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Delegates Pass 13 Resolutions at 2000 SPJ National Conventio


Contacts: Sarah A. Shrode, SPJ communications director, 614/233-7588

ADAM’S MARK HOTEL, COLUMBUS, Ohio — Delegates to 2000 Society of Professional Journalists National Convention passed 13 resolutions Saturday at the Society’s Main Business Session.

Those resolutions are:



WHEREAS, the United States Congress has approved H.R. 4392, otherwise known as The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, and

WHEREAS, Section 304 of that legislation creates a new felony offense for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and makes that offense punishable by prison terms, and

WHEREAS, the language of Section 304 creates an unreasonably vague and broad definition of “classified” material, and

WHEREAS, the implementation of Section 304 would create an unconstitutional restriction of the First Amendment rights of government employees, and

WHEREAS, under Section 304, a journalist who receives classified information from a government employee would be at greater risk of government pressure to reveal the source of the information, by means of subpoenae, threats of imprisonment, etc., and

WHEREAS, H.R. 4392 passed through the entire legislative process without public hearing, without normal committee jurisdiction and with the use of unscheduled voice votes, and

WHEREAS, leading members of Congress have questioned the propriety of Section 304 and the process in which it was approved, and

WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists informed Congress of its concerns over the potential impact of Section 304 in a letter in July of 2000,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the 2000 convention of the Society of Professional Journalists calls SPJ members and chapters to voice their protests to their Representatives and Senators about the process by which this legislation was passed, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the convention calls on President Clinton to veto H.R. 4392 and demand that Congress hold public hearings on Section 304.

Submitted by the FOI Committee, October 28, 2000

Resolution #2

Campus Crime Records

WHEREAS the Department of Education issued regulations this summer enforcing provisions of the 1998 Higher Education Act requiring colleges and universities to publish daily public police logs and detailed annual crime statistics, opening new campus crime information to public inspection, and

WHEREAS the DOE also issued regulations for an Amendment to the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act that now allows schools of higher education to release the results of internal disciplinary proceedings where students are found to have committed a crime of violence or nonforcible sex offense,

WHEREAS only state open records laws can actually require schools to make these disciplinary records public,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the 2000 Convention of the Society of Professional Journalists urges campus and professional news media outlets to access the police logs and crime statistics and produce stories to inform the public about the nature and degree of crime on their local college campuses, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the convention urges SPJ chapters and campus and professional media outlets to seek rulings from schools, state attorneys general and courts on whether their state open records laws require the release of disciplinary records not now kept private by federal law, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the convention urges chapters, state Sunshine chairs, media outlets and Freedom of Information coalitions and organizations to seek legislative changes where necessary to ensure the public release of college disciplinary records involving serious campus crime.

Submitted by the FOI Committee, Oct. 28, 2000

Resolution #3

FBI Impersonating Reporters

WHEREAS agents of the FBI posed as journalists outside a courthouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, during the civil trial of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler in August,

WHEREAS SPJ President Kyle Niederpruem vigorously protested this deception as endangering working journalists at the scene and undermining the public’s confidence in the autonomy of the media, and urged disciplinary action against the agents involved,

WHEREAS the FBI notified SPJ on Oct. 11 that, as a result of protests from SPJ and other news organizations, it has launched an internal review to determine whether agents followed the FBI’s own guidelines for the use of undercover identities,

WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists has repeatedly protested past abuses by undercover law enforcement agencies, including a similar FBI undercover operation in Idaho four years ago,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the 2000 Convention of the Society of Professional Journalists strongly condemns any and all undercover law enforcement agents who pose as journalists, and thus endanger legitimate journalists,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the convention urges the FBI to promptly complete its investigation, publicly announce its findings, and instruct its agents to refrain from impersonating reporters.

Submitted by the FOI Committee, Oct. 28, 2000

Resolution #4

California prison access

WHEREAS the administration of former California Governor Pete Wilson eliminated — at first secretly and then by regulation — the decades-long right of the news media to interview specified prisoners in person, with their consent;

WHEREAS the Legislature three times, most recently this year through AB 2101, has passed by overwhelming margins bipartisan legislation to restore the right of the news media to interview specified prisoners in person;

WHEREAS former Governor Pete Wilson and current Governor Gray Davis have vetoed those three bills;

WHEREAS the California policies restrict the right of the news media to use the so-called tools of their trade — video and audio recording devices, paper, pens and pencils — when speaking with inmates;

WHEREAS the California Department of Corrections, by proposing the interview restrictions and the two governors, by vetoing bills to overturn them, have justified their policy by asserting a right to restrict prison interviews because of the emotional impact on the public of the ensuing news stories;

WHEREAS the Supreme Court has made clear that government cannot restrict news reporting in order to affect the content of news stories;

WHEREAS prisoners have been punished in California for their contacts with the press and in two cases for “impugning the credibility” of a prison program by “contacting the news media”;

WHEREAS the California prison system has been the subject of news media attention in recent years detailing various abuses in the large and overcrowded system;

WHEREAS several news-media revelations of prison abuses immediately preceded the Wilson administration’s restrictions on media access to prisoners;

