Resolutions passed at Excellence in Journalism 2019
Patricia Gallagher Newberry, SPJ National President, 513-702-4065, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashlynn Neumeyer, Communications Coordinator, 317-361-4133, email@example.com
SAN ANTONIO – Each year, Society of Professional Journalists delegates vote on resolutions submitted by members on topics of importance to the Society. These resolutions are voted on by delegates during the closing business session at the Excellence in Journalism annual conference.
Here are the resolutions that were approved during EIJ19 in San Antonio:
Resolution No. 1
Remembering Former SPJ President John Ensslin
Submitted by: Director At-Large Lauren Bartlett, Region 3 director Michael Koretzky
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists lost one of its most respected — and yes, best-loved — leaders when John Ensslin died in August at 65 years old;
WHEREAS John was such an ink-in-the-veins journalist, he would’ve cringed if this resolution had said he “passed away”;
WHEREAS John was SPJ president for the 2011-12 year, serving with rare distinction and training a new generation of SPJ leaders;
WHEREAS John was the driving force behind the SPJ Education Committee’s publishing of “Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism” as a tool for educators;
WHEREAS John also volunteered as SPJ’s first podcast host, creating the program from scratch and interviewing SPJ leaders on a wide range of topics for many years;
WHEREAS John also served as president of the Denver Press Club and was inducted into its Hall of Fame;
WHEREAS John won many awards for his coverage, which ranged from the serious (the murder of JonBenet Ramsey) to the light-hearted (Queen Elizabeth visiting Wyoming);
WHEREAS John transitioned from New Jersey to Denver to New Jersey and back to Denver during his journalistic career, but he still found time to expand his talents to new media and train others with the knowledge he acquired;
WHEREAS John always loved baseball and made time to see games wherever he was and whenever possible, getting together with his beloved wife, Denise, family and friends because dinner, drinks and laughs made John happiest;
WHEREAS John touched the lives of everyone he met in some way and his death leaves a void not likely to be filled, and those who knew and loved him will surely say it was an honor to know him;
WHEREAS John was such a modest guy that he’d be embarrassed by this resolution and would likely dismiss it with his trademark grin — and would probably recommend edits to tighten it up before suggesting the names of other SPJers who deserve it more;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that SPJ, meeting in convention on September 7, 2019 in San Antonio or wherever they may read this, stand up right now and applaud loud enough for John Ensslin to hear it.
Resolution No. 2
Allowing Federal Employees to Freely Talk with the Press
Submitted by: SPJ Freedom of Information Committee
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS the ability of people to speak to each other normally, without being pressured to report conversations to the authorities or to anyone, is essential to public welfare and democracy;
WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists has carefully studied and repeatedly decried the cultural norm that has grown up in many arenas of prohibiting employees and others from communicating with journalists without going through or reporting to a public information officers or other authority;
WHEREAS the prohibitions against communicating with journalists and the pressures to report contacts are authoritarian and prevent source people from explaining many things that are the public’s business and certainly interlace with other current pressures on speech to weaken society and create extraordinarily dangerous situations;
WHEREAS in a democracy, it is more appropriate for the public and the press to have oversight over the communications of people in power rather than the reverse;
WHEREAS proposed compromises that would allow reporters to communicate with whom they wish, but would still force employees or others to report contacts are dangerously intimidating to communication;
WHEREAS proposed compromises that would allow people in power to mandate reporting of contacts after they occur are also dangerously intimidating to communication;
WHEREAS such compromises are insidious because they often empower journalists to gather some information while being unaware of how much the source people speaking under this censorship will not mention;
WHEREAS in spite of journalistic skills, triumphs, prowess, breakthroughs and impressive stories and in spite of the fact some sources do leak, journalists cannot know what they miss when people are under pressure to not communicate or pressure to report contacts with journalists;
WHEREAS journalists’ obligation to do all they can to seek the full truth includes fighting against barriers to understanding the full truth and reporting those barriers to the public;
WHEREAS the public has a right to be dubious about information coming from public or private organizations where employees are silenced in terms of communicating to the press or where they cannot speak without guards;
WHEREAS the SPJ stresses to people in public and private leadership that these restrictions routinely hide information from the leaders themselves; from the professionals and others who focus on the subjects being discussed; and from the rest of the public; and
