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By Tom Henderson
Editorial Writer and Columnist, Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune
FARM BILL FIGHT. SPJ and 28 journalism-advocacy organizations signed onto a Nov. 7 letter to members of the U.S. Senate that opposes non-disclosure provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on Oct. 25. Section 10305 of the Livestock Title exempts disclosure of information from the National Animal Identification Service (NAIS), a move that would violate the Open Government Act. Read all about it. Then, write a letter to your U.S. Senator to let them know you oppose government secrecy, especially when it comes to public health.
GET OUTTA JAIL FREE? HARDLY!. In St. George, Utah, a judge is holding KUTV News Anchor Katie Baker in contempt for unknowingly violating a decorum order. But, rather than send her to jail immediately, Judge James Shumate put a hold on the ruling for 90 days and offered Baker the opportunity to do a story on a cause "that needs some attention." In exchange, all charges would be dropped. Baker was not ordered to broadcast the story, but was asked to deliver it to Shumate on a DVD. Consistent with the Society's position that journalists should not be intimidated by government officials for doing their jobs, Society leaders in a letter asked Shumate to drop charges against Baker and the expectation that she will produce a public service story. SPJ will be monitoring this situation.
A LIVING TRIBUTE. The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation approved a $20,000 grant to help launch a collaborative investigative journalism project to continue the work of murdered Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey. The grant will let the Chauncey Bailey Project continue Bailey's work where he left off on Aug. 2, 2007, when he was shot as he walked to work. The project includes journalists from newspapers, radio and television stations, joined by non-profit groups in the Bay Area and journalism programs at three colleges.
HIGH FIVE!. Congratulations to the Washington, D.C., and Maryland Professional chapters for their efforts to improve and protect journalism. On Monday, leaders from the Maryland Professional chapter spoke out against a plan by the state's judiciary to uphold a policy banning cameras in the courtroom during criminal proceedings. The chapter also wrote a letter to the judiciary in support of open courtrooms. In October, leaders of the Washington, D.C., Professional chapter sent a letter to Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty that asked him to reconsider a plan to purge city e-mails considered to be public documents under the District's open records law. Chapter leaders voiced their concerns, noting that the six-month time limit for retaining e-mails was unreasonable when ensuring critical information is not destroyed. After intense pressure from SPJ, civic groups and government officials, Fenty withdrew his executive order on Tuesday.
FOR YOUR JOURNALISM ENTERTAINMENT. The Media Giraffe Project has two new DVD's available for purchase. "The New Pamphleteers: Entrepreneurs, Watchdogs and Citizens in The Digital Age," is an informal video view of the motivations, operations and challenges faced by citizen-journalist entrepreneurs. "The State of Citizen Journalism" is a thought-provoking, town-meeting-style discussion featuring seven experts and a 150-person participating audience and see where newsrooms are headed.
MENTORS WANTED. New Jersey Pro President Michelle Maskaly reminds all members that SPJ's Mentor Match-Up program helps to promote great journalism by introducing journalists with varied backgrounds and experience levels. Need some guidance? Not sure if you should stay or go? Want to help an aspiring journalist get a start? Then consider becoming a part of the program.
HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM. To encourage free thinking for young people, SPJ is hosting a High School Essay Contest. Judges want to know why a free press is important to our lives. Know someone who has something to say? Encourage them to write and they could win. Get the details at SPJ.org.
FREE MONEY. SPJ is offering $1,000 grants to chapters for Ethics in Journalism Week programming. One grant per region is available, thanks to a donation from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. Deadline: Nov. 12. Visit SPJ.org to access the application form. Questions? Contact Heather Porter or call her at (317) 927-8000, ext. 204.
iGIRL'S NEW GIG. SPJ Region 11 Director Sonya Smith has a new gig. She was covering Irvine for both the Orange County Register's Irvine World News community paper and the Register. But, starting this week, she's working out of the Santa Ana bureau for five months covering technology while the current reporter is on maternity leave. She writes a blog for the paper under the code name "iGirl."
GENE THE DEAN. Gene Roberts, the veteran Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times editor, is this year's Neal Shine Ethics lecturer at Michigan State University.
Roberts will present his talk at 4 p.m., Nov. 14, in Big Ten C in the Kellogg Center. Roberts led the staff of the Inquirer to a remarkable 17 Pulitzer Prizes in his 18 years as executive editor. He won the Pulitzer Prize in history in April for his book, "The Race Beat," co-authored with Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
FREEDOM FIGHTER. Dave Cuillier, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, is SPJ´s National Freedom of Information Committee Chairman.
He's also the state sunshine chair for Arizona, a member of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, and an FOIA trainer for SPJ. Under his leadership, SPJ will be adding three discussion boards to its FOI Web page that will allow people to post their queries and FOI knowledge while getting feedback. Each state sunshine chair is being asked to provide Cuillier with two FOI updates in 2007-08. Want to join the open fight? Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GRADE F. Citizens often have their FOI requests denied, and the only way to gain access to that public information is by appealing an agency's denial. When it's time to appeal, in the vast majority of states, a citizen has little or no recourse, except for the courts, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Better Government Association found through a study that examined FOI laws in all 50 states. Their findings are depressing. When scoring each state, 38 out of 50 states received a grade of F. This means that even a low score of 66 percent puts a state in the Top 10 of the rankings. The conclusion: FOI laws are only as good as the response mechanisms in place to comply with FOI requests.
TESTING, 123. Jackson Citizen Patriot reporter Chad Livengood, who created a buzz in Michigan by reporting a state test question before all students had taken the exam, will be Mid-Michigan SPJ´s guest at 12:15 p.m., Nov. 14 at Trippers in Lansing´s Frandor Shopping Center. Cost: $10 for members and students, $12 for nonmembers. More info: Contact Dawn Parker at email@example.com.
SHIELD LAW STRATEGY. Phil Beck of Philadelphia's SPJ pro chapter and Pat Trosky of the Keystone chapter are joining forces to ensure enactment of a state shield law in Pennsylvania. They are reaching out to other media organizations and hope to have a comprehensive plan of action in place by the end of the year. Anyone who thinks they can help in this endeavor is encouraged to contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org and Pat at email@example.com.
FREE SPEECH, BUT NO FREE LUNCH. Student chapters in Tacoma, Wash., and Miami recently hosted successful First Amendment events. The Pacific Lutheran University chapter, which won Outstanding Student Chapter at the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, hosted a First Amendment Free Food Festival on Oct. 8. On Oct. 23, the University of Miami chapter hosted its own version. Between the two schools, hundreds of students learned about their First Amendment rights by temporarily trading them for a free lunch.
DATELINE: IRAN. NorCal SPJ will host Reese Erlich, author of "The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis," from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 13 at the London Wine Bar, 415 Sansome St., San Francisco. For more information, contact Lani Silver at (415) 665-4761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMIC BOOK QUOTE. Who said this and to whom?
"If you want to correct my language, get a job on the copy desk. And please don't tell me how to run my newsroom."
Think you know? Send your answer to Region 10 Director Tom Henderson at email@example.com. First right answer wins a cool prize.