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SPJ Adopts Accuracy Requirement for Awards Programs


Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ Board President, 937/225-2323 or ray_marcano@coxohio.com; Guy T. Baehr, SPJ Awards and Honors chairman, 973/877-1538 or gbaehr@starledger.com

INDIANAPOLIS - The Society of Professional Journalists will become the first national journalism organization to establish a formal process to help its judges evaluate the accuracy of entries to its awards programs.

Beginning with the 2000 programs, applicants to the Society's Mark of Excellence and the Sigma Delta Chi Awards for Excellence in Journalism will be required to submit any corrections or clarifications to their entries - along with any challenges to their accuracy received from the subject of the report - as part of their entry to the awards programs.

The SPJ Board of Directors passed the change to the awards programs in a close 10-9 vote Sunday morning during the wrap-up of the 2000 SPJ National Convention.

“SPJ champions accuracy as mentioned under the accountability section in our Code of Ethics,” said Ray Marcano, SPJ Board president and regional editor at the Dayton Daily News. “If there are real or perceived shortcomings, we feel judges should be aware.”

Guy T. Baehr, chairman of the Society's Awards and Honors Committee, recommended the change to the board.

Baehr, a staff reporter at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., said the close vote reflects the break with tradition that this new requirement represents. Baehr said the new requirement underlines SPJ's commitment to the idea that prize-winning journalism must be fair and accurate.

“This formalizes something that is done on a hit-or-miss basis by judges in many journalism contests,” Baehr said. “Making it a formal entry requirement for our contests makes the judging process more credible and fairer to all concerned - judges, entrants and those who are reported on.”

The new requirement is not binding on SPJ’s local contests, but Baehr said he hopes it will set an example for the future. Baehr’s chapter, the New Jersey Professional Chapter, has adopted the requirement for its contest, and Baehr hopes to encourage other chapters to adopt similar requirements.

Sigma Delta Chi Award entries are due Feb. 9, 2001, to SPJ National Headquarters and Mark of Excellence entries are due Jan. 26, 2001. The awards programs include categories for newspaper, magazine, newsletter, radio, television and on-line journalism. Applicants with questions about the new requirement should call SPJ National Headquarters at 317/927-8000.

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