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Home > About SPJ > Documentation > Resolutions

Documentation
Resolutions

Submitted to the Excellence in Journalism Conference in New Orleans, La., for passage on September 20, 2016

1. Renaming SPJ the “Society for Professional Journalism”
2. Urging the University of Kentucky to comply with Kentucky public records law
3. Urging President Obama to abandon access restrictions
4. In support of enhanced protections for student journalists
5. Opposing mandatory “trigger warnings”
6. The right to report on political campaigns
7. Opposing censorship by wealth
8. In support of women in journalism
9. Recognizing Alistair Cooke’s contribution to British-American relations
10. Thanking Outgoing SPJ President Paul Fletcher
11. Thanking SPJ staff
12. Commending Mark Thomason


Resolution No. 1: Renaming SPJ the “Society for Professional Journalism”

Submitted by:
– Michael Koretzky, Region 3 director, 2015 Regional Director of the Year
– Mac McKerral , SPJ past president, SDX board member, Wells Key winner
– Jason Parsley, SPJ’s 2016 Outstanding Pro Member, SPJ Bylaws Committee member
– Gideon Grudo, SPJ FOI Committee chairman, former national board member
– Dori Zinn, SPJ Diversity Committee chairman, SPJ Florida president
– Sergy Odiduro, SPJ Louisiana president, 2011 SPJ diversity fellow
– Brandon Ballenger, SPJ Membership Committee member, SPJ Bylaws Committee member
– Michele Boyet , SPJ Resolutions Committee Member, SPJ’s 2010 Robert Lewis First Amendment Award winner

Resolutions committee recommendation: Neutral

Delegate action: Failed


WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists had nearly 10,000 members a decade ago and has fewer than 6,800 today, and the decline continues; and

WHEREAS the Society’s name does not accurately reflect its current membership because many members — and even some national board members — are not professional journalists but avidly support professional journalism; and

WHEREAS SPJ is pushing for a new “supporters” membership class to bolster its numbers and budget; and

WHEREAS changing SPJ’s name to the Society for Professional Journalism would make more sense and help market the new membership category; and

WHEREAS the Society’s name implies that SPJ defines who is — and who isn’t — a journalist, even though SPJ delegates voted in 2013 that “the Society of Professional Journalists strongly rejects any attempts to define a journalist in any way other than as someone who commits acts of journalism”; and

WHEREAS other organizations strengthen their advocacy by identifying a cause instead of a profession, such as the National Organization for Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and

WHEREAS a similar name would give SPJ more lobbying power with local, state, and national lawmakers who might not favor a free press; and

WHEREAS RTDNA made a much more drastic name change in 2009 for a total cost only in the hundreds of dollars, and SPJ’s webmaster says SPJ’s website can be updated in a single day;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that SPJ rename itself the Society for Professional Journalism starting as soon as the articles of incorporation, bylaws, policies and guidelines permit.

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Resolution No. 2: Urging the University of Kentucky to comply with Kentucky public records law

Submitted by: Bluegrass Professional Chapter

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS public institutions have a responsibility to protect the larger public interest, including constitutional principles that serve democracy, such as freedom of expression and the right of the public to receive information about the performance of those who govern in the name of the public; and

WHEREAS public institutions should respect each other’s roles and not engage in unnecessary controversies and costly litigation; and

WHEREAS university presidents should respect the efforts of journalists, especially those who observe the tenets of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, to seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable; and

WHEREAS the University of Kentucky has repeatedly refused to allow the state’s attorney general to conduct a confidential review of documents that are the object of open-records requests, contravening the state law that makes the attorney general the initial arbiter of open-government disputes; and

WHEREAS Dr. Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, accused the independent student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, of publishing “salacious details to attract readers” to a story about the university’s handling of a sexual-assault case involving a tenured professor; and

WHEREAS all 15 full-time faculty members of the UK School of Journalism and Media told Capilouto in a letter that his accusation was false and an insult to Kernel Editor Marjorie Kirk and her teachers; and

WHEREAS the university is also suing the Lexington Herald-Leader because of an open-meeting ruling of the attorney general; and

WHEREAS such attacks from high-ranking public officials can weaken the news media, the openness that state laws require, and journalists’ ability to perform the service envisioned in the First Amendment, thus undermining democracy.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., calls on the University of Kentucky to obey the sunshine laws of the state, to respect journalists and their mission to inform people and serve as a watchdog on government, to stop spending public dollars on lawsuits against the media and to apologize to the Kentucky Kernel and Editor Marjorie Kirk.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be delivered to Dr. Eli Capilouto and each member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Kentucky.

