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SPJ Turns the Tables on Tim Russert


SPJ Headquarters, 317/927-8000 ext. 220
SPJ President Robert Leger, 417/836-1113
Immediate Past President Al Cross, 502/875-5136
Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter President Ann Augherton, 703/41-2590


Time and Place: Noon Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the National Press Club

Washington, D.C. -- Tim Russert of NBC News has been called America’s toughest questioner, showing neither fear nor favor as he grills public figures from all facets of the political spectrum on “Meet The Press” each Sunday. Now, to help the Legal Defense Fund of the Society of Professional Journalists, he has agreed to take some of his own medicine.

Russert, the Washington Bureau chief of NBC News, will take questions at a reverse press conference to be held following a noon luncheon Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW in Washington.

The questioning will be led by veteran Washington correspondent and former “Meet” host Marvin Kalb, former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, Sally Quinn of The Washington Post and Helen Thomas of Hearst Newspapers. Other prominent questioners are being recruited, and members of the audience will also be able to ask questions. Jim Bohannon of Westwood One Radio will be the master of ceremonies and moderator of the reverse press conference.

Reverse press conferences are a staple of SPJ programming, because the Society’s code of ethics calls on journalists to be accountable to their readers, viewers, listeners and each other. Russert plans to come prepared to answer tough questions about modern journalism and his role in it, to help SPJ and its Legal Defense Fund.

Tickets to the event are $35 if reserved by Feb. 10, and $40 afterward. To make reservations, call Julie Asher at 202/541-3266.

“This is going to be a fun event,” said SPJ President Robert Leger, editorial page editor of the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. “It’s always interesting to see how a tough questioner takes being questioned himself. But amid the many laughs I know we’ll have, I hope everyone remembers we’re doing this to help keep journalists out of jail and to assist them in defending the First Amendment. It’s what everyone involved in this event believes in, and it’s what SPJ stands for.”

DC SPJ President Ann Augherton said, “We are expecting a large crowd to turn out not only because
they are fans of Russert, but because they have a real interest in supporting the extremely important work of SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund.”

The Legal Defense Fund is unique in journalism. It offers financial support for journalists who face legal obstacles, and sometimes jail, in their battles for access and information. LDF events always include live and silent auctions of journalism memorabilia and other items to benefit the Fund. Beginning with this event, SPJ plans to have an annual function in Washington to benefit the Fund. Also beginning this year, SPJ will move its annual Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Awards banquet to Washington. The awards will be presented at the Press Club on July 11.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, 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.


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