Updated: A cover image

Update 2, Aug. 15:

SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky posted this today:




Update, Aug. 15:

SPJ Diversity Committee Chairwoman Dori Zinn wrote this piece about the Quill cover and Marie Baca’s objection to it:

Let’s Talk about the Cover SPJ Isn’t Talking about


This is my original post:

On Saturday, SPJ member Marie C. Baca in New Mexico sent an open letter to the SPJ national board voicing her displeasure with the cover of the July/August 2017 issue of Quill.

Here’s what she wrote:

To the SPJ Board of Directors:

What does a woman’s butt have to do with a journalism conference? The answer is, of course, nothing, but that’s not what thousands of SPJ member were led to believe when they looked at the July/August issue of Quill.

I kind of understand how this happened. Someone was like, “Hey, we need art for a feature called ‘Training Day,’ which will connect the concept of boot camp to sessions offered for the 2017 Excellence in Journalism conference!” and someone else was like “Let’s do a woman running up a flight of stairs!” All of which is pretty problematic in and of itself, but the execution is completely inexcusable. We don’t get to see this woman’s face, she is simply an object, and the focal point of the cover photo is her butt.

I’m not alone in thinking this was a colossal screw-up. By the time I decided to take my concerns to Twitter, another journalist in Texas had tweeted about the same thing. After I posted my feelings about the cover, I received an overwhelming response from the New Mexico (where I’m based) journalism community expressing their outrage at the photo.

I tweeted this at the SPJ account to share my concerns:

‪@spj_tweets‪ I am FURIOUS. With all the “locker room talk” and sexism in tech discussion, you think THIS is an appropriate cover??.”

They gave me the following reply (the same reply that was given to the Texas journalist):

“Thank you for taking the time to share your opinions with us. We value your input. The photo was chosen several weeks ago to represent a story about training yourself. Our opinion, and that of others we have talked to, is that the photo is not sexist. Rather, it depicts a woman wearing typical workout clothing. We are sorry some readers find it offensive.”

This is—let’s be honest here—a pretty shitty explanation and an even shittier apology. The comment about “chosen several weeks ago” seems to imply that the same photo would not have been chosen in light of the Google manifesto story, which is a sort of tacit admission that the photo is, at the very least, insensitive. I don’t think I need to tell anyone on the board that sexism is a very long-standing issue in this country, not to mention in our profession.

And let’s talk about “depicts a woman wearing typical workout clothing.” Yeah, but, like, why? Why was it necessary to depict a faceless woman in spandex working out and not like, male and female journalists working out together? Or maybe, if you did use a woman for the photograph, a focal point that wasn’t her butt? Just spit-balling here.

I have a feeling that some of you think I am blowing this out of proportion, but I also have a feeling that some of you know that I’m not. Maybe some of you have had some of the same experiences that I’ve had in the journalism industry. You know, the ones that aren’t something worth filing a sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit over, but the ones that very quietly tell you that you maybe you don’t deserve the same respect or opportunities as your older, whiter, male-r colleagues. And some of you know I’m right when I say that when a young woman at the beginning of her journalism career goes into her editor’s office and sees that picture on his desk, she’s going to be ever-so-slightly less likely to ask for that raise she knows she deserves.

The part of the SPJ Code of Ethics I hold most dear is the line that says, “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.” I have a version of this statement written on a Post-It and stuck to my computer. It’s hard to imagine another time in our nation’s history when that idea has been more relevant, for all journalists, no matter what they cover. I primarily write about business, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how the actions of powerful companies—Facebook, Amazon, and the like—affect state- and local-level issues, particularly those related to marginalized communities. It’s about “giving a voice to the voiceless,” right? If we abandon our mission to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” we abandon our duties as the Fourth Estate.

In this situation, you are the powerful, the comfortable. You are the oldest organization representing journalists in the United States. Quill is sent to thousands of your members, who then throw the publication on their desks, the cover visible to anyone who walks by. Here’s my big ask from you:

  1. Acknowledge that the photo was sexist.
  2. Figure out the chain of command that allowed such a photo to appear on the cover of Quill.
  3. Have a meeting where everyone is in agreement about how to make sure this will never happen again.
  4. Share #1 through #3 in a very public way.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Marie C. Baca


Initially, Baca tagged several members of the board on Twitter, which led to a discussion among board members throughout the day. She followed up later by email with her letter.

This was another complaint we received through Twitter:


SPJ headquarters, which publishes Quill, responded to the two tweets:


Since Baca asked for board members’ thoughts, I’ll share mine (speaking only for myself — not the board or SPJ).

In recent years, Quill has been the subject of scrutiny. What type of magazine should it be? What topics should it cover? And the biggest question: Should it become online only?

I enjoy it, finding something worthwhile in every issue.

When the latest issue arrived in the mail, I glanced at it and put it aside until I had time to read it. I saw that the theme was training, illustrated by a running woman. But I also briefly hesitated over the photo choice.

Baca says a photo of a woman running on the cover of a journalism magazine is “problematic.” I disagree. Magazine covers have leeway for art or representation (Quill has long done this) and physical activity is a visceral way to connote “training.”

I also disagree with her assertion that a picture of someone from the back should not be considered.

The most famous photo of the most famous baseball player (Babe Ruth) shows him from the back as he said farewell at Yankee Stadium. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Nat Fein. (Yes, I realize the attention to the human form in these two photos is different.)

But I, too, wondered why the Quill cover photo couldn’t show running or working out in a different way, which I took as Baca’s main point. Some people see a woman in workout clothes in action. Others see the woman’s butt as a focal point.

I’ve been part of numerous newsroom discussions on deadline about photo choices, including some involving girls and women in competition. Is the image unflattering? Revealing? Is the expression embarrassing? Sometimes, the importance of an athletic moment matters most.

Then, there are times we in the newsroom either didn’t have the right conversation or didn’t have one at all. This might be one of those times. Based on the tweeted reply, no one working on the magazine saw this photo through the eyes of someone who would perceive it differently, in a negative way.

The debate in this case is not over a significant news photo. So, there was no reason to go to the wall to use it; another image of exercise would have sufficed. But that debate would have been had only if we were more attuned to the possible drawbacks of using it.