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Resolution No. 3: Urging President Obama to abandon access restrictions

Submitted by: Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS in August 2015 the Society of Professional Journalists led 53 journalism and other open-government organizations in asking President Barack Obama to change policies that constrict information flow; and

WHEREAS these policies and tactics include prohibiting journalists from communicating with agency staff and forbidding agency staff to speak to journalists without going through public information offices, vetting and monitoring interviews, and using “on background” briefings that block reporters from identifying the speakers for information that should be public; and

WHEREAS these controls threaten the legitimacy of our democracy; and

WHEREAS SPJ, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of News Editors sent a delegation representing those 53 groups to the White House in December 2015 to meet with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on these issues and ask for an answer from President Obama; and

WHEREAS to date there has been no answer from the White House on the organizations’ concerns; and

WHEREAS on August 30, 2016, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wrote in a letter to the New York Times: “If journalists don’t acknowledge steps that the Obama administration has taken to strengthen transparency, then who will? Leading the fight for government transparency means confronting politicians who face intense political pressure on narrow, short-term interests and pressing them to prioritize transparency, too, even when it’s politically inconvenient — especially when it’s politically inconvenient.”; and

WHEREAS although President Obama vowed to have the most transparent administration in history, in fact his is one of only three administrations that have used these controls to anywhere near the extent they are used today; and

WHEREAS many journalists have seen these restrictions and outright blockages grow more intense and bolder during this administration; and

WHEREAS presidential candidates from both parties have illustrated an alarming lack of transparency, including Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and nine-month span without a press conference, and Donald Trump’s continued refusal to release his taxes and past use of a pseudonym to act as his own spokesman; and

WHEREAS the controls on the press exhibited in the current presidential campaign are extremely concerning; and

WHEREAS we have seen these controls become increasingly more entrenched; and

WHEREAS no one can know how they will be used in the future;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists meeting in convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, in September 2016, asks that President Obama address the serious concerns expressed by these 53 groups representing thousands of journalists and others.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society urges President Barack Obama to take action so that he will not leave these extraordinarily serious restrictions in place as he leaves the presidency.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that on behalf of journalists everywhere, the Society encourages the next president of United States to quickly stop the use of restrictions that hinder the media’s role in informing citizens about the actions and policies of their government.

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Resolution No. 4: In support of enhanced protections for student journalists

Submitted by: Resolutions committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS one significant role in education is to nurture and develop students as

inquisitive and participatory citizens in a democracy; and

WHEREAS the freedom of student media to inform the community about issues of public concern is compromised when educational institutions censor, including by such indirect means as the revocation of financial support, the removal of supportive faculty advisers, or threats of disciplinary consequences against student editors; and

WHEREAS the student media is confronting aggressive hostility from college administrators’ intent on withholding unflattering information, exemplified by the University of Kentucky’s near-unprecedented decision to initiate a lawsuit against its own student newspaper in an attempt to conceal records reflecting the university’s disposition of harassment and sexual battery accusations against a professor; and

WHEREAS a growing body of research documents that young people are receiving inadequate training during their K-12 and college years both in understanding the process of government policymaking and in formulating fact-based political arguments respectful of the existence of differing views, a skill set that journalism education conveys with unique effectiveness when practiced in a supportive environment; and

WHEREAS recent survey data compiled by University of Kansas researchers’ documents that the impact of school censorship falls most heavily upon girls, who as a consequence of the disempowering climate in schools report that they have “self-censored” their own journalism at rates twice that of teen boys; and

WHEREAS a parallel study by University of Kansas journalism professors documented that high school students whose schools respect and practice First Amendment freedoms graduate with a heightened sense of civic efficacy, as measured by their belief that they can use their words to effect positive social change; and

