By Willie Schatz
Board of Directors, Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter
GONE FISHIN'. As this edition of SPJ Leads heads into cyberspace, SPJ and Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Executive Director Terry Harper is undergoing his second brain surgery since July 2007 for a malignant brain tumor. Terry will be out of the office on extended medical leave for the next four to six weeks while his melon heals. In the interim, Associate Executive Director Joe Skeel will be the point person at the Headquarters. All of Terry's e-mail and voice mail will be forwarded to Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 927-8000, ext. 216. Please feel free to be in touch with Joe on any and all matters SPJ and SDX Foundation. You will find him more than up to the task! Associate Executive Director Chris Vachon will be providing key support to Joe from her new digs in North Andover, Mass. Her contact information remains the same: email@example.com or (317) 927-8000, ext. 207.
SPJ President Dave Aeikens has ordered that all SPJ satellites be re-tasked to direct positive energy and karma toward the Harper household. Terry has a blog he has been updating about his experience entitled Thumping My Melon if you wish to follow his ongoing recovery. SPJ President-Elect Kevin Smith has created an open group on Facebook called "LiveStrong Terry" for SPJ members, as well as Terry's family and friends to show their support. We are looking forward to Terry's return to 3909 N. Meridian St. in mid- to late November.
SPJ ALL THE WAY. Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communications recently announced the winners of several legal reporting fellowships. The fellows, who are working freelance journalists, will research and write on various law-related topics. Part of the award includes student research assistants. Three of the six selected research assistants are student SPJ members at Syracuse. Congratulations to Melanie Hicken, Jamie Munks and Cynthia Schweigert!
PUNCH AND PIE. Are you or your news operation down with the digital trend? Are you innovative? Would you like a piece of pie? That is, a $5 million pie. The deadline is rapidly approaching for the Knight News Challenge, a contest sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that asks journalists to submit proposals for innovative digital news and information projects. Everyone is encouraged to apply, from individual entrepreneurs to philanthropic organizations to for-profit media outlets. Single awards have, in the past, ranged from $15,000 to nearly $900,000. Deadline to apply is Nov. 1, 2008. See the contest Web site for more information and an application.
"TRYING AGAIN" (BUT WE HOPE NOT AGAIN AND AGAIN). With all the talk about bailout proposals and economic stimulus packages and, oh yeah, the presidential election, perhaps you've forgotten about the federal Shield Law, which SPJ and other media organizations are ardently trying to pass. You might remember that the proposed legislation, which protects journalists from revealing their controversial sources, stalled in the Senate last summer. Have no fear, SPJ President Dave Aeikens is here! Aeikens reminds us in the Oct/Nov edition of the American Journalism Review of the importance of the Shield Law. "This is our legislative priority," he said in the AJR piece. "We will work very hard to make the shield bill a shield law. We don't think journalists should be put in jail for doing their jobs." Right on, Dave!
EAST TENNESSEE CHAPTER WANTS YOU.... ...at its Oct. 23 "Covering Tragedy: A Town Hall Meeting" to discuss the media's response to several recent local tragedies, including the shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and Central High School. Participants will try to answer questions such as what journalistic issues come up when covering breaking news stories involving violence and innocent victims, what effects do high stress and emotion play in the minds of both reporters and those being interviewed, and how is the media perceived, and what more should the public know about the process of gathering news? Panelists include local television and print editors, the Knox County schools superintendent, the Knoxville police chief and a local Unitarian Universalist Church reverend. See the chapter's Web site or e-mail chapter communications coordinator Jean Ash for more information.
CALLING ALL GHOST RIDERS. Come join the South Florida chapter of SPJ at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 for a chance to network and have some spooky fun at Tobacco Road, located at 626 S. Miami Ave. in Miami. The event includes free appetizers and a cash bar and is co-sponsored by the South Florida chapters of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists. Bring a friend and network with other journalists. Costumes are optional. Questions? Contact Alana Roberts.
DENVER DOINS'. Join the Colorado SPJ chapter Oct. 22 for Buffalo Gals Night and then return on Nov. 6 for Bad Press Release Theatre. The Gals will drink, courtesy of guest bartender Michelle Baldwin of Fulcrum Books; listen to former New York Timesreporter Laura Pedersen discuss "Buffalo Gals," her new memoir; and bowl at the Denver Athletic Club. The Bad Press Release Theatre features publicists and reporters turning tables on each other in a series of light-hearted improv skits called, "Bad Press Release Theater or Whose Press Release is it Anyway?" Learn more by surfing to the chapter's Web site.
Can't attend any of these great chapter programs? Consider recreating them in your neck of the woods!
CALENDAR CHECK. You check yours too many times daily to count, right? So why not take another New York nanosecond to look at SPJ's events calendar? On it you'll find such stimulating items as a series starting on Oct. 20 in Seattle focusing on new media tools that journalists need to succeed in our ever-changing industry and a Oct. 28 National Press Club lunch where University of Maryland Philip Merrill School of Journalism Interim Dean and SPJ D.C. Chapter member Lee Thornton will discuss "What Are We Teaching Them Today?" Check out the SPJ calendar to learn more about these (and other) events.
STOP THE PRESSES! Twitter is a great social media tool utilized by many people, furious text-message-craving Internet junkies and journalists alike. It's seems odd to say, but Uncle Sam is getting in on the act. Eric Krangel of Silicon Alley Insider reports the (somewhat surprising) trend of federal government agencies using Twitter. A few notable agencies/departments that are "tweeting": State Department, the Food and Drug Administration...even the U.S. Geological Survey.
BUCKING BUCKLEY. Author and political satirist Christopher Buckley recently resigned his column in National Review. After endorsing Barack Obama last week in a post on "The Daily Beast" blog because he wanted to avoid associating NR with his endorsement, the editor of the magazine founded by Buckley's father, late conservative icon William F. Buckley, apparently wasn't feeling so solicitous. Buckley told The Washington Post that the magazine was being "swamped with furious mail...I thought the decent thing to do would be to offer to resign the column. Well, they accepted it." But Buckley may still have a card up his sleeve; he owns one-seventh of NR and is on its board of directors.