WHEREAS Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced into Congress the Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1709 and S. 775) which has the intent of allowing federal scientists to speak to the media as well as publish scientific findings, participate in scientific organizations and communicate in other ways;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention on September 7, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas calls on Rep. Tonko, Sen. Schatz and others in Congress to ensure any such legislation supports the right of unimpeded communication with journalists for all federal employees and not just for scientists;
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that any such legislation ensure that all federal employees have the right to communicate with the press without reporting contacts with the authorities or anyone, before or after the contacts; and that reporters making requests to an agency be able to speak to the requested persons and not be confined to spokespersons.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that SPJ calls on Congress and the Executive Branch to complete a thorough examination on why free speech has become so undermined for millions of people that legislation is needed to allow free speech, without reporting to authorities and on what those restrictions do to the nation’s functioning.
LET IT BE FINALLY RESOLVED that SPJ calls on people in leadership in all arenas, including sports, education, police operations, state and local government, science and others, to work to eliminate these restrictions, because they create ignorance in all of us and induce corrosion that impacts everyone.
Resolution No. 3
Calling for More Security for Journalists in Mexico
Submitted by: International Community
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS, Mexico is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”;
WHEREAS, Mexico is also a signatory to the 1994 Declaration of Chapultepec, which states in its preamble, "Wherever the media can function unhindered and determine their own direction and manner of serving the public, there is a blossoming of the ability to seek information, to disseminate it without restraints, to question it without fear, and to promote the free exchange of ideas and opinions. But wherever freedom of the press is curtailed, for whatever reasons, the other freedoms vanish”;
WHEREAS, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 10 Mexican journalists have been murdered in calendar year 2019 as of August 24, making Mexico the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere;
WHEREAS, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) 151 journalists have been murdered in Mexico from 2000 to date — the most in Latin America —, of which at least 90 percent remain in impunity;
WHEREAS, several media organizations in Mexico have been forced to suspend their operations because of threats of violence, most recently the newspaper El Monitor de Parral in Chihuahua, which was firebombed on July 30, 2019, depriving the citizens of that city of a means of information;
WHEREAS, Freedom House, in its most recent annual report in 2017, rated the Mexican press as “not free” because of violence against journalists, placing Mexico in the same unenviable category as such countries as China, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, and
WHEREAS, in its 2017 report, Freedom House stated that “Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists and media workers. Most murders and other violent attacks are not punished, leading to an expectation of impunity, and journalists face extreme editorial pressure—including credible threats of violence—from criminal organizations and corrupt authorities. Governmental mechanisms to protect journalists are hampered by bureaucratic rivalries, lack of resources, and inadequate training,” and
WHEREAS, the assurances of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to provide greater protection for journalists have failed to halt the bloodshed, and
WHEREAS, the current climate of violence and intimidation directed against Mexican journalists and journalists from all nations working in Mexico has had a chilling effect on freedom of the press and the free flow of information in a democratic society, as set forth in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Chapultepec,
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in San Antonio, Texas, on September 7, 2019, expresses its condolences to and its fraternal solidarity with its colleagues in Mexico who have been and who remain victims of this violence;
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists calls upon the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to greatly enhance the protection it has already promised to prevent further acts of violence against journalists, and calls upon the Obrador administration to use all the resources at its disposal to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of violence against journalists, thus sending a signal that impunity is no longer an expectation for those who commit these acts.
LET IT BE LASTLY RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be sent to the appropriate U.S. House and Senate oversight committees, the U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security with a letter calling for the U.S. government to rapidly approve applications of asylum from Mexican journalists seeking protection from the violence in their home country.
