By Tom Henderson
Editorial writer, Lewiston Tribune
August 18, 2005 Issue
SENSENBRENNER INCENSES. According to a recent article published at Human Events Online, House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) has put the brakes on legislation offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) that shields reporters from having to reveal their confidential sources to federal authorities. Pence’s Free Flow of Information Act (HR 3323) has attracted 42 co-sponsors in the House, including Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.), but Sensenbrenner won’t hold a hearing unless the bill has “little to no opposition,” his spokesman told Human Events. In addition to the article, you can read a Q&A session with Pence.
SUPPORT THE SHIELD LAW. The East Tennessee SPJ chapter has contributed $500 toward the SPJ effort to urge Congress to enact a national shield law. East Tennessee is small chapter (only 44 members at last count from the national office), but President Dorothy Bowles says that size shouldn't stop any chapter from contributing. In fact, chapter members challenge to other chapters to contribute at least the same amount. As soon as at least one chapter in each region matches or exceeds this amount, chapter members pledge to contribute another $500 toward this important mission. E-mail Dorothy for more information at email@example.com.
SEE CJOG RUN. Two new freedom of information reports are available from the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. The first pulls together the 2004 FOIA performance information from all the federal departments and 10 agencies most active in handling FOIA requests because there is no overall statistical report available. It might help in answering some of the questions that come up as FOIA reform legislation is debated. A separate look at litigation over the last six yeas reinforces the notion that the odds are against the plaintiff and shows those who sue to get records are now coming up financially short when departments/agencies concede and provide records before a case goes to trial: Once, many were awarded legal fees as part of the settlement. No longer. Download both reports in one handy PDF file.
WHO’S WHO? Has your chapter recently held elections? Please ensure your chapter’s contact information is up-to-date by sending an E-mail to Membership Coordinator Kevin Schweikher immediately following each election. And while you’re at it, please take a moment to check to see if your chapter’s contact information is current in the Chapter Locator section of the SPJ Web site. Send any updates to Kevin.
LAS VEGAS LOOMS! The 2005 Convention and National Journalism Conference is just around the corner! You still have time to score low registration rates for the conference. Sign up by Sept. 19 and receive the early registration rate. Don’t put it off! Register online today. Featured presenters include New York Times reporter Judith Miller (we hope!); TIME Magazine’s Matt Cooper; Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke; Bill Kovach of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. And don’t forget to take advantage of the super low room $99 room rates at the Aladdin Resort & Casino. Those rates are only available until Sept. 26 or until we fill our room block, whichever comes first.
MARTIN WINS FIRST AMENDMENT AWARD. Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, and the Center have been selected to receive the 2005 Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award sponsored by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of SPJ.
"Kate Martin and the Center for National Security Studies are being honored for their years of working to protect open government and freedoms of speech and the press in the face of adversity in the name of national security," said Georgiana Vines, chairwoman of the award’s selection committee.
The $10,000 award is given in memory of Pulliam, publisher of the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News from 1975 until his death in 1999. He was a staunch believer in the First Amendment. The award will be presented during the closing banquet at the national convention in Las Vegas on Oct. 18. The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is the charitable and educational arm of SPJ.
THIS WEEK'S YODA. Tom Henderson of the Lewiston Tribune continues as Yoda this week. Someone is more than welcome to take over --- please! Volunteer by contacting Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
YODA DUDE, WHERE'S MY PRESS PASS? Rona Trachtenberg is a free-lancer on assignment with SoCo Magazine in Massachusetts. She writes, “One of my magazine editors wants to give his writers official Massachusetts press passes but doesn't know where to get them. ... Does each state have a press pass selection office? Is there a national desk that does this?"
YODA SEZ: Anyone can be a journalist. God knows. One of the glories of the First Amendment is that journalism is not a licensed profession. You need a license to teach school, practice law, remove a gall bladder or even catch a fish.
If you can put pen to paper or mouth to microphone, however, you can be a journalist.
The state cannot define who is -- or is not -- a journalist by virtue of a press pass. What kind of access does your editor want? If it's to the Legislature, call the main number for your legislative assembly.
Better yet, issue your own [expletive deleted] press passes. That's what a lot of papers do. Laminate a card with your name, face, news agency name and a contact number. Present it to the guardians of whatever gate, and if they have a problem with it, they can phone your office and get a refresher course on freedom of the press …
MAN BITES DOG. Last week, SPJ Leads asked for people's favorite headlines. Here are a few.
FAVORITE HEADLINE #1: Edgar Miller (email@example.com) was managing editor of the at the Chattanooga Times in the 1980s when a runner named Virgin won a foot race. The sports department came up with the headline: "200 chase Virgin across finish."
For some reason, the publisher nixed it.
FAVORITE HEADLINE #2: Susan Schwartz of the Press Enterprise in Bloomsburg, Penn. (firstname.lastname@example.org) recalls when a heat wave swept through Pennsylvania and the local electric company was busy doing maintenance during what is usually a low-demand time of the year:
The headline? "Heat wave catches PP&L with its plants down."
AND ALSO...: Susan's favorite headline, however, ran in the New York Post after Marv Albert was fired shortly after reports he was a cross-dresser.
"Marv gets pink slip"
FAVORITE HEADLINE #3: Rebecca Dudley of the Brush News-Tribune in Colorado (email@example.com) was a copy editor when Chief Justice Warren Burger retired from the Supreme Court.
Her paper's headline? "Burger to go."
WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT BEING FUNNY?: There's nothing “great” about funny headlines, says SPJ member Renee Petrina (firstname.lastname@example.org). "As a copy editor, I appreciate the occasional funny head, but that's not what I strive for -- especially not the obvious pun," says Renee, a "self-professed grammar and usage nitpicker."
"I don't mind that Leads is collecting headlines. In fact, I've been happy to see more mentions of copy editing in Leads recently. But please call them funny or quirky or amusing. Just not `great.'
"What I would call great headlines are rarely funny, but they have fantastic verbs."
HERE COME THE JUDGES. The national SPJ office is looking for volunteers to judge the Mark of Excellence and Sigma Delta Chi awards. Contact Heather Porter, assistant director of programs, at 317-927-8000 or by e-mailing her at email@example.com.
LAME JOURNALISM JOKE OF THE WEEK. Reporters in the newsroom tied garlic around the neck of their old curmudgeonly editor while he was sleeping off deadline at his desk. When he woke up, he got a snoot full. "I knew," he grumbled. "The whole damn world stinks."
COMIC BOOK QUOTE OF THE WEEK. "So Perry sent me, me of all people, to investigate all the weird events that have had Superman's name attached. Or course, I refused, until he pulled out the all-time, hideously-unfair-but-nonetheless-effective, guaranteed argument-winning gambit. He said, `Oh, I'm sorry Miss Lane. I mistook you for a reporter.' "
-- Lois Lane
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