By Scott Leadingham
SPJ Communications Department
PRESIDENTIAL CLOSING. SPJ Headquarters will be closed Monday, Feb. 16, in observance of Presidents Day. The staff will be more than happy to return all phone calls and e-mails the next day, when they will be fresh from three days of shopping for drastically discounted sheets, recliners and mattresses.
MINNESOTA HAS KEILLOR... AND CAMERAS. SPJ President Dave Aeikens recently blogged about the importance of allowing cameras in Minnesota courtrooms. Ask and ye shall receive, as the MinnPost reports. Thursday morning the state Supreme Court announced a pilot program to allow cameras, albeit with notable restrictions. But as far as openness and access is concerned, it's a step in the right direction. The article even quotes President Aeikens. Read it here.
100 YEARS AND COUNTING. We've been putting the final touches on the Centennial Celebration that will take place April 17 in Greencastle, Ind. The event, held at DePauw University — the location of the Society's 1909 founding — will feature a panel of journalism greats, a commemorative ceremony and a keynote address from veteran broadcaster (and SPJ member) Jane Pauley. If you will be attending the event, please take a moment to fill out the RSVP form at SPJ.org. While there, be sure to sign up and pay for the anniversary dinner. Click here for more information. Note that all events are free except the dinner.
WHAT A WEEK! The SPJ staff thought it would be just another Monday in our quiet Midwestern town, but that was before Congress came along and gave us plenty of work. First, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (say that 10 times fast) decided to take up the issue of libel tourism. A hearing, which happened Thursday, Feb. 12, featured the testimony of Bruce Brown, SPJ's legal counsel at Baker Hostettler. Next, the Free Flow of Information Act, otherwise known as the federal Shield Law, was reintroduced in the House on Wednesday. SPJ has been advocating for both issues and particularly has encouraged journalists to contact members of Congress to voice support for a federal shield law. Board member and 2008 Wells Memorial Key honoree Bill McCloskey wrote this note to Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.:
"I was pleased to see that H.R. 985 — the Free Flow of Information Act — was introduced by Mr. Pence, Mr. Conyers and others today. As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, a retired reporter for The Associated Press and former news director for WASH-FM in Washington, I believe it is important for reporters to be able to assure their sources that they will be protected from exposure so that the public can get access to the information the sources are publicizing. This is a bill that will cost taxpayers nothing, but benefit taxpayers by ensuring, well, 'the free flow of information.' I would be very pleased to see your name added quickly as a co-sponsor of this important bill."
WANTED: STUDENT JOURNALISTS. Each year the Society sponsors internships for 12 bright, motivated and hard-working SPJ student journalists to staff The Working Press, a daily tabloid newspaper that covers the SPJ National Convention. Student writers, photographers and designers are invited to apply for these select positions. This year's convention takes place Aug. 27-29 in Indianapolis. Visit The Working Press Web page for application information. E-mail Heather Porter with any questions.
CALLING ALL LEADERS. The Ted Scripps Leadership Institute is a wonderful SPJ program that offers student and professional chapter leaders a mix of sessions focused on interpersonal and organizational leadership skills, as well as sound chapter management practices. The all-expenses paid weekend retreat takes place in Indianapolis June 5-7. It's designed to promote strong leadership in the Society. Applications are due March 16. Those who will be serving as a chapter president during 2009-10 are encouraged to apply. Questions? E-mail Professional Development Coordinator Heather Porter or call 317-927-8000 ext. 204. The Ted Scripps Leadership Training Institute is funded by a generous grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation.
FYI. President Aeikens has called a meeting of the Executive Committee for Friday, Feb. 20, 2009, at 10 a.m. Eastern. The purpose of the meeting is to tie up loose ends from the committee's Milwaukee meeting and other matters, including:
— Disposition of chapter funds from inactive Austin Pro
— Recommendation on partnership with Helium.com
— Centennial History Book project
— Mega-Conference update
DON'T WAIT — NOMINATE. The nomination deadline for SPJ's National Honors is March 18. The multiple awards celebrate a variety of accomplishments for members and nonmembers, including those who have made strides in the areas of ethics and open government; journalism educators who have gone above and beyond to help students; and outstanding contributions to the profession. Nominate someone today for the following awards:
— Fellow of the Society is an honor bestowed upon journalists for extraordinary contributions to the profession. More info.
— Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement honors individuals for a lifetime of service to the journalism profession. More info.
— Historic Site in Journalism honors individuals, news organizations and places of national historic journalism interest. More info.
— Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award honors an outstanding journalism educator who has made a significant contribution to the profession and/or journalism education, and to maintaining the highest standards of the profession. More info.
— First Amendment Award recognizes extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment. Note: This is different from the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award and the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award. More info.
— Sunshine Award recognizes those making important contributions in the area of open government. More info.
— Ethics in Journalism Award honors reporters, editors or news organizations that distinguish themselves by performing in an outstanding ethical manner as defined by the SPJ Code of Ethics. More info.
A MODEST PROPOSAL. Jonathan Swift posited that "When a true genius appears in the world, you will know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." There's no telling if a confederacy of dunces is aligned against T.J. Sullivan. But if his idea to help struggling newspapers works, he might just be a true genius. In a recent LAObserved blog post, Sullivan proposed a rather drastic action: shut down all free newspaper Web sites (in cooperation with the AP and their wire content) for one week in July. This action, Sullivan believes, will cause readers to truly appreciate and understand the vital nature of newspapers and their online content. He suggests signing an online petition if you're interested in making this happen. (Note: SPJ has not taken a position on this idea and is providing the link only for your personal consideration.)
WEATHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. The National Press Foundation is offering all-expenses paid fellowships to attend its workshop "Understanding Violent Weather." The program will feature topics taught by top scientists at the National Weather Center and journalism educators from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma. It all takes place April 19-22 at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla. Journalists will learn about the fundamentals of forecasting, the latest science behind all types of violent weather, and the relationship between climate change and violent weather. Space is limited, and funding applications are due by March 3. Contact Maha Masud at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-663-7285 for more information.
TRANSITIONALLY SPEAKING. Are you a victim of layoffs at a media outlet? Or are you just nervous about the future of the industry? A Feb. 19 workshop, titled "Canned: How to Land on Your Feet," can help journalists who are worried about the future gain ideas about career transition or options for working in a downturn. The session will take place at the Associated Press in New York City from 7 — 9.p.m. It's free, but photo ID is required for entry. E-mail Lily Li for more information or to RSVP.
CORRECTION. Jan Schaffer's name was misspelled in last week's Leads. Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, will be one of several notable panelists speaking at the April 17 Centennial Celebration in Greencastle, Ind.