By Jason Jedlinski
President, Chicago Headline Club
Executive Producer, Tribune Interactive
Editorial Writer, The Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune
National President, SPJ
Business Writer, The Denver Post
WHAT A CONVENTION! Almost 1,000 journalists from across the country attended SPJ’s glorious national conference Aug. 24-27 in Chicago. If you couldn’t make it, here are some links to help catch you up on what went down:
SPJ donated $30,000 from its Legal Defense Fund (the largest single grant ever given) to help freelance video journalist Josh Wolf, who has been held in a federal jail since Aug. 1 for refusing to give up his unedited work for review by a grand jury. SPJ’s Immediate Past President, David Carlson, also successfully convinced Wolf’s lawyers to cap Wolf’s legal fees at $60,000. The lawyers have agreed to see Wolf’s case through at least the appellate process. SPJ is already on its way to replenishing the fund. Members raised roughly $6,500 Friday during raucous live and silent auctions.
• Delegates elected Clint Brewer, executive editor of The City Paper in Nashville, Tenn., SPJ’s next president. Brewer will follow Christine Tatum of The Denver Post, who was inaugurated Saturday. Delegates also approved 22 resolutions unanimously. The controversial “One Member One Vote” proposal was voted down by only five delegate votes.
• In his keynote speech, Bill Kurtis compared today’s news to junk food and instructed journalists to, “Do your job!”
• The Chicago Headline Club kicked off its Fifth Annual Les Brownlee Journalism Series – named in honor of the first African American to be inducted into SPJ – with seven special programs during the conference. Check out a recap of the Nitty Gritty City Bus Tour, which allowed conference goers to see the “real Chicago.” See how former Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Geoff Dougherty is now training citizens to be journalists. Learn more about how to improve coverage of Arab and Muslim communities, a topic addressed throughout the conference and summarized here, here and here.
• Diversity sessions included a discussion about “The Relevance of a Black-Owned Media in the 21st Century.” National Diversity Committee Chairwoman Sally Lehrman autographed her new book, News in a New America as award-winning tenor Rodell Rosel delighted attendees of SPJ’s Celebrate Diversity Reception.
• The “Great J-Blogger Showdown of ’06” may not have materialized as Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn imagined, but there was conflict nevertheless – and that conflict continues to rile readers in Chicago.
• Nearly 100 people filled the Brehon Pub and listened in silence as Pam Zekman, Zay Smith, Bill Recktenwald and Jim Frost recounted their legendary Mirage Tavern investigation. Later, conventioneers packed The Billy Goat Tavern, where the Chicago Headline Club sprang for “cheezborgers” and beer.
• SPJ’s “Honor the First” celebration was a smashing hit! Musicians, poets, stand-up comedy and a sold-out show at the legendary Second City kept everyone thoroughly entertained – and aware of our cherished freedom of expression.
• The dapper – and highly ethical – Fred Brown won SPJ’s highest honor for a member, The Wells Me morial Key. See who else scored some bling in a roundup of all of our national award winners.
• The Working Press chronicled the entire convention. Check out the students’ work from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Students not working under such tight deadlines also learned plenty and gave generously! SPJ honored winners of its national Mark of Excellence Awards during a luncheon where attendees (mostly students!) raised almost $1,000 to support jailed freelancer Josh Wolf (The money may be used for Wolf’s non-legal expenses, such as toiletries from the prison commissary or rent money for Wolf’s San Francisco apartment). During the luncheon, New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist, explained how young journalists can work to build the public’s trust.
Have we gone loopy for links? Nope. After listening to Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, someone wrote, “Journalists need to understand bloggers are not the lunatic fringe enemy. Bloggers need to understand that professional journalists aren’t going away. Understanding is a good place to start.” We’re contributing to the détente by recapping SPJ’s wild and wonderful weekend in this fashion.
SPJ is already gearing up for another great conference next year in Washington, D.C. Don’t miss it, and check this page early and often for more information.
WASTING NO TIME. SPJ President Christine Tatum is among dozens of journalism-group leaders who have sent letters to a Sudanese judge, pleading for the release of Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek, who is being jailed on charges of espionage. Tatum wrote in part: “Paul has my profound appreciation and respect for his efforts to make the world more aware of the problems that have plagued Africa in recent years. When so many other news organizations ignored the continent's AIDS epidemic, civil wars, genocide and various other troubles stemming from government corruption, Paul was there. He has worked tirelessly — relentlessly — for years to spread word of Africa's ills, demonstrating a profound respect for the continent and its people in the process. Through Paul's amazing work, I also have learned about Africa's natural beauty, its strong people and its ancient culture. Have no doubt that this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner's work has garnered international attention that has resulted in much good for Africa.”
Contact leaders of SPJ’s international journalism committee to find out how you can help.
HORRAY FOR THE BOARD. SPJ leaders are pleased that the board of trustees of Ocean County College in New Jersey voted unanimously Aug. 28 to reinstate the college's longtime newspaper adviser, Karen Bosley. SPJ assigned a special task force to examine Bosley's dismissal from the adviser post and issued a 23-page report in May recommending Bosley's reinstatement. The report provides useful information that may help campus media advisers and student journalists nationwide avoid similar conflicts.
YEAH, AAAHHHNOLD! SPJ leaders commend California lawmakers for voting 76-0 to include student journalists in protections afforded under the “Leonard Law.” The law prohibits censorship of college newspapers and reporters by administrators, extending protections California already has for high schools. The new law, to go into effect Jan. 1, also makes it illegal to enforce any rule on California college campuses that would punish a student for speech that would be protected under the First Amendment or the state’s constitution (which addresses speech off school grounds). The bill was crafted in response to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating that administrators could require student editors of a state university’s newspaper to submit articles for prior review before the newspaper was published.
