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SPJ opposes recommended Stars and Stripes cuts


6/17/2020


CONTACT:
Patricia Gallagher Newberry, SPJ National President, 513-702-4065, pattinewberryspj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists stresses once again that it is strongly opposed to the Pentagon’s proposed cuts to Stars and Stripes, the editorially independent newspaper of the military.

SPJ asked the Pentagon to reconsider cuts when the news first broke in February. “SPJ again urges Congress – and our colleagues in newsrooms and on editorial boards across the country – to preserve this unique, independent news organization,” said SPJ National President Patricia Gallagher Newberry.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, without any language to support Stars and Stripes. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, offered an amendment to block the Pentagon’s shutdown plans, but it was not adopted. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Stars and Stripes is an important communications tool for military troops deployed around the world, but especially in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where the circumstances are dangerous and the access to information is limited,” Newberry said. “It is an independent, non-partisan voice on which so many troops depend. Cutting its budget would be an enormous disservice to the men and women who serve our country.”

Ernie Gates, ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, says Stars and Stripes proves its value to deployed troops, families and civilians, with unique stories from bases around the world, that wouldn’t be covered otherwise.

“[U.S. Defense] Secretary [Mark] Esper and others at the Pentagon would argue that Stars and Stripes is obsolete and redundant to available commercial news sources. But that fails to recognize the unique ‘local’ coverage Stripes’ reporters provide from bases around the world,” Gates said. “As I’m sure you understand, no commercial business model could sustain that far-flung reporting and distribution system. It’s not a market, it’s a mission. That’s why Stripes needs an appropriation to cover about half of its operating expenses.”

Gates said he is optimistic that the House version of the FY21 NDAA will back Stars and Stripes when it is taken up next week by the House Armed Services Committee. That would set the stage, he says, for a conference committee to reconcile the Senate and House bills.

With roots as far back as the Civil War, Stars and Stripes has published continuously since World War II, providing troops with reliable news and information free of command influence, operating under First Amendment principles.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.

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