RIP Phil from Philly, 1959-2015

Sad news to share … Phil Beck, who was president of the now-closed Philadelphia Pro Chapter of SPJ, died Thursday, July 9, on his 56th birthday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he had been a writer. His funeral was Sunday.

SPJ leaders from around Region 1 shared their remembrances of Phil over the weekend. If you would like to add your own thoughts, send them to rbaker@spj.org and we’ll add them here ….

SPJ is a big outfit with thousands of great members who are dedicated to advancing and protecting journalism day in and day out. But sometimes there are parts of the country where this work falls mainly on the shoulders of a few very dedicated individuals. Such was the case in Philadelphia, where for many years Phil Beck was the person who kept the flame burning for SPJ. I know that in the end, the chapter was deactivated because it could not meet the minimum standards SPJ sets for programing and annual reports. But having worked personally with Phil on several projects, I admired his dedication to SPJ.In particular, I remember his invaluable help in going to bat for a Temple University photojournalism student who ran afoul of the Philadelphia police for simply taking pictures while on assignment. Phil was a good guy. I will miss him.

—John Ensslin, former national SPJ president, New Jersey Pro

I first met Phil through SPJ. I can’t remember precisely where or when, but it was surely with a smile and wonderful conversation. Through the years we’d see each other and catch up at Regions or National, and always with a warm hug and as though it hadn’t been a year since we last saw each other. Conversation with Phil ranged from journalism to travel to family. He was an intense listener and offered guidance so easily. More recently we have only kept in touch via Facebook, but he was always there with comforting words or encouragement or just something to make me chuckle. When I heard of his passing it was like a punch to the gut. To not be able to hear his laugh, see his smile, or listen to his stories again leaves an empty feeling in my heart. Phil was one of those people you are so glad to have in your life and his absence will be felt deeply.

—Kara Matuszewski Sassone,  New England Pro

I remember when he needed help with the Philadelphia conference, and me and Carl worked to put it together. He was so genuinely appreciative and kind. He greeted us both with smiles and hugs, and you could tell he just seems so happy for us to be there. He was truly genuine in his appreciation.

—Dominick Miserandino, Press Club of Long Island

To say someone’s smile lights up a room is the ultimate cliche, but Phil Beck’s smile did just that. I remember him walking into the hotel at Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Indianapolis and grabbing me in his great bear hug, lifting me off the ground. We had a blast at Scripps, convincing the hotel bartender that he couldn’t make mint juleps because we weren’t in Kentucky, he had to make Whiskey Rebellions; posing for pictures getting carded at the duck pin bowling alley, trying to teach Midwesterners how to properly sing “Sweet Caroline” and, oh, by the way, learning how to make our chapters better. On that trip, he almost, almost, convinced me that birds make good pets. Phil from Philly was a lot of fun, but he was also a serious, dedicated journalist. And, he loved SPJ the way we all do. He pretty much singlehandedly arranged a regional conference at Temple and, if he was sometimes reluctant to accept help, well, nobody knew what Philadelphia needed quite so well. My heart is aching today for I have lost a dear friend. And so has SPJ.

—Jane Primerano, New Jersey Pro

I will miss his smile, his motorcycle and his passion for the truth… Especially in journalism.

—Pat Trotsky, Keystone Pro

My favorite memory of Phil was at the 2010 national conference in Las Vegas, my first conference as Deadline Club president. Phil was the only person who would accompany me to Downtown Las Vegas, or Old Vegas, for the tacky (yet wonderful) Fremont Street Experience. Phil, who was roughly the size of a grizzly bear, protected me from getting harassed from street-corner proselytizers, alleyway hustlers, run-of-the-mill drunks and any variety of crooks and con men. Along the way, we cracked so many jokes that my sides literally hurt with laughter afterward. Phil not only was a good journalist and a good friend, he was a Good Man (™, ®, etc). The world is a lesser place without him.

—Rebecca Baker, Region 1 Director, New York Deadline Club

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A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Greetings Region 1 SPJ members. It’s been an exciting time for our region, for reasons big and small ….

First, we held a successful regional conference at Hofstra University. Hats off to the Press Club of Long Island and its conference committee for all of their hard work.

We announced the Mark of Excellence Awards winners and celebrated the best in collegiate journalism in Region 1.

We were represented at the SPJ national board meeting in Indianapolis and at the SDX Foundation board meeting by Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker.

We started planning for JournCamp, a day-long journalism training seminar in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday, June 13.