SPEAKING OF YOUNG JOURNOS. SPJ’s relatively new Generation J Committee (think the 35-and-younger crowd) is already off to an exciting start. Chairwoman Caryn Rousseau is the Midwest Correspondent for the Associated Press’ ASAP news service. She’s got big ideas about how SPJ can help young journalists – and plenty of exciting plans for the coming year. Her enthusiasm is contagious! To join this energetic and thoughtful group, contact Christine Tatum: firstname.lastname@example.org.
STUDY ABROAD. The University of Arizona wants SPJ’s student members to know about the “Journalism and Arabic Study Program in the Middle East.” More specifically, Cairo. Consider spending next summer in Egypt. Look online for more information.
TIME FOR A HAIRCUT. One of the 20th Century’s greatest writers, Rick Lewis of “The Silhouettes,” once said, "Yip, yip,yip, yip,yip, yip, yip, yip, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum. Get a job!" Such wise words. How do those words apply to our world today? Take heed, Grasshopper, as the SPJ student chapter at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University sponsors the Great Lakes Journalism Job and Internship Fair on Nov. 10. News organizations of all sizes from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be represented. So yip and mum yourself on over to journalismfair.org for more details.
MIRRORED REPORTING. The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University has established the Mirror Awards to recognize excellence in media industry reporting. The awards honor reporters, editors and teams of writers who hold a mirror to their own industry for the public's benefit. The Mirror Awards are open to anyone who conducts reporting, commentary or criticism of the media industries — television, newspaper, magazine, radio, advertising, public relations, the Internet and other forms of content-rich digital communications — in a format intended for a mass audience. Deadline for entries will be in mid-January. For more information, contact Jean Brooks at email@example.com.
FOI REPORT CARD: OpenTheGovernment.org released its third annual Secrecy Report Card to reporters Thursday, embargoed for public release after 5 p.m. Saturday. There is a treasure trove of information in this report for those who write or editorialize on openness issues. Among the findings in the Secrecy Report Card: Fewer documents were classified in 2005 compared to 2004 – 14.2 million compared to 15.6 million; For every dollar spent declassifying old secrets, federal agencies spent $134 in 2005 creating and storing new secrets; Use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information from our government continues to rise even as more categories that close access are created by agencies. What you can do: Do a story or write a column about this report, using the numbers to show how the government is putting up a wall to keep citizens from getting information that can hold bureaucrats accountable; Share the information with your SPJ chapters, using it as a basis for a program; Compile your own local or state secrecy report card, using categories that make sense locally.
FOI FYI. SPJ members in Pennsylvania have come up with a great way to make FOI a campaign issue this season. As shared by national Freedom of Information Committee Chairman Joel Campbell: “Pennsylvania SPJ Project Sunshine Chairwoman Susan Schwartz reports that SPJ’ers are mailing letters to every weekly and daily newspaper editor in the state urging them to ask candidates for the state legislature where they stand on the state’s open records law. They’re asking them to write articles on candidates’ answers. Pennsylvania has one of the worst open-records laws in the nation. Everything is considered closed with only a few exceptions. The state legislature doesn’t fall under the law at all.
“Susan has testified in support of bills to change this before to no avail. But this is an election year.”
AND SPEAKING OF FOI. The new FOI Committee co-chairman Dave Cuillier and co-chairman Joel Campbell are looking for bragging rights as University of Arizona and Brigham Young University face off on the gridiron Saturday. Cuiller is a journalism prof at Arizona and Campbell teaches journalism at BYU. If BYU wins, Dave pays $50 to the LDF fund and contributes a Linda Rondstadt CD (Tucson native, although she just moved to San Francisco because she got tired of the conservative rednecks and strip malls) and salsa/cactus jam pack to next year's auction. If AU wins, Joel pays $50 to the LDF fund and throws in salt water taffy, Bear Lake raspberry jam and a CD (you get to choose Dave) from Jewel, the Killers, SHeDAISY or Mormon Tabernacle Choir (all have Utah roots).
JOURNALISTS MEETING IN A BAR? WEIRD! SPJ’s New Jersey chapter hypothesizes that this social event will drumup a few new members – especially given that the chapter is picking up the tab for the first round of drinks. (Journalists usually shy away from free drinks. But, then again, you never know.) Want to be a part of this bold, social experiment? Then show up at 7 p.m., Sept. 8 at the Farside Bar, 531 Washington St., in Hoboken. Want more information? Contact Michelle Maskaly at (732) 713-6716 or Ralph Ortega at (973) 951-3816.
BY POPULAR DEMAND. And you got goosebumps when John Ashcroft sang, “Let the Eagle Soar.” Obviously, you didn’t hear Bill Lueders and Peter Leidy perform during the President’s Installation Banquet on Saturday. This duo rocked the Kasbah. Some folks said Bill and Peter reminded them of a young Hall and Oates (before they went commercial). Others compared them to Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman in “Ishtar.” You be the judge. Check out their soulful lyrics (sung to the tune of “I Want to be Sedated” by the Ramones):
Twenty twenty twenty column inches to go
I wanna be syndicated
I'm as funny as Dave Barry and I'm not quite as old
I wanna be syndicated
Put me in the paper
Put me on TV
Hurry, hurry hurry
Before I'm obsolete
My profile keeps rising
You can count on me
Oh oh oh oh oh oh!
Ba ba ba ba, ba-ba ba ba ba
I wanna be syndicated
Ba ba ba ba, ba-ba ba ba ba
I wanna be syndicated