Clint Brewer, President,(615)301-9229
Beth King, Communications Manager,(317)927-8000, ext. 211
INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists offered their support for the actions of the organization’s Valley of the Sun (Phoenix) Professional chapter Friday in condemning the use of a racial slur by a well-known newspaper executive at a chapter awards banquet last week.
During his acceptance speech for an award from the local chapter, Village Voice Executive Editor Mike Lacey used the N-word to refer to his late friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Tom Fitzpatrick. His short speech also included vulgar phrases. Lacey was accepting the chapter’s President’s Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of journalism.
Following the incident, Valley of the Sun chapter president Teri Carnicelli wrote Lacey a letter where she expressed concern over his choice of words. Lacey later apologized, stating, “My words, meant to honor a friend, were inappropriate. All present have my sincere apology. It is regrettable that any phrase of mine offended those attending a First Amendment awards banquet.”
SPJ national leaders joined Valley of the Sun chapter leaders in condemning the use of the racial slur. Brewer also commended the chapter’s leadership for acting quickly to denounce the use of hateful speech.
“Our local chapter leaders in Phoenix dealt with this unfortunate situation very effectively and expressed the sentiments of the national organization quite well,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “Even used in jest, this kind of language is deplorable and has no place in a civil society. We condemn the use of this kind of language strongly, and find it offensive and unacceptable. Media executives like Mr. Lacey who hold sway over audiences in markets across this country should demonstrate a better sense of social responsibility.
“SPJ has defended Mr. Lacey’s role as a journalist in the past when his company was under attack from overzealous law enforcement officials, so there is a respect for their journalistic work. This latest incident, however, is not acceptable behavior, and we regret it occurred at one of our organization’s events.”
On both a chapter and national level, SPJ provides an open forum for the discussion of diversity issues in journalism. Additionally, the Society’s National Diversity Committee works to promote a broader voice in newsrooms across the country while expanding the depth and quality of news reports through better sourcing. The Committee’s ongoing projects include:
•The Rainbow Source Book is a compilation of experts — primarily women, gays and lesbians, people of color and people with disabilities.
•The Diversity Toolbox features essays and links to resources to help journalists broaden both perspectives and voices in their work.
•The Source Book Teaching Plan is a module is designed for use in classroom exercises to train students in source development.
•SPJ’s Diversity Guidelines take a proactive approach toward ensuring racial profiling remains absent from news coverage. The Guidelines were developed to help journalists in their coverage of the war on terrorism.
•The Whole Story is a compilation of essays by Diversity Committee members, complete with tips on how to ensure inclusiveness in reporting.
•Chapter Programming Reports compiled by Diversity Committee members highlight the work of local SPJ chapters while offering ideas to others for future events that focus on inclusiveness.
•Diversity Leadership Grants provided by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation give minority journalists across the country an opportunity to get involved in SPJ leadership positions. Diversity fellows receive a complementary registration to the annual SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference and ongoing mentoring from fellow members who act as coaches.
•Who’s News? is a Web log designed to keep journalists and members of the public updated on current events in newsroom diversity.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.