The Talking Dead

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It’s the story that never dies…


College journalists are notoriously poor interviewers. So for the past three years, SPJ has trained them to chat up their sources by quizzing corpses. This free program is called Zombie Stories, and it can easily spread to your city.


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It works like this…


Students don free white Zombie Stories T-shirts and venture outside to interview professionally made-up zombies – each carrying a bottle of fake (?) blood. If students ask stupid questions, they get doused. Once their shirts are all red, they’re dead. But if they pose solid questions (see below) they win cash and prizes.


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It happened again one week ago…


On the Saturday night before Halloween, Zombie Stories visited Atlanta – on the exact spot where a key scene from the first episode of The Walking Dead was filmed. It’s an alleyway near a pub called, appropriately enough for journalists, Sidebar – where SPJ once hosted another participatory event called Putting the ME in Social Media.

SPJer Amanda Rabines flew up from Miami on her own dime to become a zombie. Here’s her dead-eye view of the creepy evening…


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By Amanda Rabines…


It’s the time of the year when I drive past Halloween-decorated houses admiringly, and finally dish out the darkest clothes in my wardrobe in accordance to “fashion laws.”

For this year’s CMA Fall National Media Convention, I embraced that darker side with more black and less life. I turned into a zombie for the sake of journalism, and it wasn’t my first time.

This is the second year I participate in Zombie Stories, an event organized by SPJ Region 3. It’s a workshop to die for, if you want to be punny.

The premise is that journalism students are given an exclusive interview with the undead, and as SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky says, “If you can interview a zombie you can interview anyone.”

So Gorehound Productions’ Lucas Godfrey painted me an unhealthy looking green and splattered some fake blood on my face to make me interview-ready.

This year’s Zombie Stories took place in a familiar setting to anyone who watches AMC’s The Walking Dead.

I along with seven other zombies shuffled and stumbled our way through downtown Atlanta, to the scene where Rick Grimes first sees the horror of the zombie apocalypse, fresh from a coma, too…

…or, at least, that’s what Bryce McNeil, assistant director for student media at Georgia State University, told us (because I’ve never actually watched the show).

Zombie Stories took place in an alley next to the Sidebar, and I did my best to stay in character by growling and getting uncomfortably close to the students who came to interview me.

If a student asked me a question resembling the boring cliché “what’s it like to be a zombie,” we poured fake blood on their T-shirts. At the end of the event, nearly everyone had some traces of blood.

But after a three-day journalism convention, these students were very quipped with their questions. I was impressed, to say the least.

Here are some of the questions and answers that stood out…


Jarred Todd / Georgia State University Perimeter College

Q. What influences your decision into what horde to join?
A. The freshness of their style, or the freshness of those they kill.

Q. Which body part do you go for first when you corner your victims?
A. The neck. My wife was a little fast, but I got her.


Zoe Debo / Hudson Valley Community College

Q. Can Zombies procreate?
A. The females will kill the males and vomit into their skulls, to procreate. We can reproduce in a couple of hours.

Q. How long can you go before eating flesh again?
A. Usually can go for a couple of days on a brain.


Kayla Ebner / Roger Williams University

Q. Which presidential candidate would you rather eat? Who do you think would taste best?
A. Trump.


On our way back to our hotels I flipped the switch and interviewed some of the winners – like Kayla Ebner from Rhode Island.

She said she wanted to get political because that’s what seems to be on everyone’s mind, especially with elections around the corner.

“I really wanted to bring in the election because it’s big right now, it’s a relevant thing, and I wanted to put a funny spin on it because we’re interviewing zombies, and that’s not a regular thing,” Ebner said.

Zoe Debo was asking some hardball questions, focusing on getting information necessary to understand more about zombies.

“I went in there with a motive. I wanted to give humans the most information about the zombies that they could get,” Debo said, after reflecting on what she learned. “Having blood poured on your face really helps to remind you and drill into your head that you really need to ask for their names and you can’t forget their names.”

Some of the other zombies had plans to hangout with the journalists after Zombie Stories.

