Archive for April, 2009

SPJ tries to help laid off journalists stay involved

The SPJ board on Saturday decided to offer a helping hand to existing members who have lost their jobs.

The organization will extend memberships for six months for certain people. To find out if you are eligbile, you must apply using this form.

This is a very difficult time for all journalists especially those who have been put out of work as the business struggles financially. This policy, which is good for one year, is intended to allow people in a difficult spot to continue their memberships while they look for their next job in journalism.

Weekend in Philly

The Region 1 spring conference is my next stop. I leave for Philadelphia Thursday morning. The conference at Temple University starts Friday and ends Saturday. I am looking forward to seeing the leaders from Region 1 again.

This conference and the Region 10 conference in Montana wraps up what has been a successful spring conference season.

SPJ board adds transitional membership, picks convention site

Here is a recap of Saturday’s SPJ board meeting:

Here is a short recap of the SPJ board action from Saturday, April 18. Please feel free to share this at what spring conferences remain and with your chapters leaders and members.


The board approved a budget that spends about $1.6 million and projects a $30,000 surplus at the end of the year. We have added categories to the Mark of Excellence Awards in hopes of adding entries. Quill magazine will be printed six times instead of nine, saving about $40,000

We are also going to replace the roof at the headquarters in Indianapolis, sharing the cost with the SDX Foundation. Revenue projections are based on membership levels of 8,200. We are at 8,500 this week. Membership is about 32 percent of our revenue.

New chapters

The board admitted five new chapters to the Society. This is very exciting. Please welcome Angelo State, Butler University, Harding University, Northern Kentucky University and Western Michigan University campus chapters.

Relief for laid off journalists

The board approved a six-month extension for existing members who have lost their jobs. The offer is good for the next year. This will help journalists who have been laid off to maintain their SPJ memberships while they transition to their next job. Quill will be sent digitally to members who apply for this option. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

2010 Convention

We are going to Las Vegas. We had a successful convention their in 2005 and we plan to return in 2010. The convention will probably take place in early October. The board also considered New Orleans. Hotel rates are expected to be under $150 a night. The conference was originally schedule for New York in 2010 but the board rescinded that when it became clear travel and hotel costs would be too expensive for members.

2011 Convention

SPJ plans to pursue the concept of a joint convention with the Radio Television News Directors Association in 2011. Both organizations have a goal of creating a giant professional development conference that might some day include additional partners. The partnership provides the opportunity for more participants, better room and meal rates. It also ends the need to compete for speakers, fundraising and attendance with another large organization.

It is important to note that both organizations will keep any traditions they have in this new setup. We would still have the President’s Installation Dinner, the LDF auction and the Mark of Excellence Awards. Our business meetings would still be conducted.

The board rescinded its plan to have the convention in San Francisco in 2011 so it could work on a location that is suitable for both SPJ and RTNDA.

Fairness Doctrine

The board took a position in opposition to the Fairness Doctrine. No bill exists but there has been discussion. The organization opposes government intervention in speech and journalism ethics. A number of people have been contacting us asking what our position is on this issue. We will post a statement on the web site next week. The Fairness Doctrine was originally put in place in 1949 and required anyone with a broadcasting license to provide both sides of any controversial issue. The FCC repealed it in 1987.

We believe that the Fairness Doctrine is an attempt to regulate speech.

Branding statement

The Public Outreach committee was asked to recommend a branding statement that can be used as a slogan internally and externally. The board approved the slogan, “Fighting for your right to know, one story at a time.”

This will complement and not replace the “Improving and Protecting Journalism” that is now being used. It will start gradually making its way onto our promotional materials during the next few weeks.

Chapter reports

A recommendation to put before the delegates a plan to remove from the bylaws the annual report requirement was rejected. The regional directors are working on improving the current system to rate student and campus chapters.

Shield law

SPJ has scheduled July 13-15 as its annual trip to Washington D.C. to talk to congress about issues important to journalists. More information will come out later on how board members and committee leaders can take part if they are interested.

