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By Ellen Kobe, SPJ Communications Department
Happy Sunshine Week 2014! Between now and Saturday, SPJ is participating in National Sunshine Week, which has been celebrated every March since 2005. The week is meant to shine light into the dark recesses of government secrecy -- a key mission for SPJ and a duty of all journalists. Here are some announcements about this year's Sunshine Week.
Surveys about POI controls released
On the eve of Sunshine Week 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists has released the results from two surveys about journalists' experience with obtaining public information. The studies were led by Dr. Carolyn S. Carlson -- a communication professor from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, and a member of SPJ's Freedom of Information committee -- and Megan Roy, Carlson's graduate research assistant.
The surveys specifically document reporters' perceptions about whether government press offices interfere with reporting.
The first survey sponsored by SPJ was of political and general assignment reporters working at the state and local level. The vast majority of reporters who took this survey said the amount of control has been increasing over the past several years and they see it only getting worse over the next few years. They agreed the current level of media control by PIOs is an impediment to providing information to the public. Download and read the full report here.
For the second survey, SPJ joined with the Education Writers Association to focus on the nation's education reporters. Journalists indicated that public information officers often require pre-approval for interviews, decide who reporters get to interview and often monitor interviews. Sometimes they will prohibit interviews altogether. Education writers overwhelmingly agreed with the statement that "the public was not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists' reporting practices." Download and read the full report here.
On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., the National Press Club hosted a panel discussing the surveys at the NPC's Zenger Room in Washington D.C. You can find remarks from Carlson, President David Cuillier, Kathryn Foxhall -- freelance report and member of the NPC Freedom of the Press Committee -- and Emily Richmond, public editor of Education Writers Association on the Freedom of Information committee's blog.
Celebration in Chitown
More than 70 journalists attended a day-long observance of Sunshine Week that provided training in 12 sessions that ranged from the pros and cons of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to how to find data and manipulate it with Excel spreadsheets. The Chicago Headline Club and the Loyola University Chicago student chapter sponsored the fest on Friday at Loyola. Admission and lunch were free. Attendees got a free beer afterward at the Headline Club's Burger Nite.
As national co-sponsors of Sunshine Week, the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are hosting sunshineweek.org for information about freedom of information, free materials for participants to use, a calendar of events and a list of participants.
For more information, including Freedom of Information reports and contact information for the Project Sunshine Chair in your state visit the Sunshine Week section of SPJ's website.
Join the conversation
There are hundreds of journalists discussing freedom of information on social media. Follow #SunshineWeek and tweet with the hashtag in order to discuss open government with other journalists, share information and learn more about your rights.
SAN DIEGO JOURNCAMP + SCRIPPS
From May 16 to 18 we're visiting San Diego for a double dose of SPJ fun: JournCamp and the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute.
It all begins on May 16 with JournCamp -- a daylong workshop that will give you practical, skills-based professional development to help you to become a better journalist. Register by May 12. More information about sessions will be posted on our website soon.
The rest of the weekend (starting the evening of May 16), members can participate in Scripps, an SPJ boot camp designed to identify your leadership skills and help you better work with those around you. Our most recent graduates of the program left with great ideas and a new outlook on leadership after our event in Fort Worth, Texas. Check out our website to see a detailed schedule of events, plus information on how to apply. The deadline is April 6.
Go to JournCamp. Go to Scripps. Or even better, go to both! We can't wait to see you in San Diego.
Reminder: Nominations for public SPJ Honors are due on Friday. For members-only honors, you have until April 18 to submit nominations. Read more about the SPJ Honors by visiting the awards site on spj.org.
SCHOLARSHIPS TO EIJ14
Applications for three annual scholarships are due on May 12. Read more details and fill out the online application forms for a chance to finance your professional development at the Excellence in Journalism 2014 conference.
The Diversity Leadership Program is an opportunity for members to become more acquainted with SPJ through exposure to the Society. This educational process begins at the national conference and includes a complimentary conference registration and paid travel to the event. SPJ will select six Diversity Leadership Fellows to participate in the program, which will pay for their EIJ14 expenses. To learn more and apply online, click here.
The Terry Harper Memorial Scholarship honors former SPJ Executive Director Terry Harper, who passed away on June 2, 2009 at the young age of 45 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. As executive director, one of Terry's highest priorities was the development of high-caliber training opportunities for SPJ members. In honor of Terry's lasting efforts to improve SPJ and the entire journalism community, SPJ will award scholarships to the EIJ conference thanks to a generous outpouring of support for his memorial fund. To learn more and apply online, click here.
The Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award was created to honor Robert Lewis, SPJ President 1985-86, National FOI Chairman 1978-83 and Wells Key Recipient 1980. From the generosity of the Lewis family, the award is given each year to a student SPJ member who has demonstrated outstanding service to the First Amendment through the field of journalism. The award assists a student with his/her attendance to SPJ's annual convention. To learn more and apply online, click here.
DATA JOURNALISM FOR ALL
The SDX Foundation has partnered with For Journalism to offer online classes on various topics, including data visualization, data science/statistics, mapping and web coding. The topics that For Journalism has initially proposed are meant to address technical skills that journalists need to have in an increasingly digital and Web-first industry.
Ultimately, this type of training is available from different sources, but what differentiates For Journalism from others is its comprehensive scope. The courses aren't meant to be one-time events such as webinars, but rather long-term classes that take participants from beginning to end. Lessons will include e-textbooks and virtual study groups with peers. In this sense, courses will be more like a semester-long college class than a one-hour lunchtime webinar.
Visit forjournalism.com and start learning today!
Ohio University is hosting its sixth annual Schuneman Symposium on March 25 in the Baker Center Theater. This year's topic, photojournalism and new media, will include top-level people including Lisa Strausfeld of Bloomberg, Juan Velasco of National Geographic, Zach Wise from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Sara Quinn from the Poynter Institute and John Sale from The Commercial Appeal.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information and a complete schedule, visit scrippsjschool.org/2014.php or contact Robert Stewart, director, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, at 740-593-2601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A SURVEY FOR SCIENCE REPORTERS
In August 2013, SPJ member Paige Brown conducted a wide online survey of nearly 1,000 science journalists and bloggers to better understand why and how science research is translated into news. As a continuation of a science communication project for her PhD research at Louisiana State University, she is now introducing Part II of this survey -- a follow-up to answer more questions and confirm some intriguing results from Part I.
If you are a journalist, blogger, freelance writer, magazine writer, TV producer, radio announcer, podcast producer, or anything in between, consider participating in this online survey, which only takes 15 minutes to complete. You need not have completed Part I of the survey to participate in Part II.Once you've completed this survey, you will also have the chance to read an abstract and summary of the results from Part I, which have now been submitted for publication.
LAST WEEK'S QUIZ
The New York Times recently hired a new top fashion critic. Where did this person work previously?
Answer: Vanessa Friedman, the fashion critic the New York Times hired, worked at the Financial Times.
And the winner is ... Matt Allinson! Allinson is an international media relations supervisor at Business Wire in Seattle and a member of the Western Washington Pro chapter. Congrats!
THIS WEEK'S QUIZ
What university's student newspaper is being criticized by Hindu groups for publishing a column that attacked yoga because of its connection to Hinduism?
Submit your answer to Ellen Kobe.