I’d like to think the stories we shared painted a better pictures of zombies in general. That even the ghouls that arise in late October have a story to share, and if done correctly, can amount to better relationships overall.

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Atlanta zombie photos by Kayla Ebner, Roger Williams University


Win Woodward

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Want to interview this guy?


You can argue Bob Woodward is the nation’s most famous reporter – the pinnacle of shoe-leather journalism in an era of celebrity dilettantes who pursue their brands more than stories.

If you believe everything old becomes new again – kind of like comic-book heroes and crystal meth – then maybe old-fashioned journalism will make a comeback. We’ll find out in October in Washington, DC, when Woodward is a keynote speaker at the nation’s largest college media convention.

Woodward will be interviewed by five students whose parents were still in school when he made his name covering Watergate.

It’s a risky move for the Associated Collegiate Press, which organized this convention. If you’ve ever watched a White House or NFL press conference, you realize just how many dumb questions pro journalists ask.

But ACP executive director Laura Widmer is undaunted.

“At ACP in D.C., we don’t just want to teach journalism, we want our students to experience journalism,” Widmer says. “What a great opportunity for a college journalist to be onstage and interview one of the most famous reporters of our time. That’s an experience they won’t soon forget.”

To land this gig, students need to apply just like they would any other job. SPJ will help review the resumes, clips, and cover letters. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, click the photo below for more details. Got questions not answered here or there? Email me.

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Drone Tour 2016

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* No SPJ membership required. We’re cool like that.

CNN: less international

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The world just got a little smaller.


And not in a good way.

According to Adweek, CNN’s entire international desk – based in Atlanta – is closing, and more than two dozen employees will “have to reapply for their jobs.”

My first thought was, “Less journalism in the world.”

But assistant Region 3  director Sharon Dunten, who lives outside Atlanta, thought, “Less journalists in my city.”

Here’s her report…


Welcome to the Best Former Journalists Club.

Welcome to the Best Former Journalists Club. As a member, you are Pulitzer Prize winners, beloved columnists, middle-age TV anchors renown for their news styles, or maybe a copy editor who is celebrating her 62thbirthday. A member may be a producer who has given 60 hours a week for decades to make sure their station gets the “breaking news” first.

Your day starts out like any other day … editing copy and growling about the strict AP style rules you live by as a professional. Or maybe you are the producer who fights off the daily urban traffic jams to arrive just in time to address the evening broadcast lineup. Just another day of the news. Another day of working in the industry that you love.

You know many journalists who have lost their jobs during the bloodbath of downsizing newsrooms as the Great Recession swept through the country. You take a deep breath and count yourself lucky.

But then the “layoff “alarm arrives early and quickly through texts, emails or phone calls. Sorry, your luck has run out. You are one of many facing the guillotine today. You are losing your job — maybe, sort of.

On Monday, Feb. 8, CNN International announced a layoff for most of its employees in Atlanta. Downsizing is mentioned and Oh! “you can re-apply for your job.” What does that exactly mean? And will moving to a different continent be part of the re-hire? You know journalism is changing, and job loss is a part of it. But working for CNN in Atlanta was always seen a plum job; a milestone in your career to work for the first 24/7 news network. Thank you Ted Turner! But Ted doesn’t own CNN anymore. Time Warner does. And along with the CNN International staff, Atlanta bleeds with you.

The lit CNN sign looks smaller as its red neon light twists through the CNN logo on the top floor of the the CNN Center building. Its huge CNN monument on the sidewalk stands predominantly for another time when news was produced to serve the viewers and not only its stakeholders. The center now sits in the shadow of the new mammoth Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Atlanta Falcons will call home. The news institution that helped build Atlanta into a mega city is fading away in the new Atlanta skyline along with hundreds of CNN Atlanta employees.


Registering for trouble

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This guy has a great idea.


Michael Pitts is a Republican state representative in South Carolina. Yesterday, he introduced a bill called the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law.

Pitts wants the state to license journalists – and if they fail his standards and flout his law, they can spend up to 30 days in jail.

