Good stuff in Columbus

Congrats to the Central Ohio Chapter for staging a super Region 4 Conference in Columbus April 4-5! Chapter President Beth Gianforcaro, 

Beth Gianforcaro headed the conference planning committee.

Beth Gianforcaro headed the conference planning committee.

doubling as conference chair and calling on many of her chapter officers, assembled a great line-up of speakers and topics that held the crowd through the final minutes of the conference — and even beyond!

Among the highlights:

  • Attendance and venue: About 175 professionals, students and academics attended the conference, with the Friday evening opening at the new OSU Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Sullivant Hall and the Saturday sessions at the OSUFawcettCenter.

    Michigan State's Jeremy Steele, a former Region 4 Director, announces the MOE winners.

    Michigan State’s Jeremy Steele, a former Region 4 Director, announces the MOE winners.

  • MOE winners: 488 students entered the annual competition, with about 120 picking up “winner” or “finalist” awards. (Release:
  • Otterbein College: Otterbein360, the student-run website of the Westerville, Ohio, private school of about 3100, received First Amendment Awards from the Central Ohio chapter and Region 4 (the latter called the Dick Goehler First Amendment Award, named for the prominent Cincinnati media lawyer who developed leukemia and died in March 2011). Otterbein360 news editor Anna Schiffbauer sued the university earlier this year in the Ohio Supreme Court for the right to obtain police arrest and incident reports from the Otterbein Police Department. SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund put up $5,000 for the effort, partly to retain the services of Cincinnati media attorney Jack Greiner to handle the case.
  • Shield Law: National secretary-treasurer Paul Fletcher provided an update of SPJ efforts to generate support for another run at a national shield law. Among them: Recruiting SPJers to write their members of Congress. For details, visit
  • Ethics Code: Former SPJ national president Kevin Smith, as chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee, has released a draft update of the SPJ Code of Ethics. It considers many social media questions that were not on the table when the code was last revised. It is open for review and comment at Lots of discussion on the ethics of using social media. In related discussions – about the coverage of the Steubenville (Ohio) rape case, the Kwame Kilpatrick (Detroit) case and most recently the FortHood (Texas) shootings case – journalism pros reminded students that Tweets, Facebook postings, Snapchat snippets, etc., are NOT verified fact, but the start of the process to confirm useable information for legitimate journalism.
  • Recruiting: Former national SPJ president (9/11 to 9.12) John Ensslin is leading a committee to investigative how to attract younger journalists (30 and under) to SPJ.
  • Public records: Several speakers focused on the necessity of obtaining public records to boost reporting. Jim Schaefer, whose work on Kilpatrick for the Detroit Free Press won him and colleagues a Pulitzer, based much of his reporting on text messages between the former mayor and his chief of staff/mistress; Columbus Dispatch reporters Jennifer Smith Richards and Jill Riepenhoff reviewed a wide variety of their data-based projects, some as easy as comparing one simple set of facts against another. Great tip for anyone covering a public entity: Learn what data they collect. As soon as you find yourself on such a beat, request a “record retention file” which outlines what the agency collects and how long it retains the info. (Aside to college students: Get the data on real estate violations to see which rental outfits in your town have been in trouble for failing to maintain their properties!) Several speakers noted that universities often cite FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) when they deny reporters requested information. (Riepenhoff’s take, at top volume: “Worst. Law. Ever.”)

    Andrew Welsh-Huggins covers capital punishment and other critical issues in Ohio.

    Andrew Welsh-Huggins covers capital punishment and other critical issues in Ohio.

  • Disturbing news: In Ohio, Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press, and Alan Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch, are considered two of the best on covering capital punishment. Both argued that reporters must be present to observe executions – considering the state’s ultimate punishment is carried out in the name of Ohio citizens. The work is challenging and draining, but important. (Side note: The state bans any kind of audio or video recording of executions. Officials provide a blank note book and pen – requiring reporters to take copious notes to document executions and record final statements by hand.) Ohio’s most recent execution attracted international attention as Dennis McGuire visibly struggled to die in January, after the state used a new two-drug protocol for the first time. Both journalists were inundated with calls from across the globe asking for details and commentary. Welsh-Huggins and Johnson also reviewed their coverage of the Ariel Castro case, about the Cleveland man who held three women captive for more than a decade, and the Zanesville wild animal case, where the owner of an exotic animal farm released his tigers, monkeys and other animals just before he committed suicide. (The Castro case was also logistically challenging because of the court’s ban on recording devices. Welsh-Huggins reports racing to his car on 15-minute
    Ohio University SPJ adviser Nerissa Young, left with Ginny Frizzi of Pittsburgh, will host the 2015 regional in Athens with students' help.

