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Society Raises Record Amount for its Legal Defense Fund


Contacts: Christine Tatum, SPJ Legal Defense Fund chairwoman, 312/222-5184; Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairman, 406/542-4400; Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323

INDIANAPOLIS - The Society of Professional Journalists raised more than $10,000 for its Legal Defense Fund at the 2000 SPJ National Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Money raised from items auctioned at the Oct. 26-28 convention totaled $11,411.50 and broke the Society's convention records.

“I can't say enough about how delighted I am by the support given at this year's convention to one of the Society's most important endeavors,” said Christine Tatum, the Society's Legal Defense Fund chairwoman and an employee of Tribune Interactive.

“People who come face-to-face with the fund, whether they are giving or receiving, are sold on its tremendous value to our profession,” Tatum added. “We hope to make more journalists aware of this valuable resource, and to encourage them, whether they're SPJ members or not, to come to us when they need help. The fund is a constant reminder of SPJ's unwavering commitment and integrity.”

Items fetching high prices for the Legal Defense Fund were a Mark McGwire collection of St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspapers for $875; cowboy hat autographed by Roy Rogers, Reba McEntire and other celebrities that sold for $775; an artist's sketch of former White House reporter Helen Thomas for $650; and a baseball autographed by St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial for $450. Dances withThomas, whom SPJ honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the convention, also sold for $265 and $150.

“The Legal Defense Fund is something very dear to SPJ members,” said Ray Marcano, SPJ president and regional editor at the Dayton Daily News. “They once again showed their commitment to not only LDF but to helping journalists in trouble with their very generous donations at convention.”

Ian Marquand, SPJ's Freedom of Information chairman, said the success of the Legal Defense Fund is the result of the work of Tatum; Kyle Elyse Niederpruem, SPJ's immediate past president and an assistant city editor at The Indianapolis Star; and SPJ Headquarters staff. He also credited the involvement of the fund in some high-profile cases.

“I think all of that has had a cumulative effect,” said Marquand, special projects coordinator for the Montana Television Network. “It's brought home to our members - and journalists at large - the importance of the LDF effort. And that's why they opened their wallets and checkbooks.”

The Society's Legal Defense Fund assists journalists through colleague support, phone campaigns and financial assistance. To apply for an LDF grant or to learn more about the fund, contact Tatum at 312/658-3874 or ctatum@tribune.com

The Society also has available to all journalists an informational Legal Defense Fund poster sponsored by SPJ and Tribune Media Services. The poster, unveiled at the 2000 national convention, features the character P. Martin Shoemaker from Jeff MacNelly's comic strip “Shoe.” Copies are free and available by calling SPJ Headquarters at 317/927-8000.

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