Archive for September, 2008


Minnesota program on RNC arrests

The Minnesota Pro chapter wasted little time arranging a program to talk about what happened between journalists and law enforcement while covering the protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The event is planned for Sept. 22 at the University of Minnesota and features a big-name moderator. Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute will lead the discussion about journalists and law enforcement officials.

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No clue at QU

At Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, university officials have threatened the student SPJ chapter because its members had the temerity to assist a group of students running a new college news Web site.

The New Haven paper has an account here.

The university has suggested the SPJ chapter would no longer continue as an official school orgnaization because it shared its space at a campus fair with the Web site.

Neil Ralston, SPJ’s vice president of campus chapter affiars, is the guy who keeps an eye on student journalism issues. He is all over it. He wrote this letter to the Quinnipiac president, suggesting that administrators actions don’t teach proper lessons in free speech and send a message that the school doesn’t really believe in the First Amendment.

Know that SPJ will not tolerate  the limiting of  a free press on a college campus or anywhere else. And we certainly will not tolerate the hassling of any of our chapters.

We have good people on it. The Connecticut chapter, Region 1 director Luther Turmelle and Ralston will continue to monitor the situation.

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Finding one’s voice

One of the responsbilities of this position is to be the face of the organization. Today, I think I was actually its voice. I spent on hour on a Portsmouth, New Hampshire community radio show called “Portside.” The audio runs about an hour and it takes five minutes to get to the interview.

I’m not sure how large the audience was and former New Hampshire state lawmaker turned talk show host  Burt Cohen was a friendly questioner. I have now done four interviews about the arrest of jounalists at the conventions in the past two days.

A couple of new things I have learned today about the RNC arrests. First, John Borger, the co-Sunshine Chair in Minnesota, said he talked to the St. Paul City Attorney today and the city is working through all the arrests to decide whether to procede with formal charges. It might be at the end of next week before any journalists have their citations dropped. Borger’s advice is to be patient.

Second, the mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak, a former newspaper reporter, said the city will examine how it did on public safety matters during the convention.

Third, the National Press Photographers Association is also not happy with the outcome of last week’s convention and has told the St. Paul police chief.

The NPPA release say a photog is still in jail on gross misdemeanor charges. We are looking into that and we will try do what we can to get him out if he is still in jail.

SPJ is looking for all charges against journalists to be dropped and to open a discussion about how this might be avoided in the future.

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RNC arrests still top of mind

I have spent part of my day talking to reporters covering the story about the journalists arrested  covering the protests at the Republican National Convention. It’s a story that continues because the charges are still pending and there are some folks looking into how this was all handled. That’s good.

The Minnesota Independent has the best list I have seen so far of the names the the reporters who were swept up in the arrests. This, of course, is unacceptable. We had hoped the police would be more careful and let the journalists covering the story do their work. That didn’t happen. We now want the charges to be dropped against people who did not commit crimes. It is not against the law to cover a protest. It will be a week tomorrow since most of the arrests. Charges are still pending against one of my friends, former Minnesota Pro chapter President Art Hughes. He probably deserves an ocassional hard time, but four hours in cuffs and a ticket for unlawful public assembly is ridiculous.

A number of other Minnesota journalists I know and respect have tickets as well. SPJ would be happy to sit down with authorities after this is over and talk about how this might go better next time there is a massive protest that needs police action and news coverage.

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