I don’t think “sexist” is a fair label, implying prejudice or discrimination. But I think it’s valid that we redouble our commitment to be sensitive and thoughtful and to get a variety of input when making journalistic decisions. Baca has helped remind us.

She cited a favorite part of the SPJ Code of Ethics upon which she relies: “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.”

I am glad she wrote, if only to start a discussion. As always, I welcome her feedback.


Update, Aug 13:

Marie Baca left this response to my post:

Hi Andy,

Thanks for continuing the dialogue. A few things I want to respond to here:

1. I’d like to clarify my comment about a photo of a running woman being in and of itself “problematic.” I’m sure there’s a feature topic for which an image of a running woman would be an appropriate cover choice (a story about women running, for example), but it’s not for a story that is essentially an advertisement for the SPJ conference. Even if the subject had been photographed in a way that emphasized something other than her butt, the fact that a faceless woman in tight workout clothing was used to tease a conference story makes SPJ no better than the advertisers we criticize in other contexts.

2. Yes, there are famous photos of people shot from behind, but the Babe Ruth image you refer to in your post creates a dangerous false equivalence. When readers saw that Babe Ruth photo, they knew exactly who they were looking at. If, for some reason, they didn’t know it was Babe Ruth, or didn’t recognize his jersey number, the rest of the photograph indicates that this is a man in a position of power who is being honored by thousands of people. The SPJ photo could not be more different. We have no idea who this woman is, because we can’t see her face and we have no other contextual clues. She isn’t a person here; she’s an object, and her butt is the central focus of the image. Combine that with our industry’s long history of sexism and complacency even today, the photo is in my mind, incredibly sexist.

3. I appreciate your comment about this possibly being one of those “times we in the newsroom either didn’t have the right conversation or didn’t have one at all.” To me, this is the crux of the issue.

Lastly, I want to talk about your comment that “sexist” isn’t a fair label for this photo, “as it implies prejudice or discrimination.” But that’s exactly what’s going on here. Not all sexism in our industry is overt, Mad Men-era ideas that women should only write about fashion lest they bleed all over the news page. In this day and age, it is more likely to be subtler, but just as insidious. This photo is discriminatory because it treats the woman as an object and uses her butt as the central focal point despite their being no real reason to do so. It is a lazy choice for a feature package that is essentially an advertisement. While I appreciate this post, I stand by my claims that the SPJ should investigate this issue, apologize, and assure their members this will never happen again.




A (mostly) good plan for changing SPJ

The SPJ national board held an electronic meeting on June 14 to discuss a proposal to change SPJ’s governance structure.

The board unanimously approved suggested changes to SPJ’s bylaws to carry out this change. Below is a summary of the major ones, with my thoughts on them. I agree with almost everything proposed, but strongly disagree with one idea.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • Cutting the board from 23 members to 9 members
  • Removing regional directors from the board
  • Establishing a nominations committee to recruit candidates and make sure they are eligible to serve
  • Have both elected and appointed at-large members, who do not have to be SPJ members

If you want to explore the plan further, go to https://www.spj.org/governance.asp.

Under the new plan, the makeup of the new national board would be: president, president-elect, secretary/treasurer, four elected at-large members, two appointed at-large members. (A majority of the current board, but not everyone, supports having appointed members. The board was almost evenly split during our June 14 conference call on whether to allow non-members to be appointed to the board. Seven said yes; six said no. I was one of the “no” voters.)

The current 23-member board is made up of: president, president-elect, secretary/treasurer, immediate past president, vice president of campus chapter affairs, two at-large directors, two campus advisers at-large, two campus chapter representatives, and 12 regional directors. All are elected. (The president-elect later becomes president, then immediate past president, without being elected again.)

Regional directors would still exist in the new structure, renamed “regional coordinators.” They still would be elected within their respective regions.

In May 2016, I spoke out in favor of the idea of shrinking the national board. I suggested 17 members. I recommended removing regional directors from the board and eliminating representation by region and by type of constituency (campus chapters, students, pros).

I pitched the idea of adding board slots for liaisons from other journalism organizations representing specific groups, but I don’t think there’s much support for that.

My thoughts:

  • I’m very much in favor of contraction. Nine is a reasonable number. If we were starting a board from scratch, we wouldn’t have 23 seats.
  • I fully support the change in duties of regional directors/coordinators. Currently, they serve two roles (1. counsel for chapters, 2. board members) at the same time. It’s tough do both well.
  • There is no need for regional representation on the SPJ board. No issue ever has required, for example, an East Coast or West Coast perspective. Different people holding the same regional director position might have totally different ideas.
  • Some might wonder about cutting the campus chapter representative positions. To be clear: The board still wants campus representation. Under the proposed plan, if no students or faculty members are elected, at least one will be appointed to the board.
  • An earlier draft of the proposed bylaws included term limits, but the board voted 15-7 against it. I voted no with the rest of the majority.

“Recommended/approved” candidates

The controversial idea that I strongly oppose is in the nominations process. It is not part of the bylaws, but is in a supporting memo recommending a process.

The nominations committee would have seven SPJ members: immediate past president, an elected board member, a regional coordinator, a student, and three others who are part of SPJ committees, communities or chapters.

The committee would check that candidates are eligible for the positions they seek to hold, such as whether they are members in good standing and can attend meetings. An SPJ president must have a) served on the SPJ or SDX board, b) chaired a national committee, or c) been a pro chapter president who is or was on a national committee.

Here’s where the recommendation goes awry: The nominations committee also would “recommend board candidates who best match the Board of Directors Position Profile document.”

The Position Profile document lays out ideals for board members — “inspired,” “future-oriented,” “possessing the ability to see big picture,” “talent, skill, vitality,” “sound judgment and integrity,” “a zest for serving.”

The nominating committee would interview candidates and, based on these subjective traits, recommend candidates — giving what I call a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” Those recommended candidates would be denoted by a symbol on the ballot.

I am against this approach, which I think injects an unfair weighting to an open election.

The argument in favor of having recommendations is that the nominations committee is entrusted with putting forward the best people to be board members.

I see nothing wrong with trusting the electorate to determine that. Candidates’ credentials should speak for themselves. I balk at an extra thumb on the scale to tilt an election toward any particular people. In my mind, it turns an election into a ratification and discourages voters from thinking for themselves.

I will speak against this part of the proposal at EIJ17.

