The Society of Professional Journalists' Legal Defense Fund Committee decided today against lending the organization's name to an amicus brief supporting National Geographic in Faulkner v. National Geographic Society, a case on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The issue before the court focuses on the content of contracts contributors and publishers sign to award payment.The committee originally voted in June to support the brief.
Committee members continue to support the brief's argument, which presses for greater clarity of contract law to help publishers and contributors alike. But after hearing from members and various national SPJ leaders, the committee agreed to withdraw the Society's name from it.
"We believe this brief is good for all journalists wanting fair compensation for their work, but we also listen to our members and see clearly how support of the brief has not been good for the Society," SPJ National President Christine Tatum said. "Our members are divided over this issue. We would love for them to focus instead on projects and causes that garner much broader support."
"SPJ supports and works on behalf of independent journalists throughout the country," said Legal Defense Fund Chairman and National Secretary-Treasurer Dave Aeikens. "At no time was this decision intended to lessen their value."
SPJ has a long track record of supporting independent journalists through various initiatives, including its Legal Defense Fund. In the past year, the Society has dramatically increased its support of independent journalists through initiatives such as the SPJ Freelancer Directory, which connects contributors and hiring editors. SPJ is also building a Legal Advocacy Network that is designed, in part, to connect media lawyers with journalists needing legal assistance. The network has been crafted with freelancers specifically in mind.
The Society of Professional Journalists is one of the nation’s largest and oldest journalism –advocacy organizations. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.