJ's Communications Coordinator. Well, sadly, this is Andrew's final edition of SPJ Leads. He's moving to "the big time" in Washington, D.C. to pursue an opportunity in nonprofit communications. He's been a tremendous asset to SPJ in his post-graduate internship year. A new coordinator, Abby Henkel, will start July 18.

Thanks to Andrew for all he's done to help improve and protect journalism here at SPJ HQ. Drop him a line at or on Twitter: @PRMillennial.

Go get 'em, Andrew!

Until Abby is off and running in her role, contact me, Scott Leadingham, for communications-related inquiries.

LAST WEEK'S QUIZ. Even at a public meeting, journalists aren't always free to report a story as they see fit. What two reporters were arrested at a Taxi Commission meeting in Washington, D.C. last week? (Hint: FYI, read up on your FOI.)

A. Jim Epstein and Pete Tucker. SPJ's D.C. Pro chapter submitted a protest to the city's mayor regarding the egregious nature of this issue.

And the winners are...

Hal Davis, Doug Schlatter and David Hutter. Congrats, all!

THIS WEEK'S QUIZ. July 4, 2011 wasn't just the 235th birthday of the U.S. It was also the birthday of an important piece of legislation. What legislation and how many candles were on the cake?

Submit your answer to Scott Leadingham

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