In the past 24 hours, Pitts has been mocked by the left (Mother Jones) and doubted by the right (The Daily Caller). After all, it’s odd for a small-government Republican to expand government into the newsroom.

But I see promise in Pitts’ proposal. Sure, there are problems, but there’s also opportunity…

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PROVISION: Before working as a journalist for a media outlet in this State, a person shall provide a criminal record background check to the media outlet to determine journalistic competence.

PROBLEM: Because Rush Limbaugh was booked on drug charges in 2006 and cut a deal with prosecutors, his popular radio show would be banned in South Carolina. Like him or hate him, Limbaugh shouldn’t be censored. Pitts’ conservative constituency would surely agree.

And yes, Limbaugh is a journalist under Pitts’ broad definition: “‘Journalist’ means a person who in his professional capacity collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information for a media outlet, including an employee or an independent contractor.”

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PROVISION: A person is not competent to be a journalist if…the person has demonstrated a reckless disregard of the basic codes and canons of professional journalism associations, including a disregard of truth, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.

PROBLEM: Who decides? Pitts’ bill doesn’t say, and it can’t be him – because he’s already been caught in a “disregard of truth” and a lack of “public accountability.”

In September, The Pulitzer Prize-winning Post and Courier reported that Pitts spent “nearly $6,000 jetting to Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota and Montana to hobnob with ‘sportsmen legislators.’

“Pitts said the summits were ‘mostly business’ concerning hunting and fishing laws and initiatives. But photos from these events show Pitts and others proudly posing with freshly killed pheasants and other game.”

While that’s not illegal, it’s surely unethical. And weirdly, Pitts serves on the House Ethics Committee. It must be easier to legislate ethics for others than to practice them yourself.

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PROVISION: A person who works as a journalist without registering…for a first offense, must be fined not more than twenty-five dollars; for a second offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and must be fined not more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than fifteen days, or both; and for a third or subsequent offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and must be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

OPPORTUNITY: SPJ can boost its membership.

As the SPJ board member representing the southeast United States, I’ll offer South Carolinians this perk: If you can’t get licensed because you’ve behaved no better than the sponsor of this bill, I’ll match you with an SPJ member who lives outside your state.

You’ll write under that SPJer’s byline, and I’ll keep records attesting that the stories are really yours. When you apply for other jobs – hopefully in other states – you can show off your best work, and I’ll back you up.

Even if you earn the Registry Office’s blessing, you might not want to pay the “application fee,” which has yet to be announced but will be “an amount determined by the office.” You, too, can use the SPJ Byline Exchange Service and save.

But to use this free service, you must join SPJ. Since SPJ membership costs only $75, that’s cheaper than a second violation and might cost less than the application fee.

Finally, I’ll offer to pay the $25 first-offense fine for any unlicensed South Carolina journalists who report on their failed attempt to get licensed and thus get fined. I love it when stories eat their own tails.

Alas, the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law has zero chance of passing – even Pitts admitted as much to (unlicensed) reporters. Too bad. I was hoping he’d register public information officers next.

 


Say what?

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Here’s an irony: Media maligning SPJ.


Last week, someone told me about an article that ripped this fine organization.

(To be specific, it was a tweet from the “crown regent of tactical shitposting.” Just how barren was my life before Twitter?)

The provocative headline: BLACK LEADER: MEDIA COVER UP MASS SHOOTINGS — BY BLACKS.

One of my few deeply held personal convictions is, “Never trust a headline in ALL CAPS unless a war is ending or a man is walking on the moon.” So I was skeptical before I began reading.

If you’ve already clicked the link, you’ll notice it ran on WorldNetDaily, a conservative website that most journalists can’t stand — not because of its right-wing politics, but because of its crappy reporting.

However, one of my other convictions is to judge each story on its own merits, whether it runs in The New York Times or the National Enquirer (maybe because I’ve freelanced for both).

SPJ makes an appearance about halfway down, after a man named Colin Flaherty agreed with the statement, “black activists and elected officials pressure editors to ignore or downplay black violence.”

