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SPJ encourages Knoxville News Sentinel to fight reporter suspension from UT

For Immediate Release:

Christine Tatum, National President,(303) 954-1503
Sonny Albarado, Region 12 Director, (901) 529-2703
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211

INDIANAPOLIS – The University of Tennessee’s action against Knoxville News Sentinel sportswriter Dave Hooker once again shows what happens when so-called “information facilitators” transform themselves into information firewalls, a regional director of the Society of Professional Journalists said Thursday.

When Hooker directly contacted an injured UT football player and conducted an exclusive and consented interview, his credentials were revoked by the UT athletics department. Hooker broke no rules, other than those related to the arrogant efforts of the University’s sports information director to try to manipulate the news.

The Society of Professional Journalists, one of the nation’s oldest and largest journalism advocacy organizations, understands the desire of public relations professionals to control access to their clients, especially in the case of athletes and other public figures who might otherwise spend too much of their time responding to media calls. But their clients usually are adults with the capacity to make up their own minds about whether they want to exercise their free-speech right to speak to whomever they please.

“As a former business editor, I have worked closely with dozens of PR folks over my career,” said Sonny Albarado, Region 12 director for the Society of Professional Journalists. “Almost all of them understood my professional duty to report the news and rarely penalized me for getting the story without their help or hindrance.”

Journalists everywhere struggle daily against obstacles to deliver information to the public. In the end, professional journalists have an obligation to report the news as it happens in their communities.

“SPJ encourages the News Sentinel’s editors to vigorously fight Hooker’s suspension,” Albarado said. “When journalists in one locale acquiesce to efforts to choke off the free flow of information, all journalists lose.”

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.


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