By Christine Tatum
Business Writer, The Denver Post
ONE MEMBER, ONE VOTE?! Should all SPJ members in good standing be allowed to vote individually for the Society's executive leadership? Some of you say yes, and some of you say no. Delegates to the upcoming national convention in Chicago ultimately will decide. A new online discussion board covers some of the pros and cons of this issue. It's also a great forum for asking questions. Take a look, make up your mind and be sure your chapter's convention delegates are informed of your opinion.
STOP MULTITASKING. READ THIS CAREFULLY. To all SPJ members from Pete Weitzel, former managing editor of the Miami Herald, co-founder of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and current coordinator of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government:
We're headed for our most important and toughest fight in several years.
The equivalent of an Official Secrets Act — a bill that would criminalize unauthorized disclosure of classified information and has been filed by Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO. It is identical in wording to the legislation approved in Congress in 2000 and then pocket-vetoed by President Clinton after a strong lobbying effort by the media and others."
"There are 11 co-sponsors, all Republican: Trent Lott, Miss; Saxby Chambliss, Ga; Ted Stevens, Ark; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Rick Santorum, Pa; John Cornyn, Texas; Pete Domenici, N.M.; Robert Bennett, Utah; and Lamar Alexander, Tenn.
"Have no doubt. This bill would shut down any semblance of a free flow of information in Washington. It is certain to create an icy chill, if not a freeze, among sources and potential sources other than those engaged in official, sanctioned leaking. It will further tilt the playing field in favor of executive branch control of information. It is also likely to bring whistle-blowing to a screeching halt. The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition has already come out strongly against it.
"While the bill does not directly criminalize the receipt of classified information — indeed Sen. Bond made a point of proclaiming the bill does not directly affect the media, businesses or private citizens — it is evident from recent events that federal prosecutors would move quickly with subpoenas for reporters and their phone records in any prosecution of a government employee under the bill. And even if we had a federal shield law — at least the one under consideration — it would not protect a reporter in a national security/classified information case.
"Moreover, the bill is overly broad in its definition of classified information – ‘information or material properly classified and clearly marked or represented, or that the person knows or has reason to believe has been properly classified."
What can you and your chapter do?
• Learn more about the issue. Visit CJOG’s Web site for an extensive collection of stories and commentaries on the broad subject of leaks.
• Write, broadcast. Make some noise. "Coverage
and commentary is what's most important," Weitzel wrote. He also urges SPJ chapter leaders to organize "back-home, grassroots contacts with lawmakers." Weitzel urges journalists to be careful that they present this controversial matter "in a way that doesn't become cast (as) a press v. national security issue." He fears it will provoke "the kind of political rhetoric we've already seen from some coming out of the intel (intelligence) committee hearings."
• Get moving! Do something — please.Contact your chapter leaders today. Volunteer to pitch in. Every helping hand really helps. Seek guidance from SPJ’s FOI Chairman Joel Campbell, and drop Joel a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to report the work you’ve done so that SPJ national leaders can begin to track our action nationwide. Thank you.
THESE PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY ROCK. SPJ salutes outstanding journalism advocacy each year with an array of awards to be presented on Aug. 26 in Chicago during the President's Installation Banquet. You don’t want to miss this tribute to some of the United States' greatest journalists. This year, the nation's most broad-based journalism advocacy organization is pleased to honor:
• KTLA Los Angeles reporter Stan Chambers with the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. Chambers, who has worked for the station for 59 years, has covered more than 20,000 stories at home and abroad. He broke the Rodney King beating story, for which he won the Peabody Award for significant and meritorious achievement. He has won numerous local Emmys, Golden Mikes and Press Club awards and was named SPJ’s “Broadcaster of the Year” in 1979. “When I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1966, Stan Chambers was already one of the star local reporters, and I was immediately struck by his generous treatment of those of us who were newcomers,” wrote former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. “He’d help identify the newsmakers, he’d ask the right questions and he always left everyone feeling they were in the presence of a real gentleman."
• Sandy Close, Reginald Stuart and Ben Bagdikian as Fellows of the Society, the highest honor SPJ bestows upon a journalist for extraordinary contributions to the profession. Close, executive director of the Bay Area Institute/Pacific News Service, has spent her career working to incorporate ethnic communities into mainstream media. Stuart, a past national SPJ president and Wells Key winner, is a former reporter and editor for The New York Times. He worked nearly two decades as a corporate recruiter for Knight Ridder Newspapers and now serves in the same role for The McClatchy Co., which purchased Knight Ridder this year. “I’m not sure anyone can match the impact Reggie has had on diversity in journalism,” SPJ President David Carlson said. “He has brought countless people of color into the business. All of us are better for knowing him.” Bagdikian is known as the Paul Revere of journalism. The former Washington Post assistant managing editor and ombudsman and dean of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, alerted the country years before anyone else about the increased concentration of media consolidation and the effects it would have on the quality of journalism as a whole.