The story continues from there…

The Society of Professional Journalists aids the cover-up, according to Flaherty, by telling their members to not report the race of people involved in violent crimes.

“The SPJ chapters all over the country give seminars on this,” Flaherty said. “Their national magazine writes stories about this, all saying the same thing: Race has nothing to do with violent crime, so do not report it.

“This is weird because this same group with the same reporters are constantly writing about black colleges, black churches, black funeral homes, black police officer groups, ad infinitum. But black violence? Nothing.”

That would be awful. If it were true.

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Colin Flaherty is a controversial guy.


WND says he’s “done more reporting than any other journalist on what appears to be a nationwide trend of skyrocketing black-on-white crime.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him a “marginal media figure.”

I’m going to lean toward marginal, because I‘ve served on the SPJ board since 2008 (with one year off to preserve my sanity) and have never heard about any of this. I’ve also been a chapter president, and we never gave “seminars” about not reporting stuff.

So I emailed Flaherty to ask him how he did his reporting. He replied, “check out the article in Quill on the topic.” That’s it. That’s all he wrote me.

Quill is SPJ’s bimonthly magazine for its members. I found this article from last month: Finding Your Voice: Reporting on Inequality Fairly and Ethically. It’s a lot more nuanced than Flaherty implies.

In fact, to be honest, it’s kind of boring. It uses terms like “perception cycle” and “responsibility continuum” and has sentences like this: “This continuum illustrates the hierarchy of influence that ultimately leads to disparate social outcomes.”

I emailed Flaherty again and asked if this was the story he was talking about. He replied…

was invited to write a reply to the Quill about it. which i did. which they never used or replied to. and it all began when the quill ran a review of my book from thomas sowell. without mentioning my book. you have a ton to go on. so go for it.

That’s weird, because Quill has no record of Colin Flaherty or Thomas Sowell. (The latter is a conservative economist.) Maybe Flaherty is right, but I can’t find any evidence, and he’s not offering any. So there’s a ton of something going on. If I had to guess: Flaherty is mostly upset that SPJ didn’t pimp his book.

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But there’s no crying in journalism.


The world won’t shed a tear for a journalism organization getting railroaded by a media outlet. SPJ won’t shed a tear, either.

That’s because we’re real familiar with shoddy journalism. Hell, if we weren’t, we never would’ve written the SPJ Code of Ethics.

But here’s what sucks: While we’re accustomed to this crap, most regular citizens aren’t. Once they get this treatment personally, or their heroes do, they distrust all journalists forever.

That turns to downright hatred when readers ask those journalists for proof of their reporting, and they get arrogance rather than explanations.

I’ve always said and still believe: “Nothing is more hypocritical than a thin-skinned journalist.” Now I’m adding “dangerous.”


The mall and the media

TV news report on Mall St. Matthews in Louisville, Kentucky

When is a brawl a riot? When is it a race riot?


Around 7 p.m. Saturday, up to 2,000 “youths” rampaged through a mall in Louisville, Kentucky. But was it a riot?

The local FOX and  ABC affiliates hedged their headlines with quote marks: Kentucky mall shut down after police respond to numerous “riots” and Police: ‘Riots’ shut down Mall St. Matthews early.

National media settled on a less racially charged word: TIME and NBC used brawl. But none of these outlets reported the race of the “rioters,” which was obvious from some of the cellphone videos shot by shoppers inside the mall. Many were black.

That omission bugged Breitbart, the popular conservative website…

The story has received a great deal of national exposure, but the mainstream media coverage has consistently left out the race of the “youth” that went wilding through the mall, as well as consistently using the number 2,000 as the number of people involved in the incident. The reporting is part of the pattern of misreporting on stories about large groups of black youths goings on rampages nationwide in the past few years.

Earlier this year, Breitbart was slammed for “race-baiting” by liberal sites like Salon and New Republic. I wonder if both things can be true: Breitbart is right to call out the media for censoring itself, while simultaneously catering to the racists in its readership.

