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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Lester Holt, Awful limericks, Ethics matter

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SPJ Leads | 8/4/2006
Lester Holt, Awful limericks, Ethics matter


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

GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE. Jerry Roberts, former editor of The Santa Barbara News-Press, is one of nine top journalists who resigned from the paper in protest of the owner's alleged meddling in news coverage. Speaking on July 26 to more than 300 people at a community forum in Santa Barbara, Roberts explained why SPJ's Code of Ethics is tremendously important to journalists and to the public they serve. See how Roberts and his colleagues applied the code when making some very tough decisions.

Ask National Ethics Committee Chairman Gary Hill how you can be of service:

VICTORY – FOR NOW. SPJ is pleased that a federal judge has ordered temporary reinstatement of the faculty adviser at a southern New Jersey community college's student newspaper. SPJ conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the professor's removal and recommended in May that she be reinstated. Read more about the issue and SPJ's role in Newsday.

WE WIN SOME! SPJ, along with four other national press groups, filed an amicus brief that may have helped convince Indiana's state supreme court to refuse transfer of a case that allows public inspection of out-of-court insurance settlements with Indiana towns. The case stemmed from The (Knightstown, Ind.) Banner's request to obtain a copy of a settlement agreement that ended in a civil rights lawsuit brought by a former Knightstown police dispatcher. The town won a local court ruling, claiming it had no copy of the record and therefore did not have to disclose the information as a public record. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the newspaper and ordered the town to release the settlement information. With the Supreme Court's decision, the pro-access ruling stands.

WE LOSE SOME. On the East Coast, we have this to worry about:

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the government is entitled to search the phone records of two New York Times reporters to identify sources who tipped the journalists about impending government searches of two Islamic charities under investigation. The Times called the foundations for comment on the eve of the searches, and, according to the government, thereby jeopardized the safety of federal officers and the investigation itself. Read more in The New York Sun.

Then on the West Coast, there's this to fret about:

Freelance journalist Joshua Wolf, 24, was jailed this week for refusing to turn over unpublished videotapes to a federal grand jury investigating a possible arson attempt on a police car during a 2005 demonstration. Wolf could remain jailed until the grand jury's term expires next July. SPJ has granted $1,000 from its Legal Defense Fund to cover some of Josh's legal expenses. Read more in The New York Times.

FOR LEGAL REASONS. SPJ's Legal Defense Fund is of big help to journalists across the United States. It takes only a moment of your time to support it. Please make a donation today. Rifle through your desk – yes, we know you've got graft around there somewhere – and send neat items to SPJ's headquarters for auction during the upcoming national conference. We hope to raise big bucks from donations such as Bob Schieffer bobblehead dolls, a book Kurt Vonnegut wrote and autographed by way of self-portrait and a "Winter Escape Package” to Mt. Rainier, Wash. See what else we'll be selling for a great cause.

CHICAGO GRABBED AHOLT OF HIM. Before Lester Holt was named co-anchor of NBC "Today” Weekend Edition, he spent 14 years as a reporter and anchor at WBBM-TV in Chicago. We asked him to share some of his memories about the Windy City to whet your appetite for the 2006 SPJ National Convention & Journalism Conference.

What is among your memorable media moments in Chicago?
Chicago is one of the greatest local news markets in the country. I arrived there the last year of Mayor Harold Washington's administration. When he died (in 1987), it was an incredible political story. The posturing and wrangling to replace him was something to behold. I was enthralled with covering Chicago politics.

What is it about Chicago that is so endearing to Americans?
It has the best of everything. It's a great Midwestern city, but is clearly international with great ethnic neighborhoods. It hasn't lost its working-class roots, and that gives it a realness.
When you visit, what are your must-sees?

The Museum of Science and Industry is one of my favorite museums in the country. I used to ride my bike up and down the lakefront. It's just gorgeous having a playground at the front door of all the skyscrapers. Of course, the Navy Pier is a great vantage to walk out into the lake and enjoy the view. Whether they're winning or losing, you've got to see Chicago sports teams.
What do you have to say to the 1,000 journalists who will be attending the conference?

Journalism has gotten tougher. We need to remember our roots and our role in society. Our job is not to be popular, but to lay things out where they stand. ‘Mainstream media' is not a dirty term.

DON'T FORGET! Make sure you register to attend the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference before Aug. 16 – or you'll be paying the more expensive "on site” rate.

JETZT MUSS ICH GEHEN. Want to work in Germany? Journalism students and working pros with seven years of experience or less may qualify for fellowships offered by the Fulbright Commission. The commission will tap five young reporters to spend a year in Germany, where they'll work for newspapers or broadcast stations. The Aug. 1 deadline has passed, but because the commission hasn't received many applications, it's willing to consider your application (if filed pronto). There may even be some wiggle room with the requirement that you be proficient in German. Find more information online or by contacting Richard Pettit at (202) 686-6240 or

CLIMB ABOARD! When the NewsTrain pulls into the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Aug. 15-16, it'll be carrying some of the best editors in the biz to provide practical training on editing and newsroom management skills. Working as an editor? Aspiring to be one? Consider attending this event, which is being held in conjunction with the National Association of Black Journalists' annual conference. Cost (includes three meals): $35. For more information: Follow the link to NewsTrain/NABJ.

YOU NEED A NEW BAG. Find excellent training that will help you be a better journalist at The site, which is maintained by SPJ, will let you search for events by zip code!

WE SO SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING. OK, so last week, we casually mentioned a limerick we received that was darned funny — but one we just couldnít bring ourselves to print (and still canít). Charges of censorship from dozens of you ensued! Hereís our official explanation, like it or lump it.
At SPJ, we rarely have quibbled If the poetry submitted was ribald.

But we keep it clean for the kiddies.
No dirty verse, even witty.
Now wipe off your chin. Somethingís dribbled.
Please, stop the madness! Send your verse (thereís no way it could be worse than this) to Tom:

ON TO MORE SOPHISTICATED POETRY. SPJ is proud to host the Chicago Poetry Showcase, featuring 15 of Chicago's top performance poets, during the upcoming national conference. If you're joining us, please plan to check out these presentations, many of which will feature original verse about the importance of free speech and a free press.

COMIC BOOK QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Thanks for trying, but no one identified the speaker of this quote: "If you don't know how to use a keyboard, tell me you at least know how to use a razor." It was Perry White, speaking to a de-powered Superman who was having trouble dealing with the intricacies of shaving as a regular guy.

The previous week's quote ("Well, Jessica, an unemployed journalist has many options. Waitress. Telemarketer. Fast-food clerk.") was from Brenda Starr.

On to the next round. Who said this? "Philosophy? Why don't I just ask him his SAT scores? I don't want philosophy! I want facts!"

Send your answers to Tom Henderson at And while you're at it, please send journalism jokes, strange headlines and – for the love of Pete – tasteful limericks.

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