Who represents you

This is a much less important point, but I also oppose the thinking expressed in an organization chart recommended for the new board. It shows each of the four new at-large elected directors overseeing one constituency — students/educators for one, communities for another, members at large for a third, regional coordinators for a fourth.

A notation says: “Any individual or constituent group may contact staff instead of their assigned liaison.”

To me, that directs SPJ members to only contact an assigned liaison on the board or a staff member.

I think everyone elected to the board represents every SPJ member. We should make it clear that any SPJer may contact anyone on the board, for any reason.

Candidate forum

This is only tangentially related to the governance proposal, but I want SPJ to do more to let members learn about candidates.

Candidates introduce themselves in Quill and their bios are posted at SPJ’s election page. They may speak for a few minutes at a business meeting at EIJ.

This doesn’t do enough to tease out issues, platforms, and positions, like we expect in the elections we cover in our day jobs.

Why not also have a candidate forum? It could be during the convention or as an electronic session beforehand, streamed live and archived. A moderator would ask questions of candidates, maybe even in a debate style. There could be Twitter chats. As we choose our leaders, the more info, the better.


To see the proposed bylaws and supporting memos (organization chart, board position description, board appointments, nominations process, reimbursement guidelines), go to https://www.spj.org/governance.asp.

If you will be a delegate at this year’s national convention, you’re better off looking through the various documents beforehand. There’s a lot to this plan, and it will come before the delegates for one or more votes.

From the annual reports (campus)

Nine campus chapters in Region 2 submitted regional reports this year. Here are some highlights from those reports. Thanks to all for their great work in keeping SPJ and journalism strong.

Elon University

• The chapter did very good work (This is my editorializing here, but it’s true…) in hosting an excellent regional conference this year. There were many strong, interesting sessions, as well as a terrific silent auction, which hadn’t been held at a regional conference in several years.

George Mason University

• A lengthy list of programs for the years includes speakers from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Google and several other organizations.

• Two chapter members helped plan an Oxford Style debate by the university’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run think tank.

• The chapter worked on a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program in which nine Chinese journalists talked about journalism in the United States.

High Point University

• The chapter held a First Amendment Free Food Festival, with a “dictator” dealing with “fake news.”

• Showed “Spotlight,” followed by a discussion.

James Madison University

• Hosted an event with Chris Hurst, a former TV news anchor whose girlfriend and colleague, Alison Parker, was shot and killed while she was on the air. Parker was a JMU alum.

• Hosted five staff members from the local newspaper to talk about their professional experiences, including ethical dilemmas.

• Screened “The Paper,” a documentary about a student newspaper at Penn State University, followed by a discussion of diversity in the workplace, particularly in publishing

University of Maryland

• The biggest program of the year was a panel discussion called “Post-Election Media Landscape,” held in D.C. so other pro and campus SPJ chapters and other journalists could participate. It was streamed live on Facebook.

• The chapter worked with other student organizations on campus on programs, including debate watch parties with the College Democrats and College Republicans. Another, with Terps for Israel, was a program with the first Israeli Arab news presented on Hebrew-language Israeli TV.

• Screened “Tickling Giants,” a film about a journalist commonly known as the Egyptian Jon Stewart for his satire show.

Virginia Commonwealth University

• Also screened “Tickling Giants”

• Co-sponsored a lecture by retired CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews on the friction between President Donald Trump and the media

• Held a discussion during Native American Indian Heritage Month about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the importance of Native Americans in journalism

Washington & Lee University

• Hosted Victoria Reitano, who spoke about “You, Inc. Using Google to be Your Own Boss.”

• The most well attended event was a session on getting jobs after graduation, with tips on presenting yourself and preparing for interviews.

• The chapter supported two ethics institutes hosted by the journalism department. The speakers were NPR executive Keith Woods and Jill Geisler, the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago.

Western Carolina University

• The top program was a “One Night Stand,” in which journalism and English students created a zine, without the help of any technology.

• Two chapter officers held workshops on using social media professionally and how to cover hot-button issues.

• Held a social event with the campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America.

Salisbury University

• Organized a program with David Burns, an associate professor, on overseas and international journalism.

• Held a First Amendment Free Food Festival. Students had to sign in to get pizza on the top floor of the new library, agreeing to give up their First Amendment rights.

• Worked with student media organizations to hold the school’s first media awards ceremony

From the annual reports (pro)

Three of the pro chapters in Region 2 submitted annual reports this year. Here are some highlights from their reports:


• The top program of the year was a collaboration with the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Salisbury University campus chapter: a program called “Can reporters balance activism and objectivity?”

• Chapter President Jennifer Brannock Cox was part of that panel, as well as one on President Donald Trump and the media. She gave a presentation on mobile apps at the Region 2 conference at Elon University in North Carolina.

• The chapter spoke out forcefully against the mayor of Baltimore’s decision to ban a radio reporter (and the chapter’s vice president at the time) from her weekly press briefing. Brannock Cox helped promote press freedom issues in Annapolis at the start of the the state legislature’s session.


• The chapter in 2016 launched a program to match college students and early-career journalists to more experienced professionals. The chapter expects to expand the program.

• A trivia night mixer included the SPJ chapter and the Hampton Roads chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

• The chapter gives scholarships to college journalists to attend the annual Excellence in Journalism conference.

Washington, D.C.

• The chapter held panel discussions on coverage of D.C. regional news, election coverage, police cameras, and solutions for the newsroom.

• #HomelessNewsBlitz was a chapter effort spearheaded by board member Eric Falquero, the editor in chief of Street Sense, a street paper. Local journalists gathered to report stories for an issue of the paper.

• The chapter hosted 18 journalists from Shanghai, China, for a lunch meeting.

N.C. FOI law doesn’t care about motivation, ‘outsiders’

Many times, I’ve heard resistance from public officials to public records requests. Sometimes, they’re right, such as when a request is unreasonably voluminous. Some “Send me all…” requests need to be reined in.

But a sheriff in North Carolina recently complained in a way I’ve never heard: He objects to an “outsider” seeking public records, poking his nose in the county’s business — even though state law makes no such distinction.

Ashe County Sheriff Terry Buchanan railed during a public meeting about a reporter requesting public records while working elsewhere in the state — Charlotte, which appears to be about 110 miles south.

For everyone at the meeting, Buchanan repeatedly held up a copy of WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner‘s records request. It’s a peculiar diatribe — watch here.

