Save the date: Combined 4/5 Regional is April 1-2

One of the many pleasures of attending the annual Excellence in Journalism conference is meeting up with Region 4 members. This year, the pleasure was doubled as Region 4 and 5 members met together to begin planning a joint Region 4-5 spring conference.Kingsgate

And thanks to some pre-EIJ conversations, we’ve already booked the Kingsgate Marriott and Conference Center in Cincinnati for April 1-2 for the Regional.

The Regional Conference Planning Committee collected lots of great topic and speaker ideas in Orlando — and invites you to add to the list. Who would you like to meet? What topic do you think would attract students, pros, academics and others? Would you volunteer to set up a panel? Moderate? At this point everything is on the table and all ideas are good ideas. Send yours to me at by Oct. 15. (We’ll keep taking ideas after that, but that’s our first idea deadline.)

Kingsgate, by the way, sits adjacent to the University of Cincinnati campus. It’s a short walk to lots of great entertainment options on campus; and a short ride to the hopping scenes in Cincinnati’s downtown, Over the Rhine and Mount Adams areas, as well as over the river in Northern Kentucky. So you’ll be educated by day — and entertained by night!

What else happened in Orlando?

  • Good sessions, from first day to last.
  • New leadership, on the board and elsewhere.
  • Lots and lots of recognition for Region 4 members, reported in earlier 4th Estate posts.

Ohio Bar hosts annual law-media conference

law-media conf f15The Ohio State Bar Association, with the support of the Columbus chapter of SPJ, will once again host its popular Law and Media Conference. The event is Oct. 16 in Columbus, 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

Journalists, lawyers, academics, judges and others will take up such topics as police body cameras, drones, defamation, hot privacy issues and legislation that could affect the Ohio Public Records Act.

One session sure to fill the room: “Punching Out Scruff Face: Jesse Ventura/American Sniper Libel Lessons.” According to event material, speakers (from New York, Minneapolis and Columbus) will provide “a deep dive into the facts and defamation law surrounding the Jesse Ventura v. Kyle case and discuss its potential future impact on media and the First Amendment.”

The Ohio Association of Broadcasters and Ohio Newspaper Association join SPJ as co-sponsor of the conference.

Costs begin at $15 for students and $30 for professionals and go up after Oct. 9, with more information on the Bar Association website.



Cincy chapter to host DuBose session

DuBose session f15The Cincinnati chapter will host “Words & Images: A Media Debrief and Community Conversation” on Oct. 8 to discuss a high-profile July police shooting and the media’s coverage of it.

Panelists will examine all aspects of news coverage of the death of Samuel DuBose, a unarmed black motorist who was shot to death by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on July 19 after being stopped for driving a car without a front license plate.

Panelists will include attorneys for both the DuBose and Tensing families, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black, Julie Wilson of the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Cincinnati Human Relations Commission Executive Director Ericka King-Betts, and representatives from several Cincinnati media outlets.

The event will be sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Jewish Community Relations Council, The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, and the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.

The discussion will run 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, in downtown Cincinnati.

“This is a critical discussion that hasn’t had a public forum, until now,” said Hagit Limor, former Society of Professional Journalists national president and panel moderator. “We look forward to providing everyone the opportunity to be part of this community.”

RSVPs are requested by Oct. 6 at

Journalists interested in covering the panel may contact Jackie Congedo, Cincinnati SPJ, at or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center,, (513) 333-7511.

EIJ15, one photo at a time

EIJ15 was a whirlwind of words, words and more words. I’ll get to those soon — but today, 48 hours after re-entry to the Day Job — the best I can manage is a photo mash-up, with cutlines below. Great to see so many Region 4 SPJers in Orlando — and to see so many recognized for their good work!


Row 1: Sue Porter, vice president at the Scripps Howard Foundation in Cincinnati, took home SPJ’s highest honor, the prestigious Wells Key Award. Former SPJ President Hagit Limor, right in photo, serves on the SDX board with Porter. The Columbus Dispatch and Student Press Law Center won the Eugene Pulliam First Amendment Award for their work on campus crime coverage.

Row 2: Ohio University SPJ chapter adviser Nerissa Young won recognition as the David L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Adviser, while OU senior Kate Hiller won election as one of two student representatives to the SPJ National Board. Cincinnati chapter president Tom McKee of WCPO-TV, with wife Claudia, was honored as one of two pro members of the year.

Row 3: Miami of Ohio students Brett Milam, Alyssa Sato and Ariel Wiley traveled to Orlando with me to up their SPJ cred. Otterbein 360 and adviser Hillary Warren won an SPJ Sunshine Award for their successful battle to open police records at their central Ohio campus.