WHEREAS a number of news organizations have been effectively prevented from developing planned news stories because of the prisons’ interview restrictions;

WHEREAS the people of California in several recent elections have voted through initiatives on criminal penalties without benefit of all the information from prisons that would have permitted an open airing of those public policy issues before a vote of the electorate;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the 2000 convention of the Society of Professional Journalists denounces the action of Governor Gray Davis in vetoing AB 2101 and impeding public understanding of the state’s troubled prison system;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Governor Davis be informed of the impact of the current restrictions on the news media;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the governor is urged to meet with professional journalism organizations to devise mutually acceptable policies to restore the longstanding right of the news media to effective access to prisoners, which includes the right to use the “tools of their trade,” including cameras, audio recording devices, paper and pen or pencil, as well as papers such as legal briefs on which to base questions.

Submitted by the FOI Committee, Oct. 27, 2000

Resolution #5

Access to federal death row inmates

WHEREAS the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, has received an order from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, to carry out the death sentence of inmate David Hammer;

WHEREAS the federal government has not executed an inmate since March 15, 1963, when Victor Figuer was hanged at the Iowa State Penitentiary for the kidnapping and murder of an Illinois doctor;

WHEREAS the United States Bureau of Prisons has arbitrarily and without seeking public comment set onerous conditions for granting media interviews which in effect ban any face-to-face interviews in the Terre Haute prison;

WHEREAS the policy predicates access to inmates of the institution on acceptance of a signed agreement restricting they types of questions that may be asked;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the 2000 convention of the Society of Professional Journalists calls on the Bureau of Prisons to restore the right of the public and media to interview inmates without prior conditions;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the convention urges journalists and media outlets to vigorously protest the policy, and redouble their efforts to cover the federal prison system.

Submitted by: FOI Committee, Oct. 28, 2000

Resolution #6

Sri Lanka

WHEREAS the news media of Sri Lanka have by law and public policy, and continual employment of states of emergency, been curbed from free reporting and comment for more than one-third of a century, and

WHEREAS continual political conflict and a regional insurgency have torn at the country for more than two decades, with great loss of life and liberty, and

WHEREAS the dead of that conflict include 31 of our journalistic colleagues, most recently Mailwaganam Nimalarajan, slain October 19 as he worked in his home office in the northern town of Jaffna, and

WHEREAS the country’s ruling coalition and the opposition UNP have said they would consider the repeal of the criminal defamation laws and press council law and the adoption of a freedom of information act, and

WHEREAS our surviving colleagues in Sri Lanka have asked for support,

THERFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists does extend its sympathy and encouragement to the families of Nimalarajan and all the other slain journalists, regardless of their party or political inclinations,

FURTHER, that the Society does salute the expressed good intentions for reform of the Sri Lankan information laws, and

FURTHER, that the Society call upon all parties in Sri Lanka’s parliament and each of the country’s provinces to cooperate in these reforms, and

FURTHER that the Society urge all authorities in the country faithfully to investigate the murder of Nimalarajan, to prosecute his killers, and by deed and lasting example make it clear to everyone that attacks on free speech and publication, whether grave or small, are not to be tolerated, and

FURTHER that we call upon our colleagues in and around Sri Lanka to rededicate themselves to accurate and ethical reporting, qualities that we believe to be necessary to the progress of every nation.

THE SOCIETY further declares that this resolution is to be promptly communicated to the authorities and the news media of Sri Lanka.

Submitted by Dan Kubiske, chairman of the Society’s Press Freedom Network, and John Hopkins, chairman of the Society’s International Journalism Committee.

Resolution #7


WHEREAS, the government of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has contributed to a climate of hostility toward the independent news media, and

WHEREAS, President Chavez himself has himself openly expressed his personal hostility toward independent media that have criticized his policies,

WHEREAS, the 1998 constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contains a clause that guarantees dissemination of “timely, accurate and objective: information by the mass media, without adequately detailing who will define “timely, accurate and objective,” and

WHEREAS Pablo Lopez Ulacio, owner and editor of the weekly newspaper La Razon in Caracas, has been forced into hiding since August 2000 rather than face being re-arrested for failing to answer a summons in a defamation suit against him by Tobias Carrero, a wealthy friend and benefactor of President Chavez, and

WHEREAS, two judges appointed by President Chavez who have presided over the Lopez case have refused to allow his attorney to introduce evidence that would demonstrate the truth of the articles published about Tobias Carrero in La Razon,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists does express its support for and solidarity with Pablo Lopez Ulacio and the other Venezuelan journalists and independent media that have been intimated by the Chavez administration for their pursuit of investigative journalism or for editorial criticism of the Chavez administration,

FURTHER the Society implores President Chavez to acknowledge that a free, independent press is indispensable for the functioning of a democracy and calls upon him to desist from fostering a climate of hostility and intimidation toward journalists in his country.

Submitted by Robert Buckman, Ph.D, faculty adviser of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Chapter and member of the Society’s International Journalism Committee, and John D. Hopkins, chairman of the International Journalism Committee.