Below are just some of the objectively offensive comments I culled from the more than 2,000 on Breitbart’s mall article. Nearly all are uncontested by other Breitbart readers or Breitbart itself, which is a shame — because all conservatives aren’t racists, just as all liberals aren’t socialists.

Oddly, on many Breitbart posts about Muslims, the comment section usually includes something like, “When will Muslims call out the violence in their own community?”

Well, Breitbart, when are you going to call out the racism in yours?

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What really matters

Gideon Grudo and Tyler Krome

Black Lives Matter doesn’t matter this much.


At Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, the private liberal arts school is in the middle of a very public controversy.

Last week, the student newspaper ran a column called Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think. Written by staff writer Bryan Stascavage, it opined…

It boils down to this for me: If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement, I cannot support the movement. And many Americans feel the same. I should repeat, I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists.

Stascavage ended with…

At some point Black Lives Matter is going to be confronted with an uncomfortable question, if they haven’t already begun asking it: Is this all worth it? Is it worth another riot that destroys a downtown district? Another death, another massacre? At what point will Black Lives Matter go back to the drawing table and rethink how they are approaching the problem?

In the days since, Wesleyan activists with Black Lives Matter have done a lot more than write a letter to the editor. The Boston Globe has reported, “Wesleyan students want to shut down their own newspaper for its Black Lives Matter coverage.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education added that slightly less reactionary students are demanding, “space on the newspaper’s front page should be devoted to submissions from minority voices.”

That led Argus editors to post a staff editorial apologizing for “our carelessness in fact-checking. The op-ed cites inaccurate statistics and twists facts.” However, they didn’t list those stats and facts. They also apologized “for the distress the piece caused the student body.”

This entire mess distresses Frank LoMonte. He’s executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“It’s totally legitimate for them to protest the paper if they feel ill-served,” LoMonte says of the Black Lives Matter students. “But it goes too far to insist that every issue set aside front-page space for a minority-perspective or to threaten the paper’s funding.”

LoMonte continues….

Obviously, a private college isn’t legally obliged to continue funding the paper, but it would set a terribly intimidating precedent if making readers mad resulted in being de-funded. Would the readers really be better served by no newspaper at all? Obviously not. If the dissenters want to come up with a better newspaper, great, they can apply for funding and compete in the marketplace.

LoMonte’s days are spent defending student journalists from censorious administrators. In this twisted case, he’s defending students from students – and he has Wesleyan administrators on his side.

“Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable,” wrote Wesleyan president Michael Roth. “We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking.”

Attention Wesleyan Black Lives Matter: You know you’ve lost your campus’s hearts and minds when frequent enemies are aligned against you. Even worse, you know you’re toast when Gawker makes fun of you with “lmao.”

As an SPJ national director, I’ve emailed the shell-shocked Argus editors, offering to help them any way I can. But since everyone is piling on the student protesters, I want to make them this public offer…

If Wesleyan’s Black Lives Matter will stop trying to shut down their student newspaper, I’ll help them start their own. 

As LoMonte says, media can “compete in the marketplace.” I’ll help raise money for web and print publishing, and I’ll  assist with all the boring logistics so the students who hate The Argus can create a media outlet they like.

This isn’t a shtick, ploy, scheme, or bluff. The last time I offered to help students start their own publication, they raised more than $5,000. I truly believe anyone who commits an act of journalism not only informs their readers but also themselves. That’s my only greedy self-interest.

So all it takes is this: Any of 147 students who signed the Wesleyan petition complaining The Argus “neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color,” I’ll help you create that safe space. But you have to maintain it. I hope that matters enough for you to email me.


Ethics, smithics

Gideon Grudo and Tyler Krome

There are ethics, and there are smithics.


Kevin Smith sits on the board of SPJ’s foundation, called Sigma Delta Chi. Yesterday, he endorsed a candidate for SPJ office.

Smith posted on the Excellence in Journalism convention app…

Rebecca Baker deserves your vote for secretary-treasurer. As past president, board member I know her commitment and visions and I support her leadership of the Society.

Should a director of SPJ’s foundation publicly endorse a candidate? When I said this was “bad form,” Smith replied, “I have every right to endorse my friend for office.”

