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SPJ Board of Directors statement on Fox sponsorship at Excellence in Journalism 2019


J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, atarquinio@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists stands by its partner the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in condemning last week’s vile anti-immigrant commentary by the host of a show on the Fox News subscription streaming service. NAHJ, SPJ and the Radio Television Digital News Association co-sponsor the Excellence in Journalism 2019 conference.

While we are sympathetic to the concerns NAHJ has expressed to these objectionable comments, we will not rescind the invitation to Fox to be a sponsor of EIJ19 in San Antonio. This was conveyed to the network during an in-person meeting between SPJ, RTDNA, NAHJ and Fox News on Wednesday.

“We condemn the unacceptable comments by the Fox contributor, however, as a press freedom organization, we must defend the spirit of free speech inherent in the First Amendment,” said J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President. “Although it is unfortunate when the principle of free speech collides with the basic moral standards of civil debate, we will not exclude any media organization from the Excellence in Journalism conference based on their commentators’ points of view.”

Immigration coverage will be one of the many important topics examined at EIJ19. There has been much controversial public debate about the topic, reminding us how essential it is for journalists to approach immigration issues with care, compassion and consideration.

It is up to journalists to learn and understand the facts of the issues so that they may accurately share them with their audiences. Part of that care is in the language we use. Immigration is a topic filled with highly charged debate, but journalists must take a more measured approach.

The SPJ Code of Ethics tells journalists to “Seek Truth and Report It.” It expands on that tenet by encouraging journalists to boldly tell the story of diversity and the magnitude of the human experience; seek sources whose voices we seldom hear; avoid stereotyping; label commentary; never deliberately distort facts or context. The second tenet of the Code says to “Minimize Harm.” Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.

Most particularly, in this case, the Code tells us to support the open and civil exchange of views, even views the reporters find repugnant.

We are eagerly anticipating our EIJ conference in San Antonio with two fine partners in journalism — NAHJ and RTDNA. It is a fitting place and with fitting company to explore immigration and the best ways to cover it with respect to ethics and diversity.

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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