In the clip, Buchanan explains: “Now, this is unprecedented, as I checked, in the county. We have never had a Charlotte reporter come up here to inquire about anything.” The sheriff denounces the request as “a political fishing expedition.”

Curiously, Buchanan says he doesn’t mind releasing records from his government cellphone. Instead, he harps on letting “an outside reporter come in from Charlotte” to get public records while Ashe County is busy with important projects and coping with a political divide. “We don’t have time for this,” he declares, continuing to grip and hold up the records request.

Buchanan says the public records request “thwarts my efforts and thwarts my job” of keeping the community safe.

The rant gets weirder when the sheriff turns to tell “our local guys, our local media” what he wants them do to — ask for even more information than WBTV requested, involving other officials. He urges them to be more concerned with the fact that a county commissioner also is a deputy sheriff with arrest powers and with the settlement of a court case.

Buchanan urges local reporters, local residents and county officials to question the Charlotte reporter about “who brought this to his attention.”

“Why would we have an outsider come into our county, put us on state and national news,” Buchanan says. “Why? Why would we do such a thing? It’s beyond me. If we love this county, and we want to keep the county out of the national news, we should stay right here in the county.”

Clearly, there’s a back story that I don’t know, but none of that matters when someone asks for public records.

“These types of things should not be allowed,” Buchanan says about the records request. “They should not interfere with county business.”

Another county official correctly reminds the sheriff that the law allows anyone to request public information, which many people do, even from other states.

The sheriff’s screed is a wild overreach of authority and shows a disregard for the purpose and intent of public records laws.

North Carolina’s public records law (which looks much better than the loophole-ridden law here in Maryland) permits nothing anywhere near what Buchanan is calling for — closing borders on public information to “outsiders,” questioning motivation.

Here is a guide posted by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government:

“G.S. 132-6 accords the rights of inspection and copying to “any person,” and there is no reason to think that the quoted words are limiting in any way. The rights extend both to natural persons and to corporations and other artificial persons (such as associations, partnerships, and cooperatives). And they extend both to citizens of the government holding the record and to noncitizens. Furthermore, as a general rule a person’s intended use of the records is irrelevant to the right of access, and the records custodian may not deny access simply because of the intended use.”
The sheriff may complain and be as unhappy as he wants, but it’s irrelevant and beyond the scope of his duties. It doesn’t matter if he likes the law — it’s still the law.
But the sheriff is free to ignore my opinion, too. I’m another “outsider.”

Spending policy, budget, governance: What SPJ’s board did

Updated at 6:30 p.m. May 1 with information about candidates

The biggest item on the SPJ national board agenda when it met in Indianapolis on April 22 and 23 was whether and how to overhaul the society’s structure of governance.

That topic has been studied for several months and will go before delegates for one or more votes at the national convention in Anaheim in September.

For background information from the Indianapolis board meetings (SPJ and SDX), go to a page at SPJ.org with board agendas and materials. Below are highlights, with notations to corresponding pages in the board packet.


April 22 SPJ board meeting:

• Budget: The board unanimously approved a $1.25 million budget for fiscal year 2018. Executive Director Joe Skeel said it’s more conservative than usual. Revenue in a few key areas is down, such as advertising and contest entries (p. 24). SPJ has been losing members, but a new recruitment and retention plan has Skeel optimistic that we can regain some lost ground. Staffing at SPJ HQ will decrease as duties are reorganized (p. 25). An investment in improving SPJ’s computer system is a priority.

• New chapter: A campus chapter was unanimously approved for Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

• Conflicts of interest: The board unanimously agreed to strengthen part of its conflict of interest policy (p. 39). Old passage: “After disclosure, I understand that I may participate in discussion to respond to questions, but then shall leave the meeting before the final discussion and vote and shall not vote on the question.” New passage: “It is my responsibility to state my connection and potential conflict on any topic as it comes up during a discussion. After disclosure, I will remove myself from the discussion and leave the meeting, unless I am called on to answer questions. I will not vote on the topic.” This was sparked by an executive session discussion in which someone with a connection to both SPJ and an outside organization participated in a discussion about the other organization. I thought this was an insufficient separation and proposed a stronger one.

• Credit cards: At Skeel’s recommendation, the board unanimously approved a policy for SPJ employees using SPJ credit cards (p. 40). It clarifies the proper use of credit cards and the ramifications of improper use.

• Spending policy: The board discussed a possible policy on SPJ spending, as recommended by Region 11 Director Matt Hall: “The Executive Committee shall approve any expenditure over $5,000 that is not authorized in the annual budget.” This was largely a response to a decision by SPJ President Lynn Walsh, in consultation with SPJ’s staff, to spend $5,000 on an Ethics Week project that included hiring a consultant. Walsh said the proposal came up quickly and needed quick action. SPJ has no policy on the president getting approval for spending. But some board members expressed concern, especially when SPJ hires consultants, and thought this was a matter for board approval, like the last two times SPJ hired a consultant. The board talked about how much authority a president should have without needing to consult with the board. The proposal was sent back to SPJ’s Finance Committee to work on the wording.

• Candidates: The board heard from Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher, the nominations committee chairman, about candidates running in the next election.

Update: Today, Fletcher sent me a full list of the candidates so far. He shared them at the meeting, but I didn’t catch all of the names then.

Alex Tarquinio is running for president-elect. Patti Gallagher Newberry and Daniel Axelrod are competing for secretary-treasurer.

Five people were running for one at-large director seat, but one dropped out. The remaining four are: Alex Veeneman, Elle Toussi, Randy Bateman and Melissa Allison. Current at-large director Bill McCloskey is not running again.

Candidates for two campus representative seats are Rahim Chagani and Keem Muhammad (who is on the board now).

The only other contested race so far is for Region 10 director between Ethan Chung, who holds the position now, and Don Meyers, a former regional director.

Incumbent Sue Kopen Katcef is running again for vice president for campus chapter affairs. I am running again for Region 2 director. Region 3 director Michael Koretzky and Region 11 director Matt Hall are running for another term.

There are no candidates so far for one campus adviser at large seat (now held by Rebecca Tallent) and for directors in Region 6 (currently Joe Radske) and Region 12 (currently Amanda Womac).