WHEREAS federal law has proven inadequate to remedy the abuses of press freedoms in schools and colleges, as evidenced by adverse judicial rulings in First Amendment cases brought on behalf of college journalism advisers removed from their positions by administrators at Northern Michigan University and Muscatine (Iowa) Community College; and

WHEREAS state statutes can and do provide effective protection for the independence of student journalism in 10 states, with reform movements taking shape in nearly 20 other states, as part of the “New Voices” movement that began with the enactment of the John Wall New Voices of North Dakota Act in 2015.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention at New Orleans, Louisiana, commends the organizers of the New Voices movements in Illinois and Maryland and their legislative sponsors, whose dedicated efforts led to the successful enactment of laws protecting student journalism in their states during 2016.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Society of Professional Journalists urges state legislators and the leaders of K-12 and higher education institutions nationally to unite in supporting New Voices reforms in every state, protecting the ability of college and high school journalists and journalism educators to learn and practice the best principles of public-service journalism without fear of reprisal.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, regardless of the existence of statutory protections, the Society of Professional Journalists calls upon the nation’s institutions of higher education, both public and private, to honor their oft-stated commitment to civic engagement by supporting — including, where necessary, financially — meaningful opportunities for students to participate in journalism with the assurance of full freedom to cover news of importance to the campus community.

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Resolution No. 5: Opposing mandatory “trigger warnings”

Submitted by: SPJ Education Committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Tabled


WHEREAS colleges and universities have begun requiring faculty to issue “trigger warnings” — notices in advance about class content that might be disturbing and/or re-traumatizing; and

WHEREAS the roots of the academy are planted in the soil of free thinking and the value of all ideas; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Constitution embraces that philosophy by acknowledging the value of the Marketplace of Ideas; and

WHEREAS in academic settings designed to foster free and open discussion, such warnings can stifle an open forum for ideas and debate; and

WHEREAS any restrictions on speech and expression should be very narrowly tailored and “mandatory” guidelines often are overly broad, content based and target individuals and/or groups; and

WHEREAS teachers best understand their classroom environments and are best equipped to address content within them;

THEREFORE be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., opposes mandatory trigger warning requirements at our nation’s colleges and universities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that so-called trigger warnings be left up to the discretion of individual faculty.

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Resolution No. 6: The right to report on political campaigns

Submitted by: Sonny Albarado, FOI Committee member

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS journalists covering a political campaign perform an important public service by providing information to Americans seeking to determine our next leaders; and

WHEREAS journalists must be free to do their jobs without fear of reprisal, intimidation and threat of physical harm or threats to loosen libel laws; and

WHEREAS candidates for the office of president of the United States and all other offices — local, state and national — must understand and respect the role of a free press and its constitutional protections; and

WHEREAS, candidates must expect to be asked uncomfortable questions and receive tough but fair coverage; and

WHEREAS journalists ask questions on behalf of all Americans, who have the right to know the policies, positions and background of any person seeking to hold public office and the trust of the American voter; and

WHEREAS it is shameful for a candidate to disown the principles of the First Amendment simply because he or she does not like the coverage of an individual journalist or news outlet; and

WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports the numerous journalists and news outlets that have been blocked, bullied and harassed during this election season.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., condemns the actions of all presidential candidates who block access to any journalist by revoking their credentials to cover campaign events in public venues.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society rejects any political candidate’s attempts to harass, bully or otherwise intimidate journalists assigned to cover their campaigns.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society urges all political candidates, especially presidential candidates, to conduct their campaigns in a transparent manner and with utmost respect for the role of journalists in informing the citizens of a democratic society about those who seek elective office.