We marked our calendars for Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

And finally, we learned that we are #1. At just over 1,300 members, Region 1 is the largest region in SPJ. Nearly 1 out of 6 SPJ members lives in the Northeast U.S., which as we know, has more major media outlets than any other part of the country.

Let’s get together in NYC this June and/or in Orlando this September and toast to our success!

 

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2015 Region 1 Conference Update

UPDATE: The Region 1 Conference website has been updated with details on panels, discussions and speakers. Check it out!

Registration is now open for the Region 1 Society of Professional Journalists Conference at Hofstra University on April 17-18.

The Press Club of Long Island is hosting the event and all you have to do is sign up by April 1 to take advantage of the early bird registration rates. You also can register on-site starting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 17.

The two-day extravaganza will kick off with panel discussions and sessions followed by an opening-night reception at 5:30 p.m. at the top of the Hofstra Library.

The conference will continue all day Saturday with a continental breakfast, morning and afternoon panels and resume critiques.

Lance Ulanoff, a Hofstra alumnus and the editor-at-large at Mashable, will be the keynote speaker at the Saturday lunch. The lunch will also feature a Region One Fund auction and a presentation of SPJ’s Mark of Excellence student journalism awards.

 

Act now for early bird ticket prices

Student SPJ member, early bird, $50

-Pro SPJ member, early bird, $65

-Student non-member, early bird, $75

-Pro non-member, early bird, $95

Here’s a look at the SPJ R1C schedule:

FRIDAY, APRIL 17

-11:30 a.m. Registration opens

-12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-12:30-2 p.m. Panel 1: How to get a job / Panel 2: FOIL

-2-2:30 p.m. Coffee Break

-2:30-3:45 p.m. Panel 1: Book publishing / Panel 2: Speciality Reporting

-4-5:15 p.m. Panel 1: Personal Branding / Panel 2: Media rights and legal issues

-5:30-8:30 p.m. Opening Reception

SATURDAY, APRIL 18

-8-9 a.m. Breakfast, chapter and regional leader meeting

-9 a.m.-12 p.m. Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-9-10:15 a.m. Panel 1: Photography / Panel 2: Freelancing

-10:30-11:45 a.m. Panel 1: Social Media / Panel 2: Sports Broadcasting

-12-2 p.m. Lunch with auction, keynote and Mark of Excellence Awards

-2 p.m. to closing Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-2:15-3:30 p.m. Panel 1: SEO / Panel 2: Narrative Storytelling

For hotel options, directions and other information, please visit SPJR1C.org or PCLI.org.

Questions? Please email PressClubofL@gmail.com.

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FOI Fight Moves to Massachusetts

UPDATE: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has vowed to mend the FOI rift with the Secretary of State’s office. We’ll keep you posted.

Massachusetts’ public records law, already considered one of the weakest in the nation, has taken another hit.

A series of rulings by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin has given police greater power to withhold and censor arrest records—including those of officers themselves.

On Friday, The Boston Globe ran an editorial blasting Galvin for his actions. A day later, Galvin publicly pledged to push for a ballot referendum in November 2016 that would punish government agencies who ignore the state’s public records laws.

Other news outlets, including the Boston Herald, have joined the cry for much needed open records reform in the state.

SPJ is proud to stand with them, especially during Sunshine Week. This is the letter we sent to Galvin today (UPDATED with minor corrections):

March 17, 2015

William Francis Galvin
Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
McCormack Building
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108

Secretary Galvin:

State and national leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists, which represent about 7,500 journalists nationwide, stand with the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Patriot Ledger and other news outlets in condemnation of your recent rulings on the state’s public records law.

These rulings give Massachusetts police departments new discretion to withhold public records that are deemed covered by Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and impede the taxpaying public’s ability to hold law enforcement officials to the standards to which they expect them to perform. The rulings are also redundant and unnecessary since there are already laws in place protecting the privacy of police personnel.

We believe these rulings severely damage the public’s ability to gain access and insight to information to which it is legally entitled. At a time when the public is demanding more transparency from law enforcement agencies, we see this as a significant step backward. It’s a disservice to the citizens of the Massachusetts and an insult to the spirit of open government.

We applaud your attempt to reform the Commonwealth’s public records law by proposing a November 2016 ballot initiative increasing penalties for agencies that ignore the rules. But citizens should not have to wait 20 months to vote for easier access to, what is in truth, their property.