• Membership: Associate Executive Director Tara Puckey has been overseeing a package of initiatives to boost SPJ’s membership (p. 44). They include “kudos boxes,” better invoices, working with non-journalism groups and much more. Take a look.

• Communications: SPJ also is working on a communications plan. It starts on p. 51.

T-shirts: SPJ is going to have terrific First Amendment T-shirts. More details to come.

• Executive session: In executive session, the board agreed on choices for SPJ Fellows and talked about a staffing analysis that Skeel prepared.

• Governance: After returning to open session, the board had a lengthy discussion and debate about a proposal to restructure its system of governance (p. 57). A task force has proposed cutting the board from 23 to 9 members (three officers, four at large, two appointed). A nominations committee would do “vetting.” One sticking point: What does vetting mean? A slate of endorsed candidates? Qualified? Is it better to steer voters toward “preferred/qualified” candidates or to not try to influence by applying a label? Regional directors would become “regional coordinators” and would no longer be on the board. Addendum C (p. 71) shows the phase-in timetable and process. Also take a look at feedback by the Bylaws Committee (p. 72).


April 23 SPJ board meeting:

• Governance: The board continued the discussion on the governance restructuring proposal, focusing on a few key sticking points. A majority of the board opposed including term limits for members of the new board. With that change, the board approved the task force’s new governance proposal, sending it to this year’s convention delegates for vote(s) in September. The only board member to vote no was at-large director Rachel Wedding McClelland. The board also decided against the task force’s proposal to cut stipends for the regional directors/coordinators. (I was in favor of cutting the stipend, but it was not put out for a formal vote.)

• Diversity: The board and SPJ spent several minutes talking about questions raised in the SPJ Diversity Committee’s midyear report (p. 82). The committee expressed frustration that its ideas for changing the Dori Maynard Diversity Fellowship were not carried out. Keem Muhammad, a student member of the SPJ national board, said the fellowship is wasted if SPJ does not attempt to create longer-lasting connections with fellows. SDX Foundation President Robert Leger replied that some fellows have gone on to leadership positions. He said he disagreed with the Diversity Committee’s request that females be considered minorities for the purpose of the fellowship, which would change what the program is.

Region 2’s Mark of Excellence winners/finalists

Congratulations to all of the Mark of Excellence winners and finalists from 14 schools in Region 2. Here are the results.


Region 2 Mark of Excellence Awards winners announced in Elon, North Carolina


INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the best collegiate journalism in Region 2 with 2016 Mark of Excellence Awards winners.

SPJ’s Region 2 comprises Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. Honorees received award certificates on April 8 at the Region 2 conference. First-place winners from all 12 SPJ regions will compete at the national level.

National winners will be notified in the late spring and will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, California.

MOE Awards entries are judged by professionals with at least three years of journalism experience. Judges were directed to choose entries they felt were among the best in student journalism. If no entry rose to the level of excellence, no award was given. Any category not listed has no winner.

School divisions are based on student enrollment, including both graduate and undergraduate: Large schools have at least 10,000 students and small schools have 9,999 or fewer students.

The list below details all Region 2 winners. If you have any questions regarding the MOE Awards, contact Abbi Martzall at amartzall@hq.spj.org or 317-920-4791.

This list reflects the spelling and titles submitted in the award entries.

Art / Graphics
Breaking News Photography (Large)
Winner: Fire on the Mountain – by Daniel Stein, The Breeze, James Madison University
Finalist: Israel Fest protest – by Josh Loock, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Richmond Greyhound shooting – by Andrew Crider, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Editorial Cartooning
Winner: Eva Shen, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Gareth Bentall, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Dan Kilbridge, American Word, American University

Feature Photography (Large)
Winner: Borneo’s Vanishing Forests: African Oil Palms – by Kent Wagner, Pulitzer Center’s Untold Stories, American University
Finalist: Trump’s shocking win sparks days of civil unrest in Richmond – by Casey Cole, Julie Tripp, Ali Jones, Erin Edgerton, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Tangier Island – by Diana DiGangi, WKTR.com via Capital News Service, Virginia Commonwealth University

Feature Photography (Small)
Winner: Quintana descending a ladder – by Hali Tauxe, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Matt and Kim in smoke – by AJ Mandell, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Kim Schifino crowdsurfs – by Jack Hartmann, Elon News Network, Elon University

General News Photography (Large)
Winner: SremmLife 2 takes on The National – by Geo Mirador, The Comonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn awards local hero Renita Smith – by Tom Hausman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: School Protest – by Andrew Crider, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

General News Photography (Small)
Winner: Trump has late election-night lead – by Diego Pineda, Elon News Network, Elon University

Photo Illustration (Large)
Winner: Identities of Islam – by Chris Simms and Kara Bucaro, The Towerlight, Towson University
Finalist: A Veiled Life – by Jaclyn Merica, Julienne DeVita, American Word, American University
Finalist: Down but not out – by Chris Simms and Jordan Stephenson, The Towerlight, Towson University

Photo Illustration (Small)
Winner: Phoenix in a Haze – by Stephanie Hays, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Photography (Large)
Winner: Touchdown – by Connor Woisard, The Breeze, James Madison University
Finalist: Goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier after Maryland soccer NCAA tournament loss – by Matt Regan, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Sophomore point guard Jonathan Williams – by Becca Schwartz, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sports Photography (Small)
Winner: Emmanuel Rivera slams helmet – by Andrew Feather, Elon News Network, Elon University

Best Student Magazine
Winner: 22807 – by Bri Ellison, Maddy Williams, James Madison University

Non-Fiction Magazine Article
Winner: Cultivating community isn’t that easy: D.C.’s public gardens and farms dividing communities – by Lindsay Maizland, American Word, American University

Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper
Winner: The Diamondback – University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: The Eagle – American University
Finalist: The Towerlight – Towson University

Breaking News Reporting (Large)
Winner: A murder-suicide stuns College Park – by Michael Brice-Saddler, Andrew Dunn, Natalie Schwartz, Mina Haq, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Months after Brexit, English residents find American political divide ‘appalling’ – by Mina Haq, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Reports of racist attacks in Anderson Hall prompt student outcry – by Katherine Saltzman, The Eagle, American University

Editorial Writing
Winner: The GW Hatchet staff, The George Washington University
Finalist: The Eagle editorial board, American University