Not really. Not according to Smith’s boss, SDX chairman Robert Leger.

Leger says in April 2012, a committee “discussed a policy covering SDX Foundation board members’ role during SPJ officer and director elections.” The results? Leger told me…

The committee concluded a policy wasn’t needed and offered the following guidance statement: “Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board members are cautioned against actively participating in SPJ election campaigns.” The minutes indicate the board approved the guideline.

Those minutes don’t indicate if Smith voted against it, but he’s definitely violating it now. Sure, it’s not an ironclad rule. But it’s at least unethical to brazenly flout this guideline.

Thing is, Smith is the previous chairman of SPJ’s Ethics Committee, and he’s a journalism professor. It must be easier to teach ethics than to practice them.

So what happens now? Probably nothing. Smith knows the best defense is to be offensive. When I confronted him on the EIJ app, he publicly accused me of doing the same with Baker’s opponent, Jason Parsley, who hails from my chapter…

Since South Florida endorsed him and your fingerprints are all over that chapter I can’t imagine you weren’t involved in that process…So let’s dispense with the conflicts of interest lecture. You’ve always been good at double standards and bad form.

SPJ Florida’s president and past president corrected Smith – because I had nothing to do with that endorsement. As an SPJ national board member, I’ve been following our own guideline: “Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.”

I even interviewed the candidates and wrote equally nice things about Baker and Parsley. (I was less kind to other candidates.)

But I guess I’m just not very good at smithics.


There’s no debate

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In SPJ, every vote really counts.


You can win a national SPJ office by just a handful of the few hundred ballots cast online, because most of SPJ’s 7,200 members don’t vote.

The ones who do must decide by reading vague statements or contacting the candidates themselves. SPJ doesn’t host any debates, online or in person.

So as a public service, I posed three crazy questions to four candidates — the only ones in major contested races. Rebecca Baker and Jason Parsley are running for secretary-treasurer, while Bill McCloskey and Alex Veeneman are running for at-large director.

Skip to their answers by clicking here and avoid my screed below.

I asked the candidates about recent SPJ controversies. Of course, I started these controversies, so I probably care about them more than you do. Still, there’s illumination in their answers that transcend the topics.

For example…

  • Incumbents can be more daring than challengers. Baker is a current board member who’s willing to reform SPJ more than Veeneman, who’s running for the first time. In fact, Veeneman’s positions mirror those of incumbent McCloskey, which makes me wonder: Why vote for a new boss if he’ll be the same as the old boss?
  • How you say No is revealing. Baker and Parsley answer with scrutiny and nuance, McCloskey and Veeneman not so much. When you say “no,” it helps to offer counterproposals. New ideas excite voters. No ideas excite no one.
  • The most intriguing response is the last one. Veeneman doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he attacks the messenger — odd for a journalist. If you’re going to do that, also be a journalist and report. Because I’ve already done exactly what Veeneman asks. I told him as much and offered him a chance to rewrite his answer — because I’m not at all offended. (How hypocritical would that be?) Alas, he never replied.*

Finally, lest anyone accuse me of leveling personal attacks (which seems silly, but an SPJ president once accused me of libeling SPJ)…

I disagree with Bill McCloskey on most major issues facing SPJ, yet he’s one of my favorite fellow board members, and a man I deeply respect.

I mean, who wants to serve on a board of like-minded people? Where’s the fun in that? Plus, I’ve been known to be wrong once or twice. (Well, maybe just once…)

Still, I wish McCloskey (and Veeneman) would show a little more verve in their analysis of SPJ’s condition. Being conservative doesn’t mean being calcified. SPJ is still shedding members at a rate of a couple hundred per year since McCloskey and I first got on the board in 2008. “Stay the course” isn’t working.

Thus endeth the sermon for today. Here are the candidates’ answers, uncut and unedited…


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Rebecca Baker (secretary-treasurer) — I’ve been a vocal supporter of the name change since it was first proposed nearly two years ago. I think renaming SPJ is an important step to show that we are truly an inclusive organization for journalists of all stripes and that we hold “professional journalism” at the core of our mission. Other journalism groups, such as RTDNA, have changed their names to reflect the changing landscape of the business, and I believe we should do the same.