In the name of transparency and good government practices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we respectfully request you to withdraw the recent rulings and publicly support legislation filed by Rep. Peter Kocot of Northampton and Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester that would greatly improve the public records law.

With its proud history of championing freedom and liberty, Massachusetts should be a leader in government openness, not secrecy.

Sincerely,

Danielle McLean
President, SPJ New England Professional Chapter

Rebecca Baker
SPJ Region 1 Director

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Fighting for FOI in New Hampshire

Region 1 rallies when local lawmakers try to throw up barriers to public documents.

New England chapter president Danielle McLean and Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker sent a letter (expertly written by Danielle) Tuesday, March 10, to New Hampshire legislators urging them to vote no on HB 646, a bill that would allow government agencies to charge an upfront fee to access many public documents.

UPDATE 3/12: The House has tabled the bill indefinitely. We will keep an eye on the situation in case the legislation is reintroduced.

The issue has been covered by the New Hampshire media. Trent Spiner, the executive editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and president of the New Hampshire Press Association, has been at the forefront in trying to stop this bill. “Imagine an agency telling you it’ll take 100 hours to produce documents—which isn’t out of the question for a complex request—and that they want the money up front,” he wrote in an email.

Here is the text of the amendment that received a 14-4 “Ought to Pass”  recommendation by the state House Judiciary Committee:

 

Amendment to HB 646

Amend RSA 91-A:4, IV as inserted by section 1 of the bill by replacing it with the following:

IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any governmental record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such governmental record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a governmental record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a computer, photocopying machine, or other device maintained for use by a public body or agency is used by the public body or agency to copy the governmental record requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the public body or agency.Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged. No charge shall be imposed for allowing a person to inspect a record that is immediately available.

Amend the bill by inserting after section 1 the following and renumbering the original section 2 to read as 3:

2 New Paragraph; Right-to-Know; Charges for Retrieval of Governmental Records. Amend RSA 91-A:4 by inserting after paragraph IV the following new paragraph:

IV-a. A public body may charge a fee to cover the actual labor cost of retrieving and copying the requested records, including reviewing and redacting confidential and other exempt information, subject to the following:

(a) The amount charged per hour shall not exceed the applicable minimum wage, and no charge shall be made for the first hour.

(b) The public body or agency shall provide the requester with a reasonable estimate of the time necessary to respond to the request and of the total cost. If the estimate of the total cost exceeds $50, the requester may be required to pay all or a portion of the cost prior to retrieval of the records. If the final cost differs from the estimate, the difference shall be refunded or collected, as the case may be, at the time the records are provided.

(c) No charge shall be made for the cost of searching for or retrieving minutes of any public body meeting that occurred less than one year before the date of the request.

(d) Upon request, the public body or agency shall provide a detailed itemization of the costs charged.

(e) A court may reduce or waive the fees charged if it determines that the information requested is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.

(f) The public body or agency may waive any charges for an individual who demonstrates an inability to pay.

And this is the letter that was emailed to every single one of New Hampshire’s state representatives:

State and national leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists, which represents more than 8,000 journalists nationwide, urge the withdrawal of amendments to HB 646, which would allow a public body or agency to impose fees for the retrieval of right-to-know public records requests.

This bill, if passed, would impede not only the media’s, but the tax- paying public’s ability to hold their elected representatives and public servants to the standards in which they expect them to perform.

It is essential that the public have at its disposal a complete picture of how our government is operating. Public records belong to members the public and are an important piece to completing that picture. Under no circumstance should a member of the public ever be charged a costly fee for materials that by law, belong to them. The addition of a fee would inflict financial hardships on many members of the public seeking documents to which they are legally entitled.

While preparing and administering some public records requests may seem like a costly and tedious activity, it is fundamental in allowing members of the public to review how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent and to expose waste and corruption. Rather than treating public records as an inconvenient cost, government agencies and officials should budget for and treat those requests as an important piece of good governance.

We urge you to withdraw amendments to HB 646 for the sake of transparent governance in New Hampshire.

Sincerely,

Danielle McLean
President, SPJ New England Pro Chapter; Reporter, Somerville Journal

Rebecca Baker
SPJ Region 1 Director
Managing Editor, New York Law Journal

SPJ has at least one New Hampshire lawmaker on its side. Rep. Max Abramson emailed the following response: “Thank you very much. I will be speaking on the House floor against this awful bill first thing tomorrow.”