Feature Writing (Large)
Winner: In age of Trump, profile of Maryland-born white nationalist grows – by J.F. Meils, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland’s unclaimed dead become body donors – by Eliana Block, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Tiny public school teaches K-8 rural, Amish students – by Vickie Connor, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Feature Writing (Small)
Winner: Victorian charm, a Berlin mainstay – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University
Finalist: Night riders: on patrol with Salisbury Police – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University
Finalist: Years of country fun with Lee Brice – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University

General Column Writing (Large)
Winner: Melissa Holzberg, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: Muktaru Jalloh, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Nickolaus Mack, Sydney Young, Naomi Zeigler, The Eagle, American University

General Column Writing (Small)
Winner: Enough with white men behind podiums; Visual transcripts; Civil discourse – by Jane Seidel, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Christian privilege; Show people they matter; Let’s talk about email signatures – by Cassidy Levy, Elon News Network, Elon University

General News Reporting (Large)
Winner: Complaints filed against unlicensed counseling director – by Ellie Smith, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: White nationalist posters found at the University of Maryland – by Ellie Silverman, Talia Richman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Ex-student sues UMD after expulsion for sexual assault – by Ellie Silverman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park

General News Reporting (Small)
Winner: Strength, energy defined Dennion on, off field – by Alex Simon and Tommy Hamzik, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Charlotte business owners grapple with new overtime pay rules – by Rachel Stone, Washington and Lee University, for The Charlotte Observer

In-Depth Reporting (Large)
Winner: Police use pepper spray on graduation party of mostly black students – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Foundation helps addicts recover as opioid deaths soar – by Sarah King, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Why experts say Virginia’s mental health system fell through the cracks – by Fadel Allassan, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

In-Depth Reporting (Small)
Winner: A shooting on campus – by Tucker Higgins; Kayla Sharpe; Sarah Smith, The Flat Hat, College of William and Mary
Finalist: Mount president’s attempt to improve retention rate included seeking dismissal of 20-25 first-year students – by Rebecca Schisler and Ryan Golden, The Mountain Echo, Mount St. Mary’s University
Finalist: Caught between fear and misunderstanding, Elon community addresses divisiveness after Election Day – by Emmanuel Morgan, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Column Writing
Winner: Callie Caplan, Kyle Stackpole, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Sophia Belletti, Zach Joachim, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Football needs improved results; Football suffers ‘humiliating’ defeat; women’s track & field best – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Writing (Large)
Winner: Two weeks in March: A team and a school unite in a championship – by Nora Princiotti, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: Straight from print: 700 and counting – by Vincent Salandro, The Eagle, American University
Finalist: While not mainstream sport, falconry has dedicated following – by Robbie Greenspan, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Sports Writing (Small)
Winner: How Elon hosted a USA-USSR women’s basketball game during the middle of the Cold War – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Kicking it in San Antonio – by Jordan Spritzer, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: LGBTQIA athletes find match at Elon – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University

Best Affiliated Website
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: www.dbknews.com — The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: BreezeJMU.org – The Breeze, James Madison University

Best Digital-Only Student Publication
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: The Rockbridge Report – Washington and Lee University

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: In poor health – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: 2016 convention coverage – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Anti-Trump protestors shut down highway – by Jesse Adcock, Julie Tripp, and staff, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Catholic Church in Ireland caught between tradition and modernity – by Michael Bodley, Meredith Stutz, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: ProtectUMD has 64 demands to aid vulnerable students. These are the stories behind them. – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Evolution of a fandom – by Danielle Ohl, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park

Online In-Depth Reporting
Winner: In poor health – by Capital News Service staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Discharging trouble – by Capital News Service staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Purple Line: a divided rail – by Brittany Britto and Jordan Branch, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Online News Reporting
Winner: Presidential election underscores Maryland’s wealth divide – by Zachary Melvin, Hannah Lang and Ben Harris, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Purple Line: a divided rail – by Brittany Britto and Jordan Branch, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland patients still waiting on medical marijuana – by Katishi Maake, Jake Eisenberg, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Online Sports Reporting
Winner: In football recruiting sweepstakes, Maryland has fallen short – by Ryan Connors and Troy Jefferson, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Nationals’ Bryce Harper is having a historically poor MVP follow-up – by Connor Mount and Charlie Wright, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Lizzie Bellinger: The strength behind the D.C. Current – by Chateau Mangaroo, www.mlultimate.com, George Mason University

Online Opinion and Commentary
Winner: Eleanor Fialk, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Big Brotha columns – by Marc Rivers, TruthBeTold.news, Howard University
Finalist: A-Greener-Merica column – by Jaclyn Merica, American Word, American University

Best All-Around Radio Newscast
Winner: The Dive, Mr. President – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Nov. 5, 2016, program – by Tenley Garrett, John Thomas, Jessa O’Connor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio Feature
Winner: Botanical Garden saves seeds for future conservation – by Liz Schlemmer, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: What is the Black College Experience? – by Jamai Harris, Howard University News Service

Radio In-Depth Reporting
Winner: In-depth coverage: UNC reacts to discrimination law – by Jessa O’Connor, John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio News Reporting
Winner: UNC study finds contaminated water in Wake County wells – by Jessa O’Connor, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Racial segregation survives death – by Faith Pinho, WMRA, Washington and Lee University
Finalist: Sexual assault while studying abroad common but rarely discussed – by John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio Sports Reporting
Winner: The psychology behind sports fandom – by John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Best All-Around Television Newscast
Winner: Elon Local News, Oct. 31, 2016, broadcast – by Erik Webb, Elizabeth Bilka, Daniel MacLaury, Ashley Bohle, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: ELN Morning, Nov. 10, 2016, broadcast – by Audrey Rosegg Engelman, Daniel MacLaury, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: VCU InSight — by Darnell Myrick, Erika Robinson, Danielle Guichard and Nancy Gabaldon, WCVW-TV PBS, Virginia Commonwealth University

Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: Spellings walkout – by Paris Alston, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Protests in Charlotte after the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott – by Paige Pauroso, Andrew Feather, Kailey Tracey, Audrey Rosegg Engelman, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Prosecuting Baltimore Police misconduct reform – by Michael Stern, Alex Pacinda, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Television Feature Reporting
Winner: Gold star mothers – by Maggie Gottlieb, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland
Finalist: The missing half – by Hannah Burton, Ryan Eskalis, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television General News Reporting
Winner: Safe drones – by Sarah Dean, Maggie Gottlieb, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Dead sea lions – by Jaclyn Lee, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Phone scams target Elon students – by Paige Pauroso, Elon News Network, Elon University

