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2000-2001 board members take helm of Society and Sigma Delta Chi Foundation at 2000 SPJ National Convention


Contacts: Sarah A. Shrode, SPJ communications director, 317/927-8000

INDIANAPOLIS - The Society of Professional Journalists installed Ray Marcano, regional editor at the Dayton Daily News, as president of the SPJ Board of Directors on Saturday night at the President's Installation Banquet of the 2000 SPJ National Convention.

“My grandfather meant more to me than anyone,” Marcano said, “and he told me that I should get an education and make a difference by being president of the nation's most prominent journalism organization. I think I can make that difference and help SPJ continue the fight for open records, ethics and the First Amendment.”

Kyle Elyse Niederpreum, an assistant city editor at The Indianapolis Star, passed the presidential gavel to Marcano and assumed her position on the SPJ Board as immediate past president.

Other members of the SPJ Board of Directors were elected at the Main Business Session early Saturday. The board’s regional directors were selected during regional meetings conducted throughout the convention.

The 2000-2001 SPJ Board members are:

Ray Marcano, president, the Dayton Daily News

Al Cross, president-elect, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

Kyle Elyse Niederpruem, immediate past president, The Indianapolis Star Robert Leger, secretary/treasurer, The Springfield News-Leader

David Carlson, vice president of Campus Chapter Affairs, University of Florida

Jim Parker, director at-large, FOX News Philadelphia

Jamie (Butow) Gonzales, director at-large, Visalia Times-Delta, Calif.

Andrew Marra, student at-large, student, University of Florida

Brian Joseph, student at-large, student, University of Missouri-Columbia Student Chapter

Charles Davis, campus adviser at-large, University of Missouri

Robyn Eoff, campus adviser at-large, James Madison University

Irwin Gratz, Region 1 director, Maine Public Radio

Julie Asher, Region 2 director, Catholic News Service

Marcia Biggs, Region 3 director, Tampa Tribune

Bruce Cadwallader, Region 4 director, The Columbus Dispatch

Vicky Katz, Region 5 director, free-lance writer

Dave Aeikens, Region 6 director, St. Cloud Times

Pat Dobson, Region 7 director, PitchWeekly (New Times Inc.)

Todd J. Gillman, Region 8 director, Dallas Morning News

Jay Evensen, Region 9 director, The Deseret News

Oren Campbell, Region 10 director, University of Washington

Mark J. Scarp, Region 11 director, The Scottsdale Tribune

Lisa Rollins, Region 12 director, Middle Tennessee State University

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, SPJ’s educational arm, named Paul McMasters of The Freedom Forum the president of its board of directors. The 1999-2000 SDX President, Paul Steinle, of Quinnipiac University, gave up the board presidency but will continue to serve as a member of the Foundation board.

The 2000-2001 SDX Board members are:

Paul McMasters, president, The Freedom Forum

Sue Porter, vice president, Scripps Howard Foundation

Phil J. Record, chairman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Steve Geimann, secretary, Bloomberg News

Howard S. Dubin, treasurer, Manufacturers’ News Inc.

Betsy F. Ashton, New York

David Boardman, The Seattle Times

Fred Brown, The Denver Post

David E. Carlson, University of Florida

Paul Davis, FACS

Lou Dobbs, Space.com

Frank Gibson, The Tennesean

G. Kelly Hawes, Galveston County Daily News

Jane Kirtley, University of Minnesota

Hoag Levins, APB News

Ray Marcano, Dayton Daily News

Tony Mauro, American Lawyer Media

Dori Maynard, Maynard Institute for Journalism

Kyle Elyse Niederpruem, The Indianapolis Star

Russell B. Pulliam, The Indianapolis Star

Paul Steinle, Quinnipiac University

Georgiana Fry Vines, Knoxville News-Sentinel


The Society of Professional Journalists has added a new requirement for those submitting entries to its Sigma Delta Chi and Mark of Excellence awards competitions. The purpose is to help its judges evaluate the accuracy of entries and underscore the Society's commitment to accuracy as a prerequisite for prize-winning journalism.

Question: What's the new requirement?

Answer: Along with their entry, entrants must submit the text of any correction or clarification made in connection with the entry. They must also submit copies of any written challenges to the accuracy of the entry received from subjects mentioned in the entry.

Question: What do you mean by written challenges?

Answer: Any written communication to the news organization from a person or organization mentioned in the entry that disputes the accuracy of the entry. This could be a letter to the editor or editorial reply, whether published or not, or a letter from a lawyer or public relations firm representing subject. In the case of broadcast media, it would include an on-air reply.

Question: Won't that be a lot of work for entrants?

Answer: In some cases, yes. But remember, most entries won't be affected by this requirement. And even for those that are, we're not looking for every phone call or letter to the editor concerning a story. The key is that it must be written, it must be from a subject of the entry or his paid representative; it must dispute the accuracy of the entry, not just disagree with its conclusions, and it must have been sent to the news organization before the entry was submitted.

Question: Won't this just discourage aggressive reporting?

Answer: No. Entrants are asked to include an explanation of any corrections or clarifications and a refutation of any significant objections raised by those reported on in the entry. This would be part of the cover letter normally included with entries. Judges, all experienced and skeptical journalists, will be instructed to give the objections and objectors no more weight than seems appropriate and to consider carefully the statements of the entrant defending the accuracy of their work. In some cases, they may seek additional information on their own. In the case of corrections and clarifications, they will be instructed to consider as a positive the entrants' willingness to promptly and fully acknowledge its honest mistakes as called for in SPJ's Code of Ethics.

Question: How are you going to enforce this?

Answer: SPJ's awards program, like all other journalism awards programs, depends primarily on the integrity of its entrants. However, if SPJ becomes aware that an entrant has failed to submit required materials, that will be considered grounds for disqualifying the entry.

Question: Do any other major journalism contests have a formal requirement like this?

Answer: Yes, the Pulitzer Prize has a similar requirement.

Question: Why is SPJ doing this now? Did you have a problem?

Answer: No. The SPJ board adopted this requirement for two reasons.

First, to protect the integrity of its awards programs by avoiding potential problems in the future. This requirement is designed to give SPJ judges important information they need to make good decisions that will stand up to scrutiny. It does this by making sure that judges are aware of significant objections raised by those reported on while at the same time, giving entrants a fair opportunity to explain and defend their work when it is challenged. Second, the board adopted this requirement as a way to underline SPJ's commitment to accuracy and accountability as contained in its Code of Ethics. The code says, "Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other." Therefore, it says, journalists should, among other things, "Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media" and "Admit mistakes and correct them promptly."

Question: Does this requirement apply to journalism contests run by SPJ's state or regional chapters?

Answer: Not necessarily. SPJ's national board will be encouraging its chapters to include similar requirements in their state and regional journalism contests, but these are run independently, so you should check the entry form for your local contest.

Question: Who do I talk to if I still have questions about this?

Answer: Guy Baehr is the chairman of SPJ's Awards and Honors Committee and can be reached at 973-877-1538 or by e-mail at gbaehr@starledger.com. You can also contact SPJ's executive director, Jim Gray, at 317-927-8000 or by e-mail at jgray@spj.org.

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