Resolution #8

Domestic partner benefits

WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists believes that diversity in the newsroom is essential to a fair and accurate portrayal of society as a whole;

WHEREAS the Society believes that distinctions among journalists in the newsroom cannot be based on ethnicity, physical disability, religion or sexual orientation or any other extraneous personal attributes;

WHEREAS the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Journalism and Women’s Symposium are supporting newsroom equality through the adoption of domestic partner benefits in the news industry;

WHEREAS 69 media companies and news media unions now offer such bias-free benefits at more than 1,100 newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines and on-line news companies including Dow Jones, Bloomberg and CBS;

THEREFORE be it resolved that the Society supports the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in its efforts to restore equity among journalists through domestic partner benefits wherever news employees enjoy similar benefits through marriage.

Submitted by: Sally Lehrman, Chair of the SPJ Diversity Committee, Oct. 28, 2000

Resolution #9

Journalism education and recruitment

WHEREAS competition from high-profile fields such as computer technology, engineering and business is depleting the pool of top-flight students entering journalism;

WHEREAS enrollments are flat in some of the nation’s journalism schools and more than two-thirds of America’s 8,400 high schools with enrollments of 800 or more do not publish newspapers or offer journalism classes;

WHEREAS efforts to recruit more top-flight students of color into journalism have fallen short and 40 percent of U.S. daily newspapers have no journalists of color at all;

WHEREAS the American Journalism Collaborative has been founded by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, the Association for Health Care Journalists, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the National Scholastic Press Association, the University of Minnesota Journalism Center and others to help remedy this situation;

WHEREAS the collaborative is focusing on strengthening high school and college journalism programs through developing relationships between media outlets and high schools, setting up e-mail mentoring programs and on-line chat rooms for journalists and students, developing a network of journalists to visit schools and discuss careers, serving as a clearinghouse on university journalism programs and assisting news organizations identify talented prospects;

WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists shares the American Journalism Collaborative’s concerns about poor enrollment in journalism programs and about the media industry’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining journalists of color;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports the American Journalism Collective in its efforts to attract more high-achieving students, especially students of color, into journalism education and practice;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society encourages its members to participate in the project’s mentoring programs, speaker network and other activities to build enthusiasm about careers in journalism.

SUBMITTED BY Sally Lehrman, National Diversity Chair,
Oct. 28, 2000

Resolution #10

Continued Legal Notices

WHEREAS government must be open and accountable to maintain the trust of its citizens, and independent publication of public notice is essential to that trust and,

WHEREAS government has a duty to disseminate information as widely as possible through as many media as possible and,

WHEREAS many legislators want to pull public notices from local newspapers and place them on government-run web sites, exclusively, and,

WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists believes that putting public notice into the hands of government is a dangerous precedent leading to less accountability for government,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Society of Professional Journalists calls on government at all levels to continue to place notices in widely circulated, independent media.

Resolution #11

Thanking President Kyle Elyse Niederpruem

WHEREAS Kyle Elyse Niederpruem has had a long and distinguished tenure as an SPJ leader, starting as a member and officer with the Indiana Pro Chapter, and,

WHEREAS, she has served as a leader in Freedom of Information efforts, both as an SPJ leader in Indiana and during three years as national Freedom of Information Chair for the Society, and,

WHEREAS she has continued that leadership as a national officer of the Society, spearheading the strategic planning initiative, and,

WHEREAS Kyle Elyse Niederpruem has been a dynamic President of the Society, setting high expectations for the society, and,

WHEREAS she helping to oversee the move of the national headquarters to Indianapolis, personally orienting new members of the headquarters staff, and,

WHEREAS, she fulfilled campaign promises, including a freeze on the price of dues and advancing the strategic plan, and,

WHEREAS, she ably handled unexpected challenges, including a libel suit filed against the Society, a change in ownership of her newspaper and a promotion that increased her responsibilities at work.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Society of Professional Journalists commends Kyle Elyse Niederpruem for her dedication and sacrifice and expresses its gratitude for a job well-done.

Resolution #12

Thanking SPJ Headquarters Staff

WHEREAS, SPJ’s headquarters staff has earned a well-deserved reputation for hard work, attention to detail, professionalism and friendly, courteous service; and,

WHEREAS SPJ headquarters moved this year to Indianapolis, and,

WHEREAS the move presented the headquarters staff with even greater challenges as it strives to maintain quality service to members during the transition period, and

WHEREAS, the staff, many of its members new to their positions, took on the responsibility and carried off the large undertaking of a national convention smoothly and effectively

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the Society of Professional Journalists express their sincere appreciation to all members of the SPJ headquarters staff, who have gone the extra mile to maintain the Society’s high standards.

Resolution #13

Thanking Host Chapter

WHEREAS a national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest journalism organization, requires extensive planning, and

WHEREAS the Central Ohio Pro Chapter of the Society volunteered, on short notice, to host this year’s convention, and

WHEREAS Bruce Cadwallader provided excellent leadership, and

WHEREAS countless hours of volunteer labor contribute to a stellar convention such as this one,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED these delegates gathered in Columbus express their heartfelt appreciation for a job well done.

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