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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > FEMA foolery, Job openings, Kolchak returns

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SPJ Leads | 7/22/2006
FEMA foolery, Job openings, Kolchak returns


By Christine Tatum
President-Elect, SPJ
Business Writer, The Denver Post
Tom Henderson
Editorial Writer, The Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune

FEMA FOOLISHNESS. A Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate story detailing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s outrageous policies and practices that prohibit residents of agency-run housing from speaking to the media prompted a scathing letter this week from SPJ National President David Carlson and Charles Davis, co-chairman of SPJ’s national Freedom of Information Committee.

“We are outraged by the arrogance and contempt for public discourse on display in Louisiana a year after FEMA’s performance in the wake of Katrina earned it widespread criticism. Now FEMA is banning reporters from public property, even as the reporters try to provide scrutiny of the agency. These journalists are attempting to access public property, in broad daylight, and to speak with consenting residents of a trailer park paid for with federal tax dollars. We fail to see how such journalism is anything but the very sort of newsgathering for which the First Amendment was created.”

WE’LL SHOW YOU CONTEMPT. SPJ this week awarded California freelancer Josh Wolf $1,000 from its Legal Defense Fund to help him fend off federal subpoenas of his video footage of a clash between San Francisco police and demonstrators last year. A federal judge has ordered that Wolf could go to jail for contempt if he refuses to hand over his work product. He faces imprisonment as soon as today.

SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund accomplishes amazing things – and needs your support. Please donate a cool item that could bring in decent bucks during SPJ’s upcoming LDF Reception and Auction, to be held during the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Chicago.

SPEAKING OF CHI-TOWN. If you’re planning to attend what promises to be one incredibly cool shindig, make sure you consider heading with other convention-goers to a Friday night show (it’s titled “War! Now In Its 4th Smashing Year!”) at Chicago’s famous Second City Theater. A ticket is $30 – and all sales will benefit the LDF. You’ll laugh ‘til it hurts for a great cause.

OK, LET’S KEEP TALKING ABOUT CHICAGO. Make plans now to attend SPJ’s biggest event of the year. Register by July 31, and you’ll collect outstanding early-bird rates for our national convention and journalism conference. What else do we have in store? Plenty.

Honor the First. This unique celebration of the First Amendment will feature an array of Chicago artists who are generously donating their time to remind everyone of the importance of championing our cherished freedoms of expression. Among those artists: Filipino-American tenor Rodell Rosel of the Lyric Opera Center of American Artists.

The one and only Bill Kurtis. If anyone knows how to tell a compelling story without compromising journalistic ethics and integrity, it’s this veteran broadcaster. Kurtis, who is celebrating his 40th year in “the business,” is an award-winning documentary host and producer, news anchor and multimedia company president. He’ll share his concerns about shifting industry dynamics that have blurred the lines between entertainment and news – no matter the medium. And he’ll discuss about how journalists can – and should – work to honor the public’s trust.

In-depth instruction. See our selection of half-day workshops and fabulous lineup of professional development sessions featuring some of the biggest names in journalism. This year, we’re also offering more interactive discussions and brainstorming sessions aimed at helping you envision your career – and your newsroom – very, very differently. Stay tuned to Leads, and check our convention Web pages for updates.

Safety First: “The State of Safety in 2006: Insight into the Growing Complexities of Safety” is a free seminar that addresses today’s most pressing safety issues and is designed specifically for journalists by Underwriters Laboratories, the world’s leading not-for-profit product testing and certification organization. During the seminar, participants can experience state-of-the-art safety demonstrations, including a fire in a fully furnished living room. Participants will have plenty of time to ask questions. The seminar is set for 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24.Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Space is limited and registration closes Tuesday, Aug. 1. E-mail Chris Vachon at to register.

Casual mixers. Don’t miss Friday Night Fun on the Chicago Headline Club. Our host chapter is teaming with a few of the city’s ethnic journalism organizations and with the Independent Writers of Chicago to hold fun gatherings in downtown restaurants and bars. The first round of drinks – as well as a “cheezborger” at the legendary Billy Goat Tavern – will be on the club.

IT COULD BE VERSE. SPJ member Jess Davis is an intern at the The Greenville (S.C.) News this summer, and he just switched from the paper’s copy desk to a reporting gig. “Usually they keep me busy, and I have no complaints,” he wrote. “But today has been particularly slow. My only task was to call someone, and now I’m waiting to hear back from him, inspiring this haiku:

Bored intern waiting

Phones ring, but never for me

Oh, their cruel taunting.”

Jess added, “P.S. Go Gamecocks!”

YOUR TURN. Got a haiku, poem, sonnet, limerick (without the word “Nantucket,” please) or other journalism-related verse to share? Send it to Tom Henderson:

CENSORING BIRTH CERTIFICATES? Early next year, the federal government will release proposed regulations that journalists expect will restrict access to state birth and death records. The standards are intended to prevent identity theft. Journalism groups agree that such prevention is important, but they fear new restrictions could impede their work – as well as the work of medical researchers, genealogists and archivists. Read more about the issue in SPJ’s latest FOI Alert, crafted by Meghan E. Murphy, editor of the Clear Creek Courant in Idaho Springs, Colo., and a member of SPJ’s national FOI Committee.

EVERYONE INTO THE REFLECTING POOL! The Washington, D.C. pro chapter will hold its annual swimming party and potluck, Saturday, July 22. For details, visit

OPEN SESAME! Learn the secrets to a successful career in freelance writing. SPJ’s Los Angeles chapter is hosting an evening dinner and seminar featuring Mary Melton, executive editor of Los Angeles magazine and several successful freelance writers. When: July 20. For more information:

PROMOTE EARLY AND OFTEN. SPJ’s national events calendar is up and running. Chapters are highly encouraged to post all of their events. And don’t forget: Chapters also should post educational program offerings on, a site powered by SPJ and visited by newsies across the nation.

LOOKING FOR WORK? You can find the latest job postings – including new announcements about editing jobs in Ohio and New Jersey and a reporting gig in Tennessee – at SPJ’s Job Bank. Only members may view these job leads – but everyone is invited to post job openings for free.

BLOG SPOTTNG. Jon Marshall’s News Gems lauds the best in daily American journalism. Among his latest posts is praise for Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson. Perhaps your work has been highlighted? Feel free to bring the great stories you spot to Jon’s attention.

PROUD TO BE IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA? Then shout it loudly and proudly – and benefit SPJ’s Middle Tennessee Pro chapter as you do. The chapter is selling darned funny “mainstream media” goods through Café Press. You must check them out. And the chapter’s good ideas for fundraising don’t stop there. The chapter encourages people to support the group every time they shop at The chapter also raises money by getting people to shop through For more details about those programs, see the chapter’s Web site.

REMEMBER KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER? Who could possibly forget intrepid wire service reporter Carl Kolchak (played by Darrin McGavin), who tracked down monsters and vampires for Independent News Services in the 1970s? Well, he’s back as a member of SPJ’s Snake River (Idaho, it’s Idaho, people) Pro Chapter. Plans are in the works for him to appear on merchandise through the chapter’s upcoming Café Press store. He’ll be joined by glamorous reporters Brenda Starr and Paula Peril. Watch Leads for more details.

COMIC BOOK QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Who said it? “Well, Jessica, an unemployed journalist has many options. Waitress. Telemarketer. Fast-food clerk.” Bonus point if you can identify the person with whom our mystery character was speaking.

MAN BITES DOG. From The Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore.: “Women carry on in nursing home.” Must’ve been one heckuva party.

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