    Ohio University SPJ adviser Nerissa Young, left with Ginny Frizzi of Pittsburgh, will host the 2015 regional in Athens with students’ help.

    breaks in the often 12-hour plus hour days to dictate hand-written updates to his AP colleagues.)

  • Next year: The Ohio University chapter stepped forward to host the Regional Conference in Athens next year, March 20-22.  A GIANT thanks to OU instructor Nerissa Young and her crew for stepping up!
  • Want more? Head over to Facebook for photos on the SPJ Central Ohio page and the Miami University Journalism Program page!

Thanks to all for a terrific weekend!


Columbus or bust!

Heading to Columbus tomorrow for what promises to be a great Region 4 Conference.

Congrats to Central Ohio Chapter President Beth Gianforcaro and her team for pulling together “Celebrating our past, recreating our future,” running April 4-5 in Columbus.

Looking forward to: Renewing SPJ friendships, hearing from a Pulitzer Prize winner and leading national cartoonist, touring a new cartooning museum, taking in lots of relevant how-to sessions and celebrating our Mark of Excellence winners.

Wanna see the full list of activities? Go to

Watch this space for an-after conference report next week. Now ….on to Columbus!




Pittsburgh hosts b-cast legends

Pittsburgh SPJers will host some of its broadcast pioneers on April 26 for a session called “Broadcast Legends and Storytellers.” Here are details from Ginny Frizzi:

What was it like being a broadcast journalist in Pittsburgh before microwave technology and “instant” news? What was it like covering city hall or a fire lugging a heavy tape recorder with you….or getting the film back to the station so it could be developed and edited in time for the 11 o’clock news? What was the relationship between reporters and sources?

Find out when four Pittsburgh broadcasting pioneers journalism join Pittsburgh SPJ for an enjoyable program looking back at local broadcasting…the way it was.

Guests include a  “Who’s Who” of Pittsburgh broadcast journalism:

  • Joe DeNardo, a long-time weather forecasters with time at KDKA-TV and radio, and WTAE-TV.
  • Bob James, known as “Dean of City Hall Reporters” for his 26 years on that beat for KQV Radio, with earlier stints at four other stations.
  • Adam Lynch, respected Pittsburgh television news anchor who, in the course of his career, worked for all three Pittsburgh television stations, in radio news and magazine journalism.
  • Eleanor Schano, a media trailblazer who has constantly reinvented herself, as the city’s first  weather girl, first female news reporter, and first solo female anchor.

The event will run 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at WESA (90.5) at 67 Bedford Square. Cost is $15 for students, $20 for members, $25 for non-members — and includes brunch.

To sign-up contact Ginny at or (412) 624-5448 by April 24. 



Newsy week at Miami Univ

Lotsa newsy — and news-related events — at Miami of Ohio this week:

  • Film scholar Amy Rust presented “Violence Incarnate,” a talk about cinema violence and its relationship to TV news and photojournalism, on March 4.
  • A founding editor of Her Campus, a national Web site with a strong Miami presence (as in 150 active members!) visited campus on Tuesday, too.
  • Four Enquirer Media staffers outlined the paper’s strategy for a “digital first” world at a Wednesday gathering. (New news: Enquirer Media launches a new look for its Web site on Thursday. Check it out at
  • Wil Haygood, a Washington Post writer and Miami grad who wrote the story that became “The Butler,” is back on campus this week to visit journalism classes. And — woo-hoo — we announced today that he will be a writer in residence with us for the next three academic years.
  • Hearing that docu film maker Keith Beauchamp (“The Story of Emmitt Till”) and Freedom Summer photographer Herbert Randall will visit campus in about two weeks. (This is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, by the way. Oxford, Ohio, has a chapter in that story, as about 800-1000 volunteers trained here to go into Mississippi to register black voters and run Freedom Schools and community centers. I’m on the planning committee and teaching “The Journalism of Freedom Summer” this term. Fascinating and shocking events and only 50 years ago.)

Whew! Only Wednesday and I’m wrung out. But in a good way.


Get registered!

The Region 4 conference site is now ready for your register!

For general information for the event — set for April 4-5 in Columbus — visit:

When you are ready to sign up, go to the Event Brite site:

Go Team Columbus! Gonna be a great line-up!


