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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > FEMA folds, Call for resolutions, Interesting movie

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SPJ Leads | 7/28/2006
FEMA folds, Call for resolutions, Interesting movie


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

WE ROCK. After heavy pressure from some of SPJ’s top watchdogs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency this week announced changes to its “media relations policy” concerning Katrina victims living in agency-funded trailer parks. Wonder of wonders, the folks at FEMA have decided that residents are entitled to their First Amendment rights and can speak with journalists without having a FEMA representative present. This week, our fearless watchdogs are still on the case, working with journalists at The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate to help FEMA understand why it should disclose how much money American taxpayers have forked over to build the trailer parks, which are not at full occupancy. Check out The Advocate and Editor & Publisher to be brought up to speed on the controversy – and SPJ’s role in it.

MESS WITH TEXAS? SPJ member Angela Grant thought you may be interested in knowing more about a FOI issue cooking in Texas. According to the San Antonio Express-News: “The constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act, which prohibits elected officials from deliberating public business in private, is now in the hands of a West Texas federal judge. A ruling, which poses the most serious challenge to the Texas Open Meetings Law since it was passed in 1967, is not expected soon. After a one-day trial Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Junell gave the parties until late September to file additional pleadings.” Read more.

SUPPORT THE CAUSE. The national FOI Committee needs your help. Even a one-time contribution is grand. Contact Committee Co-Chairman Joel Campbell to find out how you can get involved.

GET A ROOM! The hotel rooms SPJ has reserved for its rocking national conference, coming up in Chicago Aug. 24-27, are nearly sold out. Better make your reservations quickly. Know that SPJ will help you cut your lodging bill by helping you find a roommate.

If you already have a room and find later that you are unable to attend the conference, please contact Chris Vachon,, BEFORE canceling your reservation. Another SPJ’er might be able to use the room. If you cancel through the hotel, there’s no way for us to recover it at the group rate.

BUT LEAVE THE HOTEL. This year, SPJ conference-goers will have plenty of places to go and people to see. We’ve lined up newsroom tours of Bloomberg News’ Chicago bureau, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune and ABC7 Chicago. There’s a half-day trip to see Underwriters Laboratories’ consumer-product testing in action. We’re hosting a city bus tour designed by journalists for journalists. Then there’s Friday Night Fun with the Chicago Headline Club, an evening of events hosted in some of the city’s legendary haunts and hot, new hangouts.

HEAR YE! HEAR YE! Each year, delegates to SPJ’s national convention consider resolutions that state the Society’s position on various issues. In the past, proposed resolutions have been introduced at the convention itself, often leaving very little time for delegates to study and discuss them. This year, committees, chapters and individual members are asked to submit resolutions in advance. Please do so by noon (EDT), Aug. 14. The goal is to distribute proposed resolutions to delegates during the opening business session so that they have plenty of time to make informed decisions. Send proposals to Al Cross, chairman of the national resolutions committee:

THE DEEP END. SPJ members have asked for more in-depth, hands-on training, and we’re delivering. Don’t miss our excellent line-up of half-day workshops. Sharpen your Web skills. Learn more about the news industry’s economics and changing dynamics so that you’re better positioned for promotions and new gigs. Get into the nitty-gritty of business reporting and the production of stellar business sections. Space in these sessions is limited, so register pronto.

VERSE-ATILE. Phyllis Codling of The News-Democrat in Carollton, Ky., shared a poem that ran in that newspaper sometime during the 1920s or 1930s – and, in the process, proved that the more things change, the more they stay the same. “I keep a copy of it on my monitor just for those days when I feel like I can’t win with readers,” she wrote. “At a community weekly, that’s at least once a week.” The poem is attributed to “Miami Life.”

The Life of an Editor
If we print jokes, people will say we are silly;
If we don’t, they say we are too serious.
If we clip things from other magazines,
We are too lazy to write them ourselves;
If we don’t, we are stuck on our own stuff.
If we stick close to the job all day,
We ought to spend our time hustling up news;
If we do get out and try to hustle,
We ought to be on the job in the office.
If we don’t print contributions,
We don’t appreciate genius;
If we do print them,
The paper is filled with junk.
Now, like as not, some guy will say,
We swiped this from some other magazine.
Well, we did.