• Gene Murray of Grambling State University with the Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award. Murray, a professor of mass communication, was instrumental in creating the university’s master’s degree program. “His work with the students does not end in the classroom as he provides academic and career advice, assists with the campus newspaper staff and advises the local SPJ chapter, which he helped organize,” wrote Sharon Ford-Dunn, one of Murray’s colleagues.
• Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press with a First Amendment Award. When he took over the AP in June 2003, Curley instructed AP bureaus in every state to conduct state open record audits and had SPJ FOI Audit tool kits distributed to the bureaus. Former SPJ President Irwin Gratz nominated Curley, noting his commitment to ensure that the “AP will ferret out the news and defend everyone’s right to hear it.” Gratz also based the nomination on a May 2004 speech Curley delivered in Riverside, Calif., calling the media to action because of increasing government secrecy.
• Ryan Nees, Nancy Conway and John Hughes with Sunshine Awards. Nees, a high school student, waged a legal battle against Kokomo, Ind., officials for the right to inspect an e-mail distribution list maintained by the city – and used by its mayor for campaign purposes. Conway, editor of Salt Lake Tribune and Hughes, executive editor of the Deseret Morning News, formed the Utah Media Coalition, which fights against bills in the state legislature aiming to restrict public access to government records and make access more difficult and expensive.
• Allan M. Siegal with the Ethics In Journalism Award. Siegal, recently retired assistant managing editor for The New York Times, “set the standard for standards at the Times, which often sets standards for American journalism,” wrote SPJ’s national ethics committee members. “He headed a committee that took a hard, thorough look at the newspaper and its procedures after the Jayson Blair affair, laying the groundwork for important changes, including an appointment of the paper’s first public editor. That was fitting because (Siegal) often was an unofficial, internal ombudsman, who devoted his career to maintaining the paper’s standards.”
• Terry Francke, Peter Scheer and the California First Amendment Coalition with the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award. During the 14 years Francke was executive director and general counsel to the coalition, he helped fight for California’s open meeting law for local public agencies and was the key mover of a 2004 state constitutional amendment that makes public access to records and government meetings a civil right of every Californian. Scheer, the coalition’s current director, is credited with maintaining the defense of the people’s right to know while also taking the organization in new directions with high-profile initiatives, including an aggressive campaign to ensure the courts and lawmakers interpret the proposition so that government transparency exists.
• Emil Dansker with the Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Professional Member Award. Dansker, a continuous SPJ member for 56 years, now serves as a deputy regional director of SPJ’s Region 4. He has advised the Bowling Green State University SPJ chapter for 10 years, served on the board of the Cincinnati Pro chapter (which he helped found in 1967) for 10 years and attended nearly all regional and national conventions during his membership. “Dr. Dansker is remarkably generous with his time, mentoring everyone from high school students to mid-career professionals,” wrote Gregory Korte, a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer. “If there’s a group of 9-year-olds in Wyoming, Ohio, who want to start a treehouse newspaper, I have no doubt Dr. Dansker would be there with his pica pole and red pen, introducing his young ‘Mozarts’ to the branch manager at the nearest Kinko’s to help them get a discount.”
• Renee DeLuca with the Julie Galvan Outstanding Graduate in Journalism Award. This national award is presented on the basis of character, service to the community, scholarship, proficiency in practical journalism and significant contributions to an SPJ student chapter. While studying at the University of Maryland, DeLuca has served as a fundraiser and president of her student SPJ chapter. She has held four internships during her studies, has built houses with Habitat for Humanity and has worked as a research assistant for the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families.
REVISITING THE MIRAGE. Nearly 30 years after journalists from the Chicago Sun Times and officials from the Better Government Association discovered that city permits and code violations were for sale, the journalists involved in the Mirage Tavern investigation will return to the scene of the crime to discuss how the investigation applies to today’s civic journalism. Presented during the 2006 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Chicago, the program is part of SPJ’s Project Watchdog, a national initiative designed to inform the public about how members of the media do their jobs. Specifically, its goal is to educate readers and viewers about the importance of a free and ethical press. When: 8 p.m., Aug. 25 Where: Brehon Pub, 731 N. Wells, the very building where the shady deals occurred. Cost: Free and open to the public.
GET YOUR FACS STRAIGHT. The Foundation of American Communications, in association with SPJ and The News-Gazette of Champaign, Ill., will present a daylong seminar for journalists titled, “Reporting Energy Issues in the Midwest: Ethanol, Coal, Wind and Nuclear Energy.” When: 9 a.m., Sept. 14 Where:The News-Gazette’s offices. Cost: Free (but registration is required). For a complete agenda and to register, visit FACS.org or call (626) 584-0010.
SET YOUR SITES ON ASIA. The South Asian Journalists Association is offering its Second Annual SAJA Reporting Fellowships. The fellowships are open to freelancers and staff journalists in any medium and are aimed at encouraging in-depth reporting projects in South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora by providing grants that cover a portion of reporting expenses. Eligible applicants must have at least five years of journalism experience. For more information (and a full list of requirements), contact Sandeep Junnarkar at email@example.com. Applications are due Sept. 8.