As for expanding SPJ from a “trade organization” to an “advocacy group,” I believe SPJ has shown itself to be an advocacy organization in many ways, such as lobbying for a federal shield law and, on a local level, sending letters to state lawmakers opposing open records restrictions and other measures that limit the free flow of information. I think SPJ can be both a trade group for members that offers networking, training, and career advice as well as advocates for the First Amendment and a free press.


Jason Parsley (secretary-treasurer) — I believe in the movement behind the name change and I would vote in favor of it. But I don’t believe that will solve the larger problem, which is SPJ’s culture. SPJ can be an advocacy group without changing its name, while changing the name won’t turn us into an advocacy group. The name change itself is not the solution to the problem. It’s more important to elect new leaders that have different perspectives. If we continue to elect the same people again and again we will get the same results over and over again.


Bill McCloskey (at-large director) — There is no need to rename SPJ. A poll of the members shows there is little interest in such a change. SPJ is an advocacy group. Stepping up our advocacy and making it more effective has been a goal of the current board and we a slowly moving towards meting that goal.


Alex Veeneman (at-large director) — No, SPJ should not be renamed the Society for Professional Journalism. SPJ is already involved in advocacy. Journalism is not a trade. It is a profession (and hopefully a calling). Example.


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Rebecca Baker (secretary-treasurer) — I believe the delegate system needs to be revised to reflect the 41 percent of SPJ members who do not belong to a particular chapter. I am a member of an SPJ membership task force that is tackling this very issue. The task force has just received the results of a survey of unaffiliated members about what, if any, changes to the delegate system should be taken and soon will be discussing what actions to take in light of those results. In my view, SPJ can either scrap the entire system and allow the member-elected Board of Directors to make all decisions for the organization, or expand the delegate system so unaffiliated members in each region have representation on the convention floor with chapter delegates. Whether either of these options—or a different one entirely—is chosen, I’m sure there will be an extensive discussion about it on a national level.


Jason Parsley (secretary-treasurer) — Yes and no. I believe all members should have an opportunity to vote on major decisions like the name change and the code of ethics. But I don’t know if every decision needs a full vote. Engaging the average SPJ member can be difficult. For instance in the last election only about 8 percent of members voted. That is an abysmal number. Having said that it is unacceptable that the voting period is only open from Friday to Sunday. SPJ’s leadership must do more to involve its members, including extending the online voting period. I don’t believe this would even be an issue if SPJ leaders listened more to members’ concerns, suggestions, ideas, desires, needs etc. So the larger issue here is electing leaders that will listen with an open mind and take suggestions, even ones they don’t like, into consideration.


Bill McCloskey (at-large director) — No. The delegate system is the only efficient way to have issues thoughtfully considered and arguments made in support and against proposals. Many chapters study the issues before the convention and send their delegates to convention with instructions on how to vote.


Alex Veeneman (at-large director) — While I believe it would be a good thing for everyone to be involved and to vote, it is not realistic. Just as in any electoral process, only a minority of members will vote.


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Rebecca Baker (secretary-treasurer) — To be honest, I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on this issue. I think SPJ board members have the freedom to recommend committee chairs or voice opposition if a chosen committee chair is unqualified or problematic in some way. However, if there was a strong push from the board to take the reigns on this issue, I would not oppose it.


Jason Parsley (secretary-treasurer) — The president should have the power to appoint them, but they should be confirmed by the full board.


Bill McCloskey (at-large director) — I believe it is a president’s prerogative to select those who will help him or her handle the governance of the Society. The current president decided to ask the board to approve her selections, which it did with no debate.


Alex Veeneman (at-large director) — As a sitting director running unopposed for re-election, if this issue concerns you, why haven’t you addressed the entire Board?


* Veeneman says he did indeed send an updated reply. I didn’t get it, but I believe him. See his comment below.


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