Television In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Coal ash update – by Sharon Nunn, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Faces of the fair – by ViewFinder Fall ’16, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Forgiven – by Ricky Lasser, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television News and Feature Photography
Winner: My last chance – by Ryan Eskalis, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Twin sisters’ garden – by Drew Kurzman, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Television Sports Photography
Winner: Little tennis star – by Lindsey Sparrow, Sports Xtra, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: The Southern Barnyard Runners – by Hannah Burton, Mackenzie Happe, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television Sports Reporting
Winner: ESPN’s most powerful producer – by Jourdan Henry, Howard University
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland minor leagues attendance – by Michael Stern, Craig Weisenfeld, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


Freedom to videotape Maryland’s Legislature

There’s a subtle free-press debate going on in the Maryland General Assembly.

Last month, while sitting in the press area in the Maryland Senate, reporter Bryan P. Sears of The Daily Record, as he has done many times, videotaped a senator’s floor speech. However, as the speech concluded, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. reminded the chamber that videotaping is allowed only if permission is granted.

The press may observe Senate actions and take notes, but may not shoot photos or video unless the Senate president says so.

This is the Senate rule: “Prior permission of the President of the Senate is required before any photographing or televising can take place in the Senate Chamber [or] Lounge.”

The same rule applies in the Maryland House of Delegates chamber: “Prior permission of the House Speaker is required before any photographing or televising can take place in the House Chamber or Lounge.”

But House Speaker Michael E. Busch doesn’t enforce the rule. Journalists may shoot photos or video of proceedings from the designated press area at any time.

Why have a rule if it’s not enforced? That’s a good question.

Miller had not been enforcing the rule before, either, but his warning to Sears/the chamber changed that. Now, journalists must ask Miller’s staff every day for permission to photograph and videotape, on the off chance they might want to do either during that day’s Senate session.

I don’t know of anyone being turned down for permission. So, why have that rule if everyone gets permission, every time?

If you don’t ask for that daily permission, you may not pick up your smartphone and videotape when an interesting, unplanned debate unfolds before you.

A few days after issuing the reminder to the chamber, in announcing that journalists had permission to videotape that day, Miller joked with senators that a video clip of their comments might show up in a campaign ad.

That ignored the fact that the audio of each day’s House and Senate sessions already is broadcast live, then archived. Anyone looking for a soundbite for later use already has a way to get it; whether the press videotapes that day changes nothing.

SPJ objects to these limitations on the press, which have a discriminatory side effect: Observers sitting above in the gallery of the Senate chamber may videotape without prior permission; the press may not.

On Feb. 10, SPJ President Lynn Walsh sent a letter to Miller, Busch and their aides, urging that the rule be stricken for each chamber. SPJ also is asking that a new rule be written clarifying the rights of journalists to fully do their jobs during open sessions of the state Legislature.

Despite the House rule, Busch has not kept journalists from photographing or videotaping without prior permission. But the rule is in place in both chambers, and could be arbitrarily enforced in either, so SPJ sent the letter to Busch, too.

(A footnote: Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a Legislative Transparency Act of 2017. A press release says the proposal “requires that all meetings of the General Assembly be livestreamed, which is done in all but seven states in the nation. The governor’s FY 2018 budget includes $1.2 million to fund the livestreaming.”)

Here’s the SPJ letter:

February 10, 2017

Dear President Miller and Speaker Busch:

We are writing to discuss a rule that limits photography and videotaping by the press in the Maryland Senate and House chambers without prior permission. The rule became recently when President Miller reminded Bryan Sears, a reporter for The Daily Record, as he was videotaping a floor speech in the Senate, that he needed to get permission first.

Perhaps this rule made sense years ago, when videotaping was only done by camera crews, requiring large equipment that might have been a distraction to, or even interfered with, the legislature’s operation.

The media landscape has greatly changed. Now, during chamber sessions, journalists might take notes for a future story in print or on the web, but they also might cover proceedings live through Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and other platforms, especially since the public cannot watch the Legislature’s proceedings through a video broadcast. We are no longer limited to the specialties we used to have.

All that journalists need for multimedia work is a small electronic device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. For videotaping, they hold up the electronic device from their seat and press a button; they don’t interfere and are barely noticed.

We have concerns about applying an outdated rule to a current approach to journalism. It has created discriminatory differentiation, as TV crews daily set up in the chambers and are allowed (even without asking permission each time) to get footage for their reports. Other journalists are not allowed to get the same footage for their publications and websites without permission, which is logistically impossible when news develops on the spot.

The rule also creates an imbalance in which the public, from the gallery, may take pictures or video clips from their seats, but journalists on the floor cannot without prior permission.

President Miller has expressed a concern about legislators knowing they are being taped and that their words might be replayed elsewhere. But the audio of chamber sessions already is broadcast; videotaping by journalists does not change anything, other than matching a face to a voice.

We ask that both chambers drop or amend their rule, and rely on current practice, which works well. Journalists who receive credentials through the Department of General Services should be allowed to remain in the press area of each chamber and do their jobs, involving any platform, as long as it does not interfere with the proceedings. Warnings or limitations should be based on that principle, rather than an outdated rule that hampers their work.

We also ask that a rule clearly enshrining press rights be put in place, so that there is no confusion in the future.

A suggested update to the rule is:
“From the press area, credentialed journalists may take photos or video of proceedings, as long as it does not interfere.”

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours truly,

Lynn Walsh
President, Society of Professional Journalists
Investigative executive producer, NBC 7 San Diego


Disclosure: Besides serving as SPJ’s Region 2 director, I am a city editor with The Frederick News-Post, which covers the Maryland General Assembly.

Seized funds and communication strategy

The SPJ national board took up two topics — money and communication — during an electronic meeting on Jan. 5:

1 – In September, the board voted to revoke the charters of three SPJ chapters: Mid-Florida Pro, North Central Florida Pro and Inland Northwest Pro.