SPEAKING OF POETRY. SPJ is hosting the Chicago Poetry Showcase during the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference. Attendees will be treated to original verse about free speech and the First Amendment penned by some of the city’s top performance poets. Feel free to get us all in the spirit to hear it by contributing some of your own poetry to Leads. We’ll run it if it’s clean (which was not the case with a darned funny limerick shared this week by member Kendall Watson). We’ll take those contributions at

FROM WINDY CITY TO CITY OF INDY. Opportunity Indianapolis is joining with Leadership Education and Development to offer journalists a chance to enhance their leadership skills and to explore with various community decision-makers hot topics important to Indianapolis. Participants in a workshop to be held Aug. 24 and 25 will get an exclusive, hands-on, behind-the-scenes exploration of the city and will delve into issues such as arts and culture, economic development, life sciences, government and sports. In October and November, journalists may participate in an interactive program designed to enhance practical leadership skills through presentations, discussion facilitation, group learning and networking. For more information:, or call Lindsey Rabinowitch at (317) 631-6542, extension 133.

THUMBS UP! The idea of U.S. politicians and pundits using the media to help spin a candidate is not new, but have you ever wondered how the “All-American” spin model works when exported outside the United States? Find out July 30 at noon, when SPJ’s Southern Arizona chapter presents a screening of the documentary, “Our Band is Crisis.” The movie offers an intense, behind-the-scenes look at the manipulation involved in big-time political campaigning. Filmmaker Rachel Boynton follows the misadventures of a U.S. spin team, led by former Clinton adviser James Carville, as it travels to Bolivia to try and turn the tide of public opinion back toward unpopular presidential candidate Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada. In the process, the team discovers that the typical American ties between democracy and capitalism don’t necessarily translate well in other nations. A discussion featuring former Arizona Gov. Raul Castro and Paul Eckerstrom, former head of the Pima County Democratic Party, will follow the 87-minute film. Where: The Loft Cinema in Tucson. Cost: $10, a portion of which will be used to benefit this recently-resurrected chapter. For more information, contact Polly Higgins at

LEADS’ JOB LEADS. Check out the openings in SPJ’s Job Bank. This week, folks are looking for reporting, production and editing help in Idaho and New Mexico. Openings may be viewed by SPJ members only (so you’ll need your password), but anyone may post openings at no charge.

Know of a job opening in your newsroom? Aware of internships and opportunities for freelancers? Help make this a dynamic resource for everyone – and a great member benefit – by taking the time to post information in the Job Bank.

MCQUEEN MOVES TO NEW ORLEANS. Longtime SPJ stalwart Mike McQueen has been named chief of the Associated Press’ New Orleans bureau. A member of SPJ’s national diversity committee, Mike wrote “Get to the Source: A Teaching Plan,” a module designed to help journalism professors integrate SPJ’s “Rainbow Sourcebook” into reporting and writing classes. Look for the module online soon. Mike has served as assistant chief of the AP bureau since March and is the former managing editor of The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. He also has served as a professor at Florida International University. Mike was president of SPJ’s South Florida chapter from 2000 to 2002. Learn more about Mike’s taste in wine at

Make sure your work always includes fresh perspectives from a wide array of people. Check out SPJ’s searchable sourcebook today.

LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT? Tired of your journalism job? Member Angela Toretta shared a few ideas about how to lose yours – and fast.

1. End every sentence with an exclamation point! Or two!! Including quotes! (After all, who are you to squelch the passion of your source?!)

2. Start giving testimony at the public comment portion of boring city council meetings. Take a cue from the resident nut to spice up the meetings. “Let me ask you this, good councilors: When you build this power plant and it blows us all sky high, will you be lifted by the Lord or tossed into the fiery inferno?”

3. When editors ask for additional sources, insert yourself into the story as that additional source. Always refer to yourself as “this reporter” so as not to mislead the readers.

PARDON OUR PRONOUNS. Member Jess Davis, an intern at The Greenville (S.C.) News who submitted a haiku last week, is a she, not he. Just so you know.

WHO WILL BE THE FIRST? SPJ’s Snake River chapter (that’s Idaho and eastern Washington state, people) is selling Brenda Starr T-shirts and posters. The "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and Snake River signature items should be available soon.

COMIC BOOK QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Who said it? “If you don’t know how to use a keyboard, tell me you at least know how to use a razor.” Send your answers to Tom Henderson at

No one got last week’s quote (“Well, Jessica, an unemployed journalist has many options. Waitress. Telemarketer. Fast-food clerk.”) Keep trying.

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