Resolution No. 4
In Support of Malheur Enterprise
Submitted by: Region 10 Director Donald W. Meyers
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS, the Malheur Enterprise, under the leadership of Editor Les Zaitz, has been covering the actions of the Malheur County economic development department and its director, Oregon State Rep. Greg Smith, holding the department to account;
WHEREAS the Enterprise’s coverage, upholding the highest standards of SPJ’s Code of Ethics, has angered Smith, who claims that he and his employees are being “harassed” solely because journalists are asking questions about their official actions and seeking to hold them accountable to the public;
WHEREAS Smith has not merely complained about what he perceives as negative coverage but has taken steps toward silencing the Enterprise, starting with an attempt to have the paper investigated by the sheriff’s office for “telephonic harassment;”
WHEREAS the county sheriff found the allegation baseless, so Smith changed tactics and is encouraging local businesses to boycott the Enterprise and cripple it, a highly ironic act for a man whose job is supposedly to promote local business; and
WHEREAS such conduct is typical of totalitarian regimes and is particularly abhorrent when practiced by someone who has taken an oath to support and follow both the U.S. and Oregon state constitutions, which both contain provisions guaranteeing freedom of the press as a check on government abuse;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, sitting in convention on September 7, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas, strongly condemns Smith’s actions against the Malheur Enterprise and urges him to cease further attacks aimed at silencing the Malheur Enterprise by legal or economic threats.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists extends its wholehearted support to Les Zaitz and his staff for boldly seeking truth and reporting it, acting independently and serving their community by keeping government accountable.
Resolution No. 5
Salute to Newspaper Carriers
Submitted By: Sonny Albarado, Arkansas Pro Chapter, on behalf of Reginald Stuart, former national SPJ president, mentor to hundreds and former newspaper carrier
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS many journalists began their association with newspapers by delivering their hometown papers;
WHEREAS publishers continue to reap significant revenue from their printed newspapers; and
WHEREAS without carriers, newspapers would not get to the homes and businesses of subscribers in a timely manner; and
WHEREAS, despite the digital revolution, newspaper carriers across the United States still battle rain, snow, heat and cold in the early hours before dawn to deliver the printed news to readers; and
WHEREAS, despite low pay, no benefits and insecure working conditions, most carriers diligently perform their duties; and
WHEREAS carriers’ work leaves them vulnerable to disabling injury, robbery, carjacking and even murder; and
WHEREAS the Columbia Journalism Review reported in 2018 that of at least 45 carrier deaths identified since 1970, murder or violence had been the cause of death of 23 carriers; and
WHEREAS in 2019, a Pennsylvania carrier died after being shot, a Washington state carrier was gravely injured in a shooting, a California carrier died after his car rolled over him, and an Arkansas carrier drowned after her SUV was swept off an apartment parking lot by a flash flood;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in San Antonio, Texas, September 7, 2019, recognizes and honors newspaper carriers and the essential role they play in service to journalism.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society mourns the loss in 2019 of carriers Gregory Smith, 69, of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, who died after an assailant shot him and Debra Stevens, 47, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, whose last 24 minutes of life were recorded in a 911 call as floodwaters overtook her truck.
Resolution No. 6
Reviewing SPJ’s Convention Sponsorship Policy
Submitted by: Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky, Region 2 Director Andy Schotz, Director At Large Lauren Bartlett, Vice President for Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen-Katcef, The Chicago Headline Club
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS some SPJ members have disagreed with SPJ’s policy of accepting sponsorship money from controversial sources;
WHEREAS SPJ’s sponsorship policy has some members concerned about the organization’s professional reputation;
WHEREAS SPJ’s board of directors has reasserted its policy of considering sponsorships to not constitute endorsements, despite some impressions they are; and
WHEREAS SPJ’s membership hasn’t had sufficient opportunity to suggest detailed alternative policies;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention on September 7, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas, calls on the Board of Directors to appoint a joint task force of chapter leaders and unaffiliated members to study this issue and recommend changes to SPJ’s sponsorship policy. And those recommendations will be considered by the board and shared with all SPJ members 120 days before EIJ 2020, with an opportunity for feedback and suggestions. A proposal will be brought before the delegates at the next closing business meeting.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that this task force will consist of at least one current SPJ officer, who cannot be the chair, and all meetings will be open to SPJ members, with recordings of the meeting available on the SPJ website.