Cleveland asks who owns public records

The Cleveland chapter is staying busy, with another great program set for March 11, titled “Access to Public Records: Whose Are They?” Here’s the details from the chapter’s “Writer’s Week” e-newsletter, from a posting by chapter president Rodney Bengston:

Public records. Who do they belong to?  The logical answer appears to be – the public.            

But things are not always that simple. As mentioned in an earlier column, there was a little controversy a couple of months ago, when the Cleveland Heights police withheld information from a Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter. That issue will be up for discussion at our next Cleveland SPJ event, on Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. at John Carroll University, which is co-sponsoring the event.

The panel will include:   

  • Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey E. Robertson.
  • Reporter Adam Ferrise of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
  • Attorney David Marburger of BakerHostetler, who represented the Northeast Ohio Media Group in this case.



Journos to talk race in Ohio

Soledad O'Brien visits Ohio Feb. 20.

Soledad O’Brien visits Athens, Ohio, Feb. 20.

Kudos to the JRN and COM programs at Ohio University for booking CNN veteran Soledad O’Brien to talk about race on campus Feb. 20.Sponsored by the Scripps College of Communication, the E.W.  Scripps  School of Journalism and the School of Communication Studies, O’Brien continues to produce “Black in America” documentaries for CNN.

“When my colleague Justice Hill first told me we might be able to bring Soledad O’Brien to campus, I realized it was a great opportunity for the journalism faculty and our students to be part of this conversation,” Robert Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism,  said in this piece.O’Brien is hosting town-hall conversations throughout February – Black History Month – to share her own professional and life experiences with audiences.  Her “Black in America” effort premiered on CNN in 2008 as a multi-part series of documentaries covering issues, challenges and culture of African Americans across the country.

My employer, meanwhile, will feature three journalists this spring talking about race-related topics. The Miami University Lecture Series Committee will bring in Juan Williams and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Feb. 26 for a panel discussion called “Freedom Summer: The Voting Rights Act and the Political Realities of 2014.” On March 17, Jose Antonio Vargas, lately of the Washington Post, will be in Oxford to present “Define America: Let’s Talk About Immigration.”

See details for the Feb. 26 event at For more on the March 17 event go to


The case for local coverage

Here’s another new piece from Columbia Journalism Review that’s worth a few minutes of your time…..especially for Ohioans interested in news from Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard, the Dec. 31, 2007, shuttering of its Cincinnati Post and the 2009 closing of its Rocky Mountain News.

The piece, titled “Putting the bundle back?,” starts with a quick review of some of the newest news on innovative web sites (can’t believe Friend of Miami University Bill Keller will leave the Times!) — then moves on to why local news, however its delivered, still matters:

Here’s the top:

“‘It seems like ambitious new journalism projects are everywhere these days. The announcement that former New York Times editor Bill Keller will lead a nonprofit startup covering the criminal justice system arrived just as Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media launched its first “digital magazine” and as Ezra Klein begins staffing up his “Project X” venture at Vox Media. Meanwhile, powerful incumbents like The Washington Post, The New York Times and ESPN are producing new branded online initiatives that move away from traditional newsgathering and reporting routines. It’s an important moment for rethinking how to organize and fund the production of news. As we watch these projects unfold, however, it’s worth remembering that the staid local newspaper still offers specific civic benefits that the new models will be hard-pressed to replace, especially at the local and state level. “

See the full piece here.



CJR outlines Advance’s Cleveland strategy

Confused about what’s happening in the Cleveland market with continual change at the venerable Cleveland Plain Dealer?

Me too. But this new piece from the Columbia Journalism Review provides some clarity:

In a nutshell: Advance Publication now runs the PD along with a site called the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Whether they are — or should be — one or two companies is at the heart of a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board by the local Newspaper Guild.

One message that comes through loud and clear: “Digital first” thinking wins the day, whether employed by the Plain Dealer or the new NOMG.



Miami students take NYC!

Miami students met with six  New York Times staffers during their January "NYC Media" course.

Miami students met with six New York Times staffers during their “NYC Media” course.

Thanks to Miami University’s new Winter Term, 17 JRN/COM students spent a week in the Big Apple with NYC Media Jan. 12-16.

I had a great time putting together an itinerary that included Q&As with some 35 media pros at 15 different news organizations. Among them: New York Times, NBC, ABC, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Fox and several magazines. We squeezed Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert (got into tapings for both!) and, of course, “Newsies” on Broadway.
Want the details? I made student blog — so I did too:
Great trip — and a nice new “Winter Term” payday, too. (Yes, journo friends: Life in the Ivory Tower does have its perks!)

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