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Resolution No. 7: Opposing censorship by wealth

Submitted by: SPJ Ethics Committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS the Society of Professional Journalists is tasked with improving and protecting journalism; and

WHEREAS the Society maintains the most respected Code of Ethics in the profession of journalism; and

WHEREAS the Society believes that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy; and

WHEREAS local news organizations serve as the backbone of a community by keeping citizens informed and holding locally elected officials and powerbrokers accountable; and

WHEREAS Sheldon Adelson and his family — as News + Media Capital Group LLC — purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in late 2015; and

WHEREAS the Adelsons attempted to remain anonymous as owners; and

WHEREAS the editorial independence of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has been compromised on a number of occasions, such as when Jon Ralston reported the paper’s journalists were told to ask for candidates’ opinions on public funding for a stadium proposed by Mr. Adelson even though the answers were not to be printed; and

WHEREAS the Society’s Code of Ethics says ethical journalists should deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., condemns the manipulation of news outlets for personal gain by wealthy media owners everywhere.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society condemns those worldwide who use their riches to silence media with whom they disagree rather than support responsible and ethical journalism that competes in the marketplace of ideas.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society will defend democracy by forcefully speaking out against any person or group using money to manipulate or silence the media.

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Resolution No. 8: In support of women in journalism

Submitted by:
– Alex Veeneman, SPJ Community Coordinator
– Elle Toussi, Co-Chair, SPJ International Community
– Dan Kubiske, Co-Chair, SPJ International Community
– Joanne Lisosky, Professor and Advisor, SPJ chapter, Pacific Lutheran University
– Claudia Amezcua, Chair, SPJ Generation J Community
– Sharon Dunten, Assistant Regional Director, Region 3, SPJ Georgia Pro Chapter
– SPJ Connecticut Pro Chapter

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS a study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford in the UK noted that more women are studying journalism at colleges and universities in the United States, as well as other countries; and

WHEREAS the journalism industry is still male-dominated; and

WHEREAS Recent reporting and research from the The Wall Street Journal, citing data from the US Census bureau, indicated that women in journalism are paid 86 percent of their male counterparts; and

WHEREAS A resolution calling for the elimination of race and gender pay gaps in the media was signed, dated April 9, 2016, by the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, and the Journalism and Women Symposium; and

WHEREAS The Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, has called for the elimination of gender pay gaps within the newspaper, supported by its parent Dow Jones and Company; and

WHEREAS The BBC has said that half of its on-air roles, as well as its workforce, will be women by 2020; and

WHEREAS Women have made significant contributions to the journalism profession and are quintessential to the foundation of its future, especially in the digital age, as well as to the operations and interests of the Society.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, recognizes the contributions made by its female members from all chapters as well as women in journalism.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society supports the resolution of April 9, 2016, signed by the aforementioned journalism support organizations.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society will make this issue a priority in conjunction with our partners in these organizations and other media organizations, and will work collaboratively as well as an individual organization to address the issue.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society calls upon resources to be made available to female journalists, including those currently enrolled in postsecondary education, including but not limited to mentoring and networking opportunities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society will continue to promote women in journalism and media through programs and outreach efforts on a regional and national level.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society welcomes the review by The Wall Street Journal of pay gaps and the BBC’s commitment to gender equality in its workforce.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society calls upon other media organizations, irrespective of medium, to follow their lead to ensure gender equality in the industry, and to address the elimination of inequality.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society subscribes to the idea that it is 2016 and that gender should not be a barrier when it comes to pursuing work in this profession.

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Resolution No. 9: Recognizing Alistair Cooke’s contribution to British-American relations

Submitted by: Alex Veeneman, SPJ Community Coordinator

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS Alistair Cooke was born on November 20, 1908, in Salford, Greater Manchester, in the Northwest of England, United Kingdom; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke is a graduate of Jesus College, University of Cambridge; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke joined the BBC in 1934 as a film critic; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke simultaneously served as the London correspondent for NBC News from 1936-1937, reporting on life in Britain for American audiences; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke immigrated to the United States in 1937; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke began the Letter from America radio program in March 1946 for the BBC World Service, reporting on American culture and politics; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke’s idea for Letter from America derived from a desire to help bring the United States and the United Kingdom “closer together in understanding and affection”; and

WHEREAS Letter from America was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the UK; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke simultaneously served as a special correspondent for The Times of London on US affairs from 1938 to 1942; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke simultaneously served as the chief US correspondent for The Guardian newspaper from 1948 to 1972; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke presented the PBS program “Masterpiece Theatre” from 1971 to 1992, devoted exclusively to British drama and adaptations of works by British authors; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke presented Letter from America for the BBC until February 2004; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke died on March 30, 2004, in New York City; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke’s papers, including manuscripts for Letter from America, and other items are maintained at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke made an exceptional contribution to journalism and the fields that the Society of Professional Journalists advocates; and