Row 4 and 5: My four panels — Suicide & Sources; Covering Ferguson & Baltimore; A Rape on Campus; and Covering Cuba — drew respectable crowds despite heavy competition. Happy to see University of Cincinnati prof, SPJ adviser and fellow Cuba traveler Jenny Wohlfarth (center in final photo) at the Cuba session.

Note: Other Region 4 winners included the Cleveland chapter, recognized with a Circle of Excellence Award for its communication outreach, and the OU chapter, recognized as Region 4 student chapter of the year.



Dispatch, SPLC share Pulliam Award

campusinsecurityA little late — but another big honor for Region 4.

SPJ announced on July 24 that the Columbus Dispatch and the Student Press Law Center were awarded the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for their fight against hidden campus crime rates. The award comes with a $10,000 prize.

The Dispatch and SPLC worked together last year on an investigative series titled “Campus Insecurity,” available here.

“Most campuses are anything but secure. And worse, administrators have cloaked their campus crime rates and poor response to them in secrecy — failing to take some complaints seriously, shunting what should be criminal cases into closed-door campus judicial hearings handled by untrained faculty and students, and refusing public records about the cases or stalling when asked for them,” the authors wrote.

The series revealed flawed and unreliable crime statistics, which misrepresent crime on campuses. In some cases, campus officials failed to even report violent crimes.

The series also exposed lack of transparency on college campuses, especially related to judicial hearings involving crimes.

“Because of all of their hard work, they informed the public of a very serious issue and brought awareness to the importance of accurate crime reporting,” SPJ said in its press release, noting that Dispatch and SPLC staffers had to fight to get public records.

They will honored Sept. 20 at the President’s Installation Banquet during Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando.


OU’s Young a winner

Nerissa Young and her SPJ students staged a well-run, high-impact regional conference in Athens, Ohio, in March 2015.

Nerissa Young and her SPJ students staged a well-run, high-impact regional conference in Athens, Ohio, in March 2015.

Region 4 continued to wrack up honors this week, as the SPJ national office released news of members who will be honored at EIJ15 in September.

The latest honoree: Nerissa Young, adviser to the SPJ chapter at Ohio University in Athens, as the David L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Adviser Award recipient.

The award, launched in 1978, is presented annually to a campus adviser who “has made an exceptional contribution to the campus chapter for which he or she serves.”

In her nomination letter, former OU chapter president Kate Hiller said Young is devoted to SPJ and is always available to help her students. For example, she drove six students to Nashville last year for Excellence in Journalism 2014, so they could participate in the annual convention. The Ohio University SPJ chapter holds the title of National Campus Chapter of the Year for 2014.

“Ms. Young is one of the most dedicated professionals I have ever met,” Hiller said. “She works hard every day to make our chapter, the students in her classes and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism the best it can be. She has been a very involved member of SPJ since 1991, and has led the chapters she has been involved with to win national awards for the organization.”

(Personal note: I’ve known Nerissa a good number of years now. She is endlessly devoted to her students, her institition, SPJ and her family. She is also the ultimate go-to girl. If Nerissa says she’ll get something done, she will — efficiently and expertly. Congrats, friend.)

Otterbein 360 honored

OtterbeinOtterbein 360, the student-run web site at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, is one of five winners of the 2015 SPJ national Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The award recognizes people or organizations for their contributions to open government.

At Otterbein 360, former editor Anna Schiffbauer and colleagues, working with faculty adviser Hillary Warren, submitted a public records request for police reports of student and non-student criminal cases in 2014. The request was denied on the grounds that “a private university’s police records are not public.” A mandamus action was filed, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order the release of the documents.

In 2015, the Court ruled that police departments at private universities are public offices and therefore must provide public records.

Hagit Limor, chair of the SPJ Legal Defense Fund (and an investigative TV reporter who also teaches journalism at the University of Cincinnati), said the LDF committee “felt so strongly [about Otterbein 360’s case] we awarded $5,000 toward the legal battle and recommended the Society of Professional Journalists Board of Directors approve an additional $5,000 in LDF funding.”

In a press release from SPJ, Limor said: “Students fight many battles beyond the challenges facing professional journalists but this is one that will benefit all. Private universities now are compelled to provide records previously hidden from public scrutiny. While this case compels the Otterbein University police chief to produce criminal records crucial to student safety, one could see the application of this ruling expanded. The court said it would apply to any entity that exercises a ‘government function.’ ”

Other Sunshine Award winners, all to be recognized at Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 18-20:

  • Ed Timms and Kevin Krause of the Dallas Morning News, for an investigation into the practices of a non-profit created by local governments.
  • Brad Heath of USA TODAY’s for his investigation into the almost 200,000 fugitives in the United States who were secretly allowed to “escape justice merely by crossing a state border.”
  • Carolyn James — SPJ Freedom of Information chair for New York State and chair of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University — for her open government advocacy and efforts.

