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For more than 100 years the Society of Professional Journalists has been dedicated to encouraging a climate in which journalism can be practiced more freely and fully, stimulating high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism and perpetuating a free press.
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By Beth King
SPJ Communications Manager
FEMA DEBACLE. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Oct. 23 press conference in southern California, where agency employees posed as news reporters, caused the agency's top public information officer to lose his job and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to admit failure by the agency. Responding to the situation, SPJ leaders issued a statement condemning the agency's actions. Read and hear coverage by SPJ member and Federal News Radio Reporter Max Cacas.
LAND OF THE FREE. SPJ and 18 journalism-advocacy organizations signed onto an Oct. 19 letter opposing Department of Interior attempts to codify agency rules on photography, filming and sound-recording on the public lands it administers. If the proposal passes and the DOI gets its way, the government will have a say in who can report, film and capture audio in the nation's parks. What you can do: The public comment period is now closed and a hearing will be scheduled before a final ruling is made. Because no date has been scheduled for the public hearing, SPJ leaders are encouraging journalists and members of the public to voice their concerns by writing to:
Department of Interior/National Park Service
Attn: Lee Dickinson, Special Park Uses Program Manager
National Park Service
1849 C St., NW, ORG CODE 2460
Washington, DC 20240
INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN. SPJ National President Clint Brewer and Freedom of Information Committee Chairman David Cuillier sent a letter Oct. 24 to Pennsylvania lawmakers to oppose amendments to the state's open records law (H.B. 443). If passed with the amendments, the bill could make Pennsylvania one of the most secret states in the nation. Read the letter and then consider joining the fight to keep records open by writing your own letter.
HISTORY LEAVES ITS MARK. For 130 years, the Denver Press Club has been the touchstone of Colorado journalism. On Oct. 25, it was designated a Historic Site in Journalism. Read all about this truly amazing place.
JOINING FORCES. Through a unique partnership, the National Arab American Journalists Association and SPJ have formed a membership section within the Society. By providing tips, resources, training, mentoring and related discussion, SPJ and the NAAJA will work together to develop a dialogue that is sure to encourage newsroom diversity, crossover memberships and a greater understanding of cultures within the profession. To help in this venture, the membership group has launched a new blog, "Al-Sahafiyeen," which is the Arabic word for "journalists" or "the journalists."
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT. SPJ recently kicked off the Legal Advocacy Network — a network of attorneys who have pledged their support to assist journalists in this ever-changing media landscape. Specifically, the network's members aim to provide sound and timely legal information to journalists; to help journalists find the right legal help when they need it; to encourage greater discussion and collaboration between the journalism and media-law communities; and to create a dynamic and thoughtful team of journalists and lawyers who help steer the network's financial resources to the most important causes and legal cases. Get to know the members or consider joining the network today. Want more information? Contact Mary Morgan by e-mail or at (317) 927-8000, ext. 213.
SEND IT IN. The Sigma Delta Chi Awards recognize the best in professional journalism in 48 categories, covering print, radio, television, newsletters, photography, online and research. Get complete details here. Entry postmark deadline: Feb. 6, 2008. Contact Programs Coordinator Heather Porter with questions.
FREE MONEY. SPJ is offering $1,000 grants to chapters for Ethics in Journalism Week programming. One grant per region is available, thanks to a donation from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. Deadline: Nov. 12. Visit SPJ.org to access the application form. Questions? Contact Heather Porter by e-mail or call her at (317) 927-8000, ext. 204.
SURVEY SAYS. SPJ student member Julie Whitacre is writing her masters' thesis on ethics in journalism. Project research includes a survey for journalists. A five-minute survey is open to all SPJ members.
ETHICS ON THE AIR. In the October/November issue of Quill, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andy Schotz wrote a column about The Paper, a new documentary on life and ethical decision-making at a college newspaper. However, the print edition of Quill neglected to point out that The Paper will debut on PBS on Dec. 11 as part of the Independent Lens series. Check your local listings.
SHIELD LAW EXPERIENCES WANTED. If you're covered by one, and have used it, or observed its function, the Maine Pro Chapter wants to hear from you! They're preparing testimony about a shield law bill that has been introduced in the state legislature, and want to bring direct experience of shield laws' usefulness, as well as pitfalls to be avoided, to the table. Send a brief summary of your experience with the law, a link to the law's text, and your thoughts on how your location's law could be made better or clearer, to Maine Pro chapter president Jeff Inglis. The chapter would like everything by Nov. 16, so don't delay. They'll compile the results, and will be happy to share what they learn with all of SPJ!
GERMANY'S FINEST. Apply now for the European Journalism Fellowships, offered this year for the 10th time by the Journalisten-Kolleg of the Free University of Berlin. Participants must be able to take a one-year leave of absence to widen their knowledge and pursue a major research project. The program starts in October 2008 and ends in July 2009. Journalists in either staff positions or freelancers with several years of professional experience are eligible to apply. Written proof certifying good knowledge of the German language is required for participation. More information and deadlines: Visit the Freie Universität Berlin Web site.
RIDE THE NEWSTRAIN. Are you a front-line editor looking to get on the fast track to improving your skills? Sign up for the APME NewsTrain at the Virginia Press Association, Nov. 8-9. Leading the program are Jacqui Banaszynski, Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism and Editing Fellow at The Poynter Institute; Bobbi Bowman, Diversity Director for the American Society of Newspaper Editors; and Rusty Coats, director of strategic initiatives in Interactive Media for Media General. Inc. Topics include "The Big Picture," "News Ethics and Values in the Digital Age," "Coaching Newswriting for Online," "Story Planning for Multiple Media," "Handling Difficult Conversations," "Covering the New Dominion," and "Leading in a Time of Change." Cost: $50, including lunch both days. Register online. More information: Contact Dorothy Abernathy or Elaine Kramer at (412) 805-0812.
FOR HE'S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW! Veteran broadcast journalist and Indiana Pro chapter past-president Gene Slaymaker was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Hall of Fame on Oct. 4 in Carmel, Ind. Spanning a 32-year broadcasting career that took him to Ohio before settling in Indianapolis, Slaymaker has been an SPJ member for more than 50 years. He served as news director for WTLC-FM and WTUX-AM in Indianapolis for 18 years. Additionally, he won the Delta Sigma Chi award twice for his radio editorials and served as the Radio and Television News Directors Regional Director for Indiana and Illinois. Congratulations, Gene!