Shutting down a chapter is extreme, but only comes after years of inactivity, as was the case here. A chapter gets 60 days to come up with a plan for how its money will be disbursed, or the money will be taken and used elsewhere within SPJ or SDX. The bylaws say:

Section Seventeen. Upon the decision to terminate any professional or campus chapter, whether by dissolution, disbandment, revocation pursuant to Section Thirteen of this Article, or otherwise, any remaining chapter funds shall be distributed to another adjoining active Society Chapter then in good standing, the Society, or the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, as directed by the chapter’s governing body, or, in the absence of action of the local board within 60 days of termination, the national board of directors.

The national board later heard from the Inland Northwest Pro chapter, which wanted another chance. Region 10 Director Ethan Chung supported the request, and the board granted that second chance.

The Mid-Florida Pro chapter, which has not held programs in about four years, did not try to continue. After the 60-day deadline, a chapter representative asked that its remaining money (about $12,000) go to the First Amendment Foundation. But SPJ bylaws say the money must stay within SPJ or SDX.

During our Jan. 5 meeting, SPJ President Lynn Walsh made a motion that the board reconsider its earlier vote on seizing the chapter’s treasury and ceded to the chapter’s wishes. Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher seconded the motion.

Upon proper motion by Walsh and second by Fletcher, the board voted against the motion to “reconsider the September vote and respect the wishes of the Mid-Florida Pro Chapter, instead giving the money to the SDX Foundation or somewhere else within SPJ.”

The vote was 10-8 against the motion.

No: Keem Muhammad, Jane Primerano, Bill McCloskey, Amanda Womac, Michael Koretzky, Ed Otte, Andy Schotz, Leticia Lee Steffen, Ethan Chung, Patti Gallagher Newberry

Yes: Rebecca Tallent, Paul Fletcher, Sue Kopen Katcef, Joe Radske, Michele Day, Lynn Walsh, Matthew Hall, Kari Williams

I voted no because the process the national board used was fair. Chapters get plenty of leeway to resume their activity. They get a few years of probation before their charters are revoked. There is no point having an inactive chapter indefinitely.

The 60-day period for deciding on a place for the money also was fair. The chapter was given numerous opportunities to meet that deadline; it did not.

The bylaws are clear about money staying in SPJ or SDX, and the chapter’s request did not follow that.

I thought the money should have stayed in Florida to help SPJers there. The Florida Pro chapter is excellent and could serve the people who previously were in the Mid-Florida chapter. But there was little interest in my idea. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky assured me that the Florida Pro chapter doesn’t need the extra money to do programs that serve that region.


2 – Walsh has said she wants to work on a better communication strategy for SPJ. She has created a committee to look at best practices. The committee includes:

  • FOI Committee Chairman Gideon Grudo
  • Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman
  • Membership Committee Chairwoman Robyn Davis Sekula
  • Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky
  • Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer
  • Michele Boyet, an officer in the Florida Pro chapter.

They will join the SPJ Executive Committee at its meeting in San Diego this month.

The question before the national board on Jan. 5 was a $6,860 budget.

That covers travel, hotel and meals for the six people above. (Executive Committee members have stipends to cover expenses.) The budget also covers $2,250 for (W)right On Communications of Solana Beach, Calif., and North Vancouver, British Columbia, to lead a strategy session.

Walsh said during our electronic meeting that SPJ needs a more specific plan for how and when to speak out, particularly on issues in the news. She said an attempt to create a plan internally has not worked well.

Walsh noted that the national board, a year ago, approved a budget of $8,850 for a strategy session on membership. That also included covering the costs of SPJers who flew in for the meeting and to pay a consultant.

A motion by Walsh to approve the budget for the communication strategy session, seconded by McCloskey, passed 16-2.

Yes: Muhammad, Primerano, Womac, Koretzky, Otte, Steffen, Chung, Gallagher Newberry, Tallent, Fletcher, Kopen Katcef, Radske, Day, Walsh, Hall, Williams

No: McCloskey, Schotz

I voted against this proposal because I am skeptical of hiring consultants to run meetings. I’ve covered many “facilitator” sessions as a reporter and I’m not convinced they are worth the expense. I also don’t buy the argument that an outsider has to be brought in to help a journalism organization learn how to communicate.

For the record, I voted against the budget for the membership consultant, too.


Kicking out the press

The Maryland Pro chapter of SPJ released the following statement on Wednesday in response to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake banning WYPR reporter P. Kenneth Burns from her press briefings. SPJ objects to the mayor’s decision and calls for Rawlings-Blake to immediately reinstate Burns’ full privileges and rights in reporting on the mayor and city government.


October 12, 2016

To Whom It May Concern:

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday she has banned P. Kenneth Burns, a WYPR radio reporter and vice president of the Maryland Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, from her weekly press briefings based on allegations of “verbally and physically threatening behavior.” The Maryland Professional Chapter believes the mayor’s decision to be an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press rights.

We take threats of violence seriously, and we support any individual’s right to protect him or herself from those threats. However, in speaking with Anthony McCarthy, director of public affairs for the mayor, this afternoon, we have learned that there are no specific examples of physical or verbal threats Mayor Rawlings-Blake can reference. McCarthy said the mayor feels “uncomfortable” and “threatened” in the small briefing room space where these conferences occur.

After speaking with WYPR editor Joel McCord and viewing footage online of a hostile exchange between Rawlings-Blake and Burns during a press event last week, it is clear Burns is an aggressive reporter, and the relationship between the two has been contentious during his three years covering city government. Regardless, a public official does not have the right to ban a reporter because he or she does not like his tone or persistence during questioning.

Furthermore, a public official – particularly the mayor of a metropolitan city – has an obligation to produce evidence of any alleged threats rather than making vague allusions to violence and restricting a reporter’s First Amendment rights. Were there a real threat of violence, we feel confident a security team would have addressed those issues with Burns and WYPR. As of yet, no specific allegations have been made.

We feel this is an unacceptable abuse of power. Elected officials cannot and should not be permitted to pick and choose which reporters cover them. This incident points to a troubling trend wherein officials believe they can control the message by restricting the messenger. The consequences of this violation of press freedom are disastrous for a community, which relies on quality investigative journalism to keep public officials accountable.

The Maryland Professional Chapter calls on Mayor Rawlings-Blake to reinstate Burns’ press access immediately and allow him to continue his coverage of city government.


The Maryland Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists


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