“Secret Execution” bill moves forward

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a so-called “Secret Executions” bill on Thursday, 61-25, a day after a House committee pushed it out to the full chamber with a 9-4 vote.

The Senate will likely take up a version of the measure after Thanksgiving.

The bill is bad for journalists in Ohio (and elsewhere) as it adds secrecy to a process already plagued by controversy. It is aimed primarily at keeping secret the identities of manufacturers of lethal-injection drugs and of medical professionals who administer the drugs — but would have wider implications for transparency on capital punishment in the state.

SPJ joined the fight against the bill. Former national SPJ president Kevin Smith and I drafted a statement that he presented before the committee on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Current president Dana Neuts reacted with a statement of her own following the committee vote.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s penal system got another black eye this week, when a judge exonerated two Ohio inmates convicted for a 1975 murder. Both had spent time on Death Row during their incarcerations.

The effort to fight the Secret Executions measure will continue when it reaches the Ohio Senate. Ohio is scheduled to execute its next Death Row inmate Feb. 11, 2015.

 

 

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No on ‘secret executions’

patOhio has had a long and problematic history with capital punishment. It has executed 393 convicted murderers in its history, first via hanging, then in the electric chair and since 1993 with lethal injection. Put out of the death business in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional, Ohio made the practice legal in the state again in 1981. Since actually resuming executions in 1999, Ohio’s practices have sparked constant controversy.

Finally in 2011, Ohio’s Supreme Court assembled a task force to investigate those controversies, issuing a report in April with a range of sound recommendations.

Now comes House Bill 663 – the so-called Secret Executions Bill – that would make the already difficult job of covering capital punishment more difficult.

The bill would allow the state to keep secret “information and records that relate in any manner to the execution of a death sentence and that are made confidential, privileged, and not subject to disclosure under the bill’s nondisclosure provisions,” according to an analysis by the non-partisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

While the bill is aimed at banning the public from learning what drugs Ohio uses for executions, who provides them and who administers them, the broad language – prohibiting release of  “information … in any manner” related to those topics– flies in the face of Ohio’s sunshine laws.

More specifically, the bill would make secret information about lethal injection formulations just as Ohio grapples with critical decisions about how to carry out executions while avoiding cruel and unusual treatment of condemned inmates. Ohio, recall, has botched four executions in recent years, mostly recently last January when its newest “drug cocktail” took 25 minutes to kill inmate Dennis McGuire.

In reaction to the McGuire case, the state said it would change its drug protocol – again – and U.S. District Judge Greg Frost put a moratorium on executions through January.

HB663 threatens to put capital punishments behind the curtain at a time when transparency could not be more essential.

Ohio has scheduled 11 executions through the end of 2016. Another 128 Death Row inmates await their execution dates.

As long as Ohio law still allows for the death penalty – and legislative efforts to repeal the practice routinely fail – journalists must be allowed to report fully and fairly on how the state applies the death penalty in all of those cases.

The Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee will conduct its second hearing on the bill Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. in room 115 of the statehouse in Columbus. A third hearing – and possible vote – will follow on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 3:30 p.m. in the same place. The bill, introduced less than two weeks ago on Nov. 10, would become law March 20 if passed.

Now is the time for journalists – and anyone committed to transparency on this issue – to weigh in.

Here are your options:

  • Contact bill sponsors Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, at 614-466-6344 or www.ohiohouse.gov/jim-buchy and Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, at 614-466-9624 or www.ohiohouse.gov/matt-huffman.
  • Contact other members of the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, listed at http://www.ohiohouse.gov/committee/policy-and-legislative-oversight
  • Sign a petition against the bill, drafted by Ohioans to Stop the Death Penalty, at www.otse.org.
  • Show up at the Statehouse hearings this week.

 

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Race & media on Nov. 13

Hats off to the Point Park University Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for a putting together a super relevant program for Nov. 13. 

The Pittsburgh student chapter will present “The Ethics of Representing Race in Media: Combating Profiles and Stereotypes by 1 Hood. Thanks to chapter adviser Aimee-Marie Dorsten for forwarding the chapter’s flyer:

THE ETHICS OF REPRESENTING RACE IN MEDIA: COMBATING PROFILES AND STEREOTYPES
by

An Alternative Media Performance-Workshop**

Thursday, Nov. 13
7pm
200 Lawrence Hall/Multipurpose Room

FREE

Featuring:
Jasiri X
Rapper and New Millennium Civil Rights Activist

Free Audio Download http://jasirix.bandcamp.com/track/trayvon
For more information:
 1hood.org
You Tube Search: Jasiri X

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‘Law & Media’ on Oct. 10

The Central Ohio chapter will once again pair with the Ohio State Bar Association for its annual Law and Media Conference. The Oct. 10 event at the Bar Association offices will include:

  • Lawyers, journalists, judges and academics discussing hot media law topics.
  • CNN’s Martin Savidge as guest panelist in a plenary session titled “Data Privacy and the News: Hackers, Leakers, Journalists and Spies.”
  • Concurrent seminar topics that include reporting on political mudslinging within legal and ethical limits, open meetings, accessing public records, mediating public records disputes, using digital analytics to measure audiences, Internet’s effect on journalism, native advertising, libel and “twibel” and the effect of online comments on news credibility.

