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Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer awarded $75,000 to investigate media’s role in war


For Immediate Release:
August 12, 2008

Steve Geimann, Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President, (202) 624-1960 sgeimann@spj.org
Scott Leadingham, Society of Professional Journalists Communication Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 sleadingham@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – Jay Bookman, editorial page writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is the 2008 recipient of the $75,000 Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing, which is presented annually by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists.

With the funding, Bookman plans to travel to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan to gain a better understanding of how members of the media are used as strategic assets for waging war. “We have become weapons that each side is eager to use against the other,” wrote Bookman in his fellowship proposal. “That change has enormous ramifications in how we do our jobs, including how we protect our personal safety, and how journalism and the military interact.”

“Jay Bookman will help journalists understand that war has changed and shed light on what reporters need to know – and do – to prevent becoming more bullets and bombs in a conflict,” said Steve Geimann, president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Bookman also proposes to spend time in Washington, D.C. and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to prepare his research and understand how “military intellectuals and academics are devising new doctrines for this new way of doing battle,” according to his proposal. He hopes the final product of his research, which is aimed for publication in journalism and military trade journals, will help those in the media and military find common ground.

“I’m also considering turning this work into a book, although that is further down the road,” said Bookman.

This marks the 29th time the fellowship has been awarded and the second time Bookman has received the honor. The fellowship is named in honor of Eugene Pulliam, one of the original members of the Society and former publisher of the Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette.

Paul McMasters, Jane Kirtley and Vanessa Gallman chose the fellowship recipient. McMasters is a former national president of both SDX and SPJ and has been judging the fellowship for more than a decade. Kirtley is the director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota and a member of the SDX Foundation board. Gallman is the president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

“Jay Bookman's ambitious proposal promises to shed light on the military practice of ‘perception management’ -- an Orwellian practice that has the potential to pose significant challenges to journalistic independence and credibility,” said Jane Kirtley. “It's an exciting and important project that raises access and ethics issues that will affect how the news industry does its work, as the military attempts to utilize the media to promote its mission.”

Vanessa Gallman expressed a similar sentiment about the project.

“Bookman’s exploration of the media as part of the military battlefield should spur discussion about how this industry best serves the public interest during war coverage,” Gallman said. “The fellowship is a wise investment in an accomplished editorialist tackling a topic that deserves scrutiny.”

Bookman was a previous recipient of the Pulliam Editorial Fellowship in 1995. That award lead to a book, “Caught in the Current: Searching for Simplicity in the Technological Age,” which was published by St. Martin’s Press. He also co-authored the how-to book “Beyond Argument: A Handbook for Editorial Writers.”

Previous honors for Bookman include the Walker Stone Award from the Scripps Howard Journalism Foundation, National Headliner Award for editorial writing, the Aldo Leopold Award from the Wilderness Society and the American Conservation Award from the National Wildlife Federation. He is a seven-time winner of the Best of Cox Newspapers award for columns and editorials.

In 1978 Bookman graduated from Pennsylvania State University with undergraduate degrees in history and journalism. He has worked as a copy editor for the North Adams Transcript in North Adams, Mass., editorial page editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and editorial writer for The Columbian in Vancouver, Wash. He has been writing for the editorial page at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1990.

Bookman will receive his award during the annual convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, held September 17-20, 2008, in Little Rock, Ark.

The Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing was first offered in 1977. It is funded by a gift from Mrs. Eugene Pulliam, honoring the memory of her husband.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.




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