Improved digital communications

The Digital Media Committee recommended SPJ improve its blog system, engage more in social networking opportunities and put all digital tools in one place on the web site. All of these things are in the process of happening in the next year.

Strategic plan

The board is still committed to the strategic plan approved in 2007. It met for about an hour Saturday to talk about the nest steps in meeting the goals of the plan.

Onto the next 100 years

Friday was a great day for SPJ. About 100 people from across the country gathered at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of SPJ. We had some great events. From Richard Tofel’s discussion of his book on Barney Kilgore to the panel on the state of the news business to the inspiration and entertaining speech Jane Pauley delivered, it was a great day.

Here are my remarks before Friday night’s dinner:

I’m sure if our 10 founders could be here today, they would be proud that SPJ is still strong, still supporting journalists and still improving and protecting journalism.

I’m sure they would be proud to see we are still defending the First Amendment, still standing for high ethical standards and still providing first rate professional development.

It is a great honor to be president of this great organization, on this historic day, during this historic year. It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of the 10 young men who loved their craft so much that they created a fraternity on this campus, what is now SPJ, to assure that their profession would be here 100 years later.

It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of many of you, past presidents who led this great organization. It’s a great honor to be here before those of you who have toiled on previous boards and committees or simply volunteered their time to first work on behalf of journalism but also on behalf of SPJ. Without your work, without your efforts without your talent, truth and your energy, we might not be here today celebrating a centennial birthday.

And here we are, 10 decades later – still strong as an organization even as our profession staggers and stumbles to survive a crippling recession, a more competitive market and a mistaken belief that the news is less credible.

We have been around for 100 years and we will soon tonight finish celebrating our birthday. But we have not completed our journey. We have not finished our job. There is still work to be done. We are not done telling stories, we are not done covering the news and we are not done playing our watchdog role that is so important to democracy.

SPJ will not stop. Not while people are still denied access to public records. SPJ will not stop. Not while reporters are still facing fines and subpoenas. SPJ will not stop. Not while the shield bill waits in Congress for passage. SPJ will not stop. Not while an American journalist from Fargo sits in an Iranian prison. SPJ will not stop, not now not ever.

Those of you in this room have played your part in fulfilling our mission. You played your part in living up to the great dream that Eugene C. Pulliam and his fellow founders had 100 years ago. They dreamed of an organization that would support their chosen craft.

The flame will go out on our birthday cake today. The flame cannot go out in our hearts, the flame cannot go out in our will, in our responsibility to do what those who came before us did. We must continue to follow their lead to improve and protect journalism.

This summer, we will expend all our energy and marshal all our volunteer power to pass a shield law through congress so no journalist has to spend one minute or one second in court or behind bars for doing their jobs. The SPJ founders would have wanted it that way.

This spring we will conduct nine town hall meetings throughout the country assuring the public that journalists are serious about high standards, about telling the truth, about being accountable.

The SPJ founders would have wanted it that way.

And the rest of this year, we will provide the best available training to journalists  so they  can do their jobs better and prepare themselves as the professional landscape shifts beneath them.

The SPJ founders would have wanted it that way.

We have been here 100 years. And we will be here at least 100 more. Our work is not done. The SPJ founders would have wanted it that way.

To those of you here, thank you for your dedication and support of SPJ. Thank you for the work you have done that has helped SPJ thrive for 100 years. Thank you to all 9,000 members; Some who simply pay their dues and cheer from the side while others serve as a chapter presidents licking stamps and judging contests and doing the work that is SPJ.  Regardless of your level involvement, it is all vital to the success of SPJ.

So our centennial celebration will soon end but our efforts will not.

The SPJ founders would have wanted it that way.

Watching the Centennial

Almost 100 people have registered to attend Friday’s 100th anniversary event at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. Those who cannot be there can watch the Webcast live.

The first program for the Webcast starts at 3 p.m. EST. You can catch the events here.

Here is the schedule for the Centennial celebebration:

3-4:30 p.m. –  panel discussion

4:45-5:30 p.m. – anniversary ceremony

5:45-6:05 p.m. – opening remarks from President Dave Aeikens at dinner

7:30-8:30 p.m. – Jane Pauley keynote

This is a historic day for SPJ. I hope you and your chapter can be a part of it.