WHEREAS Mr. Cooke contributed greatly to the improvement of the cultural and political relations between the United States and the United Kingdom.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, recognize the contributions to journalism made by Mr. Cooke on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the first broadcast of Letter from America.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society commemorates the legacy of Mr. Cooke and his contributions to American journalism and British journalism.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society recognizes the work of journalists, in the US and abroad, who, like Mr. Cooke, bring the world closer together in understanding and affection.

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Resolution No. 10: Thanking Outgoing SPJ President Paul Fletcher

Submitted by: Resolutions Committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS during the past year, President Paul Fletcher has represented the Society of Professional Journalists with integrity, professionalism, and passion; and

WHEREAS President Fletcher has spread the gospel of SPJ from Fort Worth, Texas, to New York City, Washington, D.C., Arizona, Cincinnati, Richmond and Norfolk Virginia, Seattle; and

WHEREAS President Fletcher contributed to the financial well-being of wineries in many of those same locations on those same trips; and

WHEREAS President Fletcher led a coalition of Journalism organizations at a meeting in the White House with President Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest; and

WHEREAS at said meeting, President Fletcher relayed complaints about Administration practices that hamper transparency in government; and

WHEREAS when the White House failed to follow through on promises made at that meeting, President Fletcher took the Administration to task in a letter published in the New York Times; and

WHEREAS none of several past SPJ presidents can remember having any of their writings published in the New York Times; and

WHEREAS President Fletcher advanced a proposal to give delegate voting rights to 41% of SPJ members unaffiliated with any chapter; and

WHEREAS President Fletcher led a barely 60-minute open board meeting, one of the shortest open board meetings in anyone's memory.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., praises and thanks President Fletcher for his service to SPJ.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we hope our gratitude will ease the pain of an O and 2 start by his beloved Miami Dolphins, who were pummeled Sept. 18 by the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots.

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Resolution No. 11: Thanking SPJ staff

Submitted by: SPJ Resolutions Committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: Favorable

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS the headquarters staff of the Society of Professional Journalists makes it possible for SPJ to provide strong professional development programs, defend the public’s right to know through First Amendment advocacy, and guide journalists to act ethically; and

WHEREAS the staff created a superlative national journalism conference in collaboration with the Radio Television Digital News Association and Native American Journalists Association; and

WHEREAS the stupendous display of “talent, truth and energy” of Excellence in Journalism 2016 would not be possible without the SPJ staff’s deep knowledge, tireless energy, two-way radios, running shoes and Twitter #hashtags; and

WHEREAS the SPJ staff continues to expand the technical capabilities of SPJ in exciting new ways, such as the new Q-code event tickets; and

WHEREAS the SPJ staff’s high level of professionalism, skill, ingenuity, nimbleness, and ability to keep the EIJ16 events running smoothly on very little sleep.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, thanks the SPJ staff for all its work and gives the staff a hearty round of applause for its work on Excellence in Journalism 2016.

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Resolution No. 12: Commending Mark Thomason

Submitted by: FOI Committee

Resolutions committee recommendation: None

Delegate action: Approved


WHEREAS no reporter should ever be arrested for filing an open records request; and

WHEREAS Mark Thomason, publisher of the Fannin Focus in Blue Ridge, Georgia, was charged with three felonies, including one for making a false statement on his open records request; and

WHEREAS the arrest was clearly retaliatory and in reaction to articles he had published about Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver; and

WHEREAS Thomason was jailed for 48 hours and then subjected to onerous bond restrictions; and

WHEREAS the charges were dropped only after numerous public statements by the Georgia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; and

WHEREAS SPJ Georgia has also called upon Judge Weaver to resign and has files an official complaint against her with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in New Orleans, La., also calls on Judge Weaver to resign.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society commends Mark Thomason for his relentless pursuit of the public’s right to know.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society also commends the Georgia Pro Chapter for standing up for working journalists.

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