By Scott Leadingham
SPJ Communications Department
ARE YOU A HERO? Have you always wanted to be a hero but felt excluded since you weren't born on Krypton or bitten by a radioactive spider? There's good news! Heroes aren't just the characters in comic books, they're all around us. SPJ has joined with the National Freedom of Information Coalition to offer Heroes of the 50 States: The State Government Hall of Fame. The award recognizes contributions to open government at the state level. Nominations are due by Feb. 4 to NFOIC Executive Director Charles Davis. Click here for more information.
AND NOW, THE END IS NEAR. The final curtain is closing for this year's Sigma Delta Chi Awards, and you don't want to make the mistake of missing the entry deadline. All entries must be postmarked by Feb. 4 if you want your hard work to be considered for this prestigious professional contest, which recognizes journalism in 53 categories. Entry forms and contest rules are at the SPJ Web site. As always, Awards Coordinator Lauren Rochester is on hand to answer your questions. Contact her at 317-927-8000 ext. 210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EVEN MORE AWARDS! Since 1953 the Scripps Howard Foundation has recognized the best work in journalism through its National Journalism Awards, with prize money totaling $195,000. The competition recognizes excellence in 17 categories, including those of particular interest to SPJ members: radio and television journalism, service to the First Amendment, editorial writing, human interest writing, environmental and public service reporting, investigative reporting, business/economics reporting, commentary and photojournalism. There is even a special collegiate category for student cartoonists and journalism teacher of the year. Cash prizes are $10,000 for each category with the exception of investigative reporting, which carries a $25,000 cash prize. But you'd better hurry the postmark deadline is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced March 13 and honored at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. April 24. Entry forms and contest details are available at the Foundation Web site. Direct questions to Sue Porter at 513-977-3030.
AUCTIONING THE NEWS. SPJ is gathering items to be sold during the Legal Defense Fund auction, which will take place at the 2009 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Indianapolis. We're particularly interested in editorial cartoons and front pages from both Wednesdays following Inauguration Day and Election Day. We ask that front pages are original tear sheets, not PDF or otherwise digital duplications. The auction is the only fundraiser for the LDF, which does oh-so-important work of helping to defray legal costs of journalists who are forced to defend themselves in First Amendment cases. Send all items to SP Headquarters:
Attn: LDF Auction
Society of Professional Journalists
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
Also, please notify LDF Chairwoman Julie Kay of your donations by sending a quick message to Julie.email@example.com.
GET THE MENTEE MENTALITY. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and young journalists need all the help they can get during their first years in "the real world." SPJ has the perfect way for you cub reporters to survive and get an extra edge: The Mentor Match-up Program. The program matches young journalists with industry and academic veterans to offer valuable perspective and networking potential. Of course, mentees can certainly help their mentors in the new ways of practicing journalism. Getting into the program is easy just sign up online and SPJ will make a match for you.
WORTHWHILE ADVICE. Perhaps you've heard of the impending sale and potential closure of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Hearst-owned daily that's been in operation since 1863. The PI is the lower-circulation competitor of the Seattle Times. (Full disclosure: Leads author Scott Leadingham is a long-time Washington resident and PI reader.) While it may be too late for the PI to benefit, blogger and SPJ member Whitney Keyes offers six survival tips for struggling newspapers. But, writes Keyes, it's not just the papers that need to adapt. Readers and advertisers must pick up the slack and be willing to pay for the content and benefit they receive from newspapers.
TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN? That was the question on the mind of MSNBC host and commentator Chris Matthews recently as he famously considered a run for the U.S. Senate. In a recent guest editorial in the Miami Herald, journalism ethics professor Edward Wasserman lays out his case for why journalists don't make good elected officials. According to Wasserman, not only are examples of high-level politicians who started as journalists hard to come by (Dan Quayle and Al Gore are two notable examples), but a journalist's motivation is starkly different than that of a politician. "You can't critique the emperor's wardrobe if you long to strip off your own clothes and march alongside him in a procession of the admired and the deluded," he writes.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING HIGHLIGHTS. SPJ's Executive Committee met on Saturday, Jan. 10 in Milwaukee. Some of the meeting's highlights included:
Charles Fair of Missouri has been working on a book for the Centennial. The executive board voted to ask Fair to provide a timeline for his work, including deadlines and the name of the person editing the project. The board also wants to see any pages that are completed to this point.
The board heard a report from staff on plans for the 100th anniversary event in Greencastle, Ind. April 17. It asked staff to have invitations ready to go out as close to Feb. 1 as possible and to keep moving forward on the planning. The program could include a talk by former broadcaster Jane Pauley, who is speaking at the school that night, a shortened initiation ceremony and a roll-call of past presidents. Staff was asked to investigate whether it would be possible to Web cast the event so chapters could access it in real time.
The board approved a proposal from the public outreach committee to assist chapters in their efforts to take part in the Centennial celebration at the local level and to help the organization promote it. Plans include contacting the SPJ Fellows to request an op-ed piece on the importance of journalism and SPJ's role; sending letters to chapters encouraging them to celebrate the Centennial on April 17; researching the possibility of including the Centennial logo on merchandise (when reporters notebooks were reordered in October, they were ordered with the Centennial logo); and researching the possibility of offering sweatshirts/T-shirts with the Greek SDX letters.
The committee approved a staff proposal to notify the winner of the Wells Key in advance of the convention so that he/she could plan accordingly to be in attendance at the convention with family members or significant others. The award will remain secret to all other members of the Society.
The committee heard an update on the Society's membership, which took a hit at the end of December when montly invoicing occurred. As of Jan. 5, 2009, membership stood at 8,488, a drop of more than 700 from Dec. 31, 2008. Other than the economy, no other reasons were apparent for the sharp drop in numbers. Non-renewing members have not expressed dissatisfaction with the organization.
The committee heard an update from Fred Brown on the 4th edition of Doing Ethics in Journalism. The final copy needs to be edited and a search for a publisher is underway.
CORRECTION. An announcement in the Jan. 16 edition of Leads calling for feedback on media pool practices at accident sites incorrectly identified United Airlines as the operating carrier of a jet that crash landed in the Hudson River on Jan. 15. The aircraft was a US Airways jet.