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Journalists discuss NSA, federal shield law at Excellence in Journalism



Scott Leadingham, SPJ Director of Education, 317.920.4788, sleadingham@spj.org
Ellen Kobe, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317.920.4785, ekobe@spj.org

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The last day of Excellence in Journalism 2013 opened with a panel of journalists discussing the implications of the Department of Justice’s targeting of whistle blowers and journalists. The panel “Journalism, the Department of Justice and National Security: When the Watchdogs are Being Watched” was moderated by Laurie Babinski, media litigator at Baker & Hostetler LLP, and included panelists Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, and Jim Avila, Senior National Correspondent at ABC News and White House correspondent for Fusion.

The Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists co-host the Excellence in Journalism conference from Aug. 24 to 26, offering training, networking and recruiting opportunities for journalists, educators and news organizations.

This discussion comes at a timely moment in journalism. The Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen are just two recent examples of how the Obama’s administration’s leak investigations have increasingly involved journalists. Two revived federal shield bills to protect journalists from having to reveal sources have been introduced in Congress.

Avila, who used to work in California with a strong state shield law, said he always felt more comfortable promising a source to protect their identity.

“I think where we get in most trouble is when we decide we’re going to reveal a source when we’ve promised not to,” he said.

Dalglish, who is former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the Obama administration’s strict monitoring of journalists shouldn’t be a surprise considering the progression of mass information that has become available through technology. Avila added that the Obama administration controls the press and its message more than any past administrations.

The discussion led into how the public perceives journalists’ rights and the government’s seizures.

“I’m not convinced that the American public is concerned that all their email is being scarfed up and their phone records are being seized,” Dalglish said. “I think they’re upset that the government has been lying about it.”

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.

RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization exclusively serving the electronic news profession, consisting of more than 3,000 news directors, news associates, educators and students. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, the association is dedicated to setting standards for newsgathering and reporting. Learn more about RTDNA at www.rtdna.org.

NAHJ is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. Established in April 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists. Learn more about NAHJ at nahj.org.


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