By Christine Tatum
Immediate Past President, SPJ
Assistant Features Editor/Online Features Editor, The Denver Post
FOIA IN THE HOUSE. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended FOIA bill on Tuesday, keeping pace with open-records legislation in the Senate — which passed its own version of the bill last week.
"Passage of the FOIA bill will allow not only members of the press but all Americans to hold their government more accountable," SPJ President Clint Brewer said. "In a time when First Amendment rights are under attack almost daily in this country, this bill is a major step to ensuring America has a free press and a government that is transparent and open."
To ensure the bill's passage, SPJ worked alongside members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, Newspaper Association of America, Radio-Television News Directors Association and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Now that the bill has been passed, it heads to the White House where awaits President George W. Bush's signature.
IN THE BAG. The feds must pay $105,000 to cover attorneys' fees racked up by The News-Press of Southwest Florida, The Pensacola News Journal and Florida Today. The three Gannett-owned newspapers sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the release of public records. After prevailing, they headed back to court, claiming that their legal fees should be paid, too. The lawyer leading this noble legal skirmish: Chuck Tobin of Holland & Knight in Washington, D.C. Tobin is a supporter of SPJ's burgeoning Legal Advocacy Network.
GLAD TIDINGS. SPJ member Melissa Mansfield of Newsday reports that New York's attorney general has launched Project Sunlight, a new Web site that "combines a bunch of public databases. ... It's pretty awesome." You can find it here.
IN MEMORIAM. 2007 has been the deadliest year for journalists in more than a decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. This year, 64 journalists were killed in direct connection to their work, up from 56 last year. The CPJ is investigating another 22 deaths to determine whether they, too, were work-related. The highest death toll recorded since the CPJ started its annual analysis was in 1994, when 66 journalists were killed in battles waged in countries including Algeria, Bosnia and Rwanda. For the fifth straight year, the CPJ named Iraq - where 31 journalists have died so far this year - the deadliest country in the world for the press. Since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, 124 journalists and 49 media workers have been killed in Iraq, the CPJ reported.
DO YOU SEE WHAT THEY SEE? The Museum of Media History presents an interesting (OK, you might think it's downright frightening) view of the "mediascape" of 2015. Watch the video, and share your thoughts about it on SPJ's Technolo-J blog.
MULTITASKING! SPJ member Brendan Smith of The Legal Times is an artist, too. His work is appearing in a juried exhibition at Touchstone Gallery in Washington, D.C. Check out his mixed-media piece titled, "Buy Product Now (Sign Your Name Here)." You're looking for the fan blade and rat traps.
GO ON! SEND IT IN. Nominations are open for SPJ's national awards, and entry deadlines for plenty of local and regional contests are looming. Check out contest details.
YOU BE THE JUDGE. SPJ's national office is looking for volunteer judges for the national Mark of Excellence and Sigma Delta Chi Awards. Potential judges for the collegiate Mark of Excellence Awards should have three to five years of professional experience. Potential Sigma Delta Chi Awards judges should have at least 10 years of professional experience. If you are interested in judging, please e-mail a bio detailing your professional experience and area of interest (print, television, radio, photography or online) to Heather Porter (email@example.com). Replying to this message does not guarantee a judging assignment.
GOT RELIGION? The Religion Newswriters Association will award $10,000 for the nation's best religion coverage. Get details and entry forms online. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 1.
GO NORTHWESTERN. Get details about awards presented by the Medill School of Journalism to the year's top journalists. Postmark deadlines are coming up fast.
CLIMB DOWN THE CHIMNEY, ER, UP THE LADDER. Who's next in line to lead your SPJ chapter? It's never too early to prepare your incoming president for a successful term. The Ted Scripps Leadership Institute is an all-expenses-paid weekend retreat focusing on leadership skills and sound chapter management practices. Applications are due March 16. Questions? E-mail Heather Porter.
FOLLOW THE STARS. SPJ members share tips galore on successful recruitment efforts at The SPJ Garden Center, a blog devoted to helping chapters grow. One idea: SPJ's Greater Cincinnati chapter recently dropped its local dues and increased its membership by about 30 people.
ACHTUNG, BABY! The Free University of Berlin wants American journalism students who speak German reasonably well to consider applying for its new summer internship program, "internXchange." The postmark deadline is Feb. 15.
DO D.C. RIGHT. College students have until Jan. 14 to apply for an all-expenses-paid fellowship aimed at introducing them to Washington, D.C., and the inner workings of the federal government. This is one popular program, so apply early.
ANYTIME, ANYWHERE? Technolo-J blogger Ron Sylvester says smart journalists will start asking tougher questions about their news organizations' delivery and circulation operations.
START SPREADIN' THE NEWS. Learn more about syndication and how you could give your work much wider exposure. Mark Bazer, Tribune Media Services' associate editor of international syndication, will lead this great workshop presented by the Chicago Headline Club and sponsored by DePaul College of Communications. Find event details on the CHC's Web site.
THESE ELVES ROCK. SPJ Leads is brought to you each week by a devoted team of members and SPJ staff. Our sincere thanks to Tom Henderson, Stephanie Kanowitz, Beth King, Pierce Presley, Willie Schatz, Jeremy Steele and Christine Tatum. To join this great group, e-mail Beth King.