Resolution No. 12
Thanks to SPJ’s 2018-19 departing board members
Submitted By: Patricia Gallagher Newberry, 2019-20 president
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS At-Large Board members Lauren Bartlett, Michael Savino, Yvette Walker, Ivette Davila-Richards and Victor Hernandez served the board with distinction during their 2018-2019 terms;
WHEREAS Campus Adviser At-Large Jeff South concludes two years as a valuable board member and Vice President of Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen Katcef ends 11 years of distinguished service to the board and many more to the Society;
WHEREAS Regional Directors Andy Schotz, Michael Koretzky, Joe Radske, Don Meyers, Deb Krol and Kelly Kissel served the board with great energy and zeal during their combined 20 (or so) years on the board; and
WHEREAS President J. Alex Tarquinio served the Society in the past year with extraordinary commitment to her duties, which included wide travel; multiple speaking engagements; frequent Freedom of the Prez blog posts and statements of support for free press rights; advancement of SPJ’s partnerships, particularly with her May summit of nonprofit media groups; management of SPJ’s role in this Excellence of Journalism conference; and essential involvement of SPJ’s day-to-day operations during a time of great change in our headquarters staff;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, the Society of Professional Journalists meeting in convention in San Antonio offers sincere and lasting thanks to Lauren Bartlett, Michael Savino, Yvette Walker, Ivette Davila-Richards and Victor Hernandez for their contributions.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED the Society of Professional Journalists offers Jeff South and Sue Kopen Katcef most deserved gratitude for their years of dedication to SPJ.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED the Society of Professional Journalists also offers Andy Schotz, Michael Koretzky, Joe Radske, Don Meyers, Deb Krol and Kelly Kissel deep and sincere gratitude for their tremendous work on board and other initiatives, along with luck for those awaiting the outcome of elective races for other SPJ positions.
AND, LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, LET IT BE FINALLY RESOLVED the Society offers most-deserved thanks and congratulations to J. Alex Tarquinio for serving as SPJ’s board president for the past year and defacto acting executive director since May, and for expending endless energy and displaying deep dedication to the work of protecting and promoting journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Resolution No. 13
Thanking SPJ Staff for a Successful EIJ 2019
Submitted By: SPJ Resolutions Committee
Delegate Action: Approved
WHEREAS the headquarters staff of the Society of Professional Journalists makes it possible for SPJ to provide strong professional development programs, defend the public's right to know through First Amendment advocacy and guide journalists to act ethically;
WHEREAS the SPJ headquarters staff has undergone a significant amount of change, with new and talented faces joining the roster;
WHEREAS the staff hasn’t missed a beat, even as the Society searches for its next executive director;
WHEREAS staff has seamlessly worked side by side with our partners, including the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, to plan for EIJ 2019;
WHEREAS the dedicated but sleep-deprived staff are willing to take on any task, big or small, often fueled by multiple cups of coffee and energy drinks;
WHEREAS the SPJ staff has also done a fabulous job helping SPJ and its members celebrate the Society’s 110th anniversary;
WHEREAS EIJ19 has been a wonderful event in the beautiful Texas city of San Antonio; and
WHEREAS EIJ19 would not have been so successful had it not been for the SPJ staff's high level of skill, ingenuity and nimbleness;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists meeting in convention on September 7, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas, thanks the SPJ staff for a job well done — a performance worthy of a standing ovation.
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