Cincinnati leader honored

Field experience is critical, Tom McKee, a reporter with WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, tells students at the Region 4 conference in Athens, Ohio, in March.

Field experience is critical, Tom McKee, a reporter with WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, tells students at the Region 4 conference in Athens, Ohio, in March.

Tom McKee, president of the Cincinnati chapter of SPJ, is one of two winners of the annual Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Award for outstanding contributions to their SPJ chapters and regions.

Under McKee’s leadership, the Cincinnati chapter has developed and carried out a variety of programs in addition to continuing its annual sponsorship and selection of members of the Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame. The chapter was named the best small pro chapter last year. Long-time Cincinnati SPJers Emil Dansker nominated McKee for the latest honor.

Julie Asher, president of the Washington, D.C., pro chapter, is this year’s other Dubin winner. Asher is national editor at the Catholic News Service, an international daily religion news service for Catholic and other publications around the world.

Asher and McKee will be recognized at Excellence in Journalism 2015 Sept 18-20 in Orlando, Fla.

The Howard Dubin Award is given to no more than two members each year — one from a chapter of 75 or more members and one from less than 75 members. It is named for long-time SPJ member Howard Dubin of the Chicago Headline Club.


Goodbye, Columbus

Dispatch FB portraitOhio journalists spent much of today trying to wrap their brains around the latest family-owned media group to throw in the towel. The Dispatch Printing Co., owned by the Wolfe family, rocked the Buckeye media world Wednesday morning with news that it was selling its print operations to New Media Investment Group Inc. of New York.
New Media will get the Columbus Dispatch, 24 suburban papers, seven magazines — plus real estate, including the coveted Dispatch printing plant.
The Wolfe family will keep its TV and radio properties, along with Ohio News Network.
The seller and buyer said all the expected things: the Wolfes said they remain committed to Columbus; New Media CEO Michael Reed said it is committed to quality local content.
Staff members and readers, on Day One, are less convinced. There were tears in the newsroom, according to one reporter, and the mood was somber. On Facebook, where the Dispatch profile photo includes the slogan “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” readers expressed sadness and shame, and predicted staff cuts. New Media told employees it would not make any changes for 90 days.
Changes are inevitable, however, as the deeply staffed, family-run Dispatch is taken over by a Manhattan-based media investment firm.
New Media Investments (NYSE as NEWM) was created in February 2014, as the successor to GateHouse Media Inc., which had filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcty reorganization the prior fall. It is backed by a group called Fortress Investor Group and maintains offices a block north of the midtown offices of CNN, Fox and WSJ.
While the top execs all have deep roots in the media business (not always the case with the investment-driven owners), they have shareholders to worry about in addition to journalists. Revenue was up last year, thanks to eight acquisitions, but the bottom line was negative, with a $3.2 million loss for the year.
And the company is still on a spending spree that could depress short-term profits, having put out $540 million of a $1 billion war chest to grow since its inception.
New Media owns six Ohio properties, with three in the Canton area. It also prints the Akron paper. The majority of its assets are newspapers in small to medium markets, often very long established and the only game in town. At the end of the first quarter of 2015, New Media owned more than  560 community publications in about 475 markets in 32 states. It had 125 daily papers, more than Gannett Corp. with about 90.
In southern Ohio, the faculty of Miami University’s journalism program, my work home, are hoping assistant city editor Ruth Hanley will continue to make her annual visit to interview intern candidates. Hard to know at this juncture whether the well-supported internship program — with more than a dozen paid students from across the Midwest — will continue.

Congrats to our winners

Congrats to all Region 4 Mark of Excellence national “finishers,”  all of whom will be recognized at the Student Union event during Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 18-20. Three students or their employers were first-place winners and six others were finalists.

The list, released this week, includes:

  • Breaking News Photography (small papers), finalist —  Silent witness, Karleigh Santry, Slippery Rock University.
  • General News Photography (large papers), winner — Grand Haven community holds candlelight vigil for Trevor Howard,  Julie Angell, Michigan State University.
  • Best Student Magazine, finalist — Backdrop magazine, Ohio University.
  • Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper, winner — The State News, Michigan State University.
  • Best Digital-Only Student Publication, finalist — West Virginia Uncovered, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University.
  • Online Opinion & Commentary, finalist — TV columns, Meryl Gottlieb, Ohio University.
  • Radio News Reporting, winner — Greenworks employes ex-cons, Reem Nasr, University of Michigan.
  • Television Breaking News Reporting, finalist — CMU protests Ferguson decision, Clayton Cummins, Central Michigan University.
  • Television News and Feature Photography, finalist — There’s something happening here, Daniel Hamburg, Michigan State University.

SPJ posted the full list of winners on Monday.

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