The vote on the bill was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 11 but may be postponed. We will update you with new information as it becomes available. Meanwhile, feel free to tweet to the New Hampshire Speaker of the House (@nhspeaker) to share your thoughts about the Granite State’s proposal.
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Get Free Money for your Chapter Event!

For the second consecutive year, the Region 1 Fund is offering quarterly grants of up to $500 to help professional and student chapters recruit speakers, book space and promote events. This is in addition to the national chapter grants that SPJ national offers: http://www.spj.org/chaptergrants.asp

Over the past year, Region 1 Grants were awarded to The College at Brockport to produce a Western New York Media Conference and to the Keystone Pro chapter to purchase the documentary “A Fragile Trust” for screening events with local college chapters.

The deadlines for quarterly funding are as follows: Nov. 21, 2014; Feb. 21, 2015; May 21, 2015; Aug. 21, 2015

Simply cut/paste the following application into an email or Word file and send it to:

Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker: rebecca.baker.ny@gmail.com

Region 1 Treasurer Bill Bleyer: billbleyer@gmail.com

REGION 1 CHAPTER GRANT APPLICATION
Chapter Name:
Name:
Address:
City/State/Zip:
Telephone:
E-mail:
—————
Program name:

Please describe your program and include any objectives you would like your program to accomplish:

Approx. Date program will take place:

How will this program benefit your chapter’s members and the journalism community as a whole?

What format will your program follow?

Who will be invited to speak at and/or present the program?

Requested grant amount: $

Preliminary budget: $

Reasons why your chapter cannot fund this event without grant funds:
—————-

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Register for the 2014 Region 1 Conference

The 2014 Region 1 Conference in Boston, Mass. is now open for registration.

This year’s event, organized by the New England Pro Chapter of SPJ, will bring together professional and student journalists from Maine to Pennsylvania for two days of professional development and networking from April 25-26 at Boston University. It is guaranteed to be exciting and informative event — not to mention an investment in your career.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Byte Back! Doing Great Journalism in the Digital Age” and will include programs on investigative reporting, cross-disciplinary journalism, ethics, high-tech newsgathering, personal branding, legal issues for journalists and much, much more.

An opening night reception will be held at The Castle, a gorgeous Tudor Revival mansion on the BU campus, where legendary broadcast journalist Carole Simpson will share her thoughts on the present and future states of journalism.

On Saturday, we’ll take a break from programming to have a delicious lunch in BU’s elegant Trustee Ballroom, where we’ll honor the best collegiate journalism in the region at the annual Mark of Excellence Awards ceremony.

Getting to Boston is easy. In addition to Amtrak, Megabus.com is offering free rides from their locations to Boston for those coming from long distances. There are also discounted rates at several local hotels.

We’re expecting a sold-out event, so reserve your place before they’re all out! For details on the SPJ Region 1 Spring Conference and to register, visit spjr1c.org.

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An argument for changing SPJ’s name

A proposal to change the name of SPJ to the Society of Professional Journalism seems to be gaining steam. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky made a passionate argument for tweaking the title of the nation’s largest journalism advocacy group on his regional blog.

I would invite all Region 1 members to weigh in on this issue.

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One week to go!

We’re in the home stretch of this year’s Region 1 Conference, and it’s shaping up to be one of the best yet.

We have a SOLD OUT awards luncheon and a lineup of amazing speakers. We just added two more to the list:

-Nyier Abdou, an Emmy-awarding winning reporter and videographer for the Star-Ledger, will lead a session on how to shoot and edit a news video. This session will be at 1 p.m. Friday, April 12.

-Adam Glenn, a former ABCnews.com producer who now teaches a bootcamp digital journalism class at CUNY, will lead a talk on useful journalism web tools, at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12.

For students, we’ve added “Pizza with the Pros” an informal hour-long conversation between student journalists and 3-4 professionals at 6 p.m. Friday, April 12 in the faculty lounge in room 323 on the third floor of the SCI building. Seating is limited, so you MUST RSVP to conference organizer John Ensslin at damon_runyon@hotmail.com by April 9.

To see the latest schedule, check out www.spjr1c.org.

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2013 Regional Conference is Jersey strong!

Hey everyone,

We are putting the final touches on this year’s SPJ regional conference at Rutgers University this year. We have nationally renowned speakers and timely panels. Learn how basic math can reveal powerful narratives and what lessons reporters learned covering Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown school shootings. Check out our all-star lineup at www.spjr1c.org and register for early bird rates. Reduced early rates expire March 17, so sign up before St. Patrick’s Day!

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