Board meeting April 18

The 23-member SPJ board of directors, which makes policy decisions for the organization, is schedule to meet Saturday, April 18 in Greencastle, Ind.

One of the things I have tried to do as president is make the board and executive board issues as accessible to the members as possible. You can see the agenda and the supporting documents here. It has gone out to board members, committee members and past leaders. It will be distributed in Leads Thursday.

Please take the time to look it at and if you have a question or comment please contact me or another board member.

We have a number of important issues to discuss including the 2009-2010 budget and the strategic plan.

Chapter leaders should examine the proposal to end the requirement for annual reports. The board can only vote to put this before the delegates who must decide if they want to change the bylaws. Feel free to discuss this issue with your regional director.

We are also considering a joint national convention in 2011 with the  Radio Television News Directors Association.

Our birthday is coming

After much anticipation, SPJ’s 100th anniversary and the celebration that will recognize it out just days a way. I look forward to seeing many of you in Greencastle, Ind. Friday for what will be a terrific day.

We will be joined by Russ Pulliam, whose grandfather was one of the 10 DePauw University students who started SPJ in 1909. We will also do a roll call of past presidents who are in attendance Friday. We will have a panel discussion on journalism. We will remember our roots with a modified SPJ induction ceremony in Meharry Hall.

After dinner, Jane Pauley, a longtime SPJ member, will give he keynote address.

We have asked chapters to plan events around the 100th anniversary and send pictures that can be posted on the Web site. Members can watch the events on through a web cast or get updates through Twitter.

This is going to be a great week for SPJ!

Free Roxanna Saberi

We have been doing our best to remind Iran that journalism is not espionage. The situation of Roxana Saberi is getting ridiculous. First the freelance journalist is put in an Iranian prison and now she is charged with espionage. Her parents are rightfully upset. SPJ takes a keen interest in all cases in which journalists are in prisoned and sadly it is happening even in this country. That’s why we are working to pass a Shield law.

Many journalism organizations are outraged by this and are doing what they can to help.

Roxana Saberi is from Fargo, N.D., a city SPJ leaders recently visited and a place where we have friends.

I urge the U.S. government to do what it can to get the Iranians to release Saberi immediately to her family. This has gone on long enough.

Visiting Region 11

I’m back from the Region 11 spring conference in Phoenix at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University’s downtown campus.

The conference, hosted by the Valley of the Sun Pro Chapter, was excellent and the set up at the university was terrific. I got to visit with two former Minnesotan’s. Tim McGuire, the former editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Blake Morrison, who is a University of Minnesota graduate and former St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter. McGuire is at ASU, sharing his wisdom with future journalists. I sat through a terrific seminar he did on ethics and the changing news business. Morrison is deputy enterprise editor at USA Today.

It was also great to see the leaders of the chapters from Region 11. Cal State Fullerton and University of Luverne brought large contingents of students.

And I had breakfast with Mark Scarp, the longtime SPJ volunteer and former Regional director, who is between jobs and keeping busy as an associate faculty member at ASU.

It was also good to see leaders from LA, San Diego and Hawaii among other chpaters.

Good work in Region 11!

Remembering Don Bolles

The Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix was one of the featured hotels for the Region 11 spring conference. It also happens to be where Don Bolles, the former Arizona Republic investigative reporter, was killed by a bomb placed under his car.

The hotel has a bust of Bolles near the near the elevator. The hallway that leads to the lobby bathrooms and workout rooms have large framed photos of the scene not long after in happened.

Bolles death sparked outraged among journalists across the country who descended on Phoenix to finish Bolles’s work. A message needed to be sent that you could not stop a story by killing a journalist. The work those reporters did won an SDX award.

By chance I met a man at the hotel named John “Dutch” Shultz, who says his production company is planning a play about Bolles. Ben Affleck also has a project in the works.

It is a tragic and interesting story and deserves to be told with grace and historical accuracy.


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