Joining the Columbus SPJ chapter and Bar Association as sponsors of the Media and Law Conference are the Ohio Newspaper Association and Ohio Association of Broadcasters.

The registration form includes costs and other information.

 

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Cincy restaging ‘Cabaret’

The Greater Cincinnati chapter wants local journos to bring their war stories to its second annual JOURNALISM CABARET on Oct. 8.

With an “open mike” setting, journalists are invited to take to the stage to tell stories about their best, their worst or their funniest experiences in journalism.

Want in? Show up at the Below Zero Lounge, 1122 Walnut St., 6-9 p.m.

Bring your stage face. Costumes optional. First drink on the chapter; open bar thereafter.

Contact chapter prez Tom McKee at tmckee@wcpo.com with questions.

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Athens in 2015

 

OU's SPJ chapter picked up Campus Chapter of the Year in Nashville.

OU’s SPJ chapter picked up Campus Chapter of the Year in Nashville.

Calender update: Be sure to save the date for the regional conference in Athens, Ohio, March 20-21. The Ohio University chapter is taking the lead and already has a game plan for sessions.

But — big BUT — we need wide region involvement! So if you have an idea for a panel or a suggestion on who might be a good panelist for the list of likely panels, reach out to our most excellent chapter adviser in Athens, Nerissa Young, at young2@ ohio.edu or 740.593.2675.

She’s standing by at this very moment for your suggestions!

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Columbus fetes Smith

Kevin Smith picked up SPJ's top honor for his work on the new Ethics Code and other efforts.

Kevin Smith picked up SPJ’s top honor for his work on the new Ethics Code and other efforts.

Kevin Z. Smith — former SPJ prez, former R4 regional director and former long-time chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee — will be the guest of honor at the Central Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists/Ohio State University event Oct. 2, related to Ethis in the Media and SPJ’s new Code of Ethics. Smith won SPJ’s highest service award at the September national convention in Nashville, the Wells Key Memorial Award.

Smith is deputy director of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University.

The Columbus/OSU event will be on OSU’s campus in Room 106 of the Journalism Building, 242 W. 18th Ave., at 6 p.m.

Congrats to Smith for his leadership of the revision and the Ethics Committee!

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‘Ohio’s Best’ event Oct. 25

Region 4 journalists and journalist-wanna-bes can rub shoulders with some of the best journalists in Ohio Oct. 25 in Cleveland.

Who are they? The winners of  Ohio’s Best 2014 competition, hosted by the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati SPJ chapters — are all available on the contest’s website.

The awards luncheon will start at noon in the Idea Center, housing the studios of WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN and WCLV 104.9, at the Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland. The Playhouse is a Cleveland landmark, having featured performances by Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Al Jolson and other stars of the entertainment world since the Roaring Twenties. Following the luncheon, guests are invited to enjoy a 90-minute backstage tour of the site.

Want in? Sign-ups are underway at http://tinyurl.com/spj2014awards

For more information, call or text Tony Kozlowski at 440-785-7136 or contest coordinator Mike Lorz at 614-395-3884.

 

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OU hosts ‘Tinker Tour’

Mary Beth Tinker and her brother, John, protested the Vietnam war by wearing black armbands to school.

Mary Beth Tinker and her brother, John, protested the Vietnam war by wearing black armbands to school.

As a junior high school student, she led a fight for free speech to protest the Vietnam War. As an adult, she tours the country explaining what that fight means today.

Mary Beth Tinker, one of the plaintiffs in the precedential lawsuit Tinker v. Des Moines, will visit Ohio University to speak to classes and the community about the lawsuit that established free-speech rights for students in schools.

“Rights are like muscles. If we don’t use them, we could lose them,” Tinker said. “Many people are saying that the youth vote will be critical in November.  No wonder — youth will be so affected by upcoming decisions, whether it’s tuition prices, employment, the environment, war or so much more.”

Tinker was 13 years old in 1965 when she and her brother wore black armbands to their schools in Des Moines, Iowa, protesting the government’s actions in Vietnam. School officials suspended the Tinkers, saying the armbands disrupted school activities.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court where Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the majority opinion the words to which free-speech advocates have since clung, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Mary Beth Tinker launched the Tinker Tour last fall.

Mary Beth Tinker launched the Tinker Tour last fall.

Tinker said, “I’m from the Midwest — Missouri and Iowa — where we have a strong appreciation for rights and the idea that we need to use them if we want equality and democracy.”

“Having Mary Beth Tinker speak to our students about First Amendment issues is invaluable,” said E.W. Scripps School of Journalism director Robert Stewart. “They won’t think about the First Amendment the same way after hearing about her experience firsthand.”

“It’s a rare experience for people to meet in person someone they have studied in the history books,” added Nerissa Young, adviser to the Ohio University campus chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. “Since the Tinker Tour launched a year ago, I was hopeful we could bring her to campus.”

Tinker will discuss her experiences in a free, public presentation Sept. 25 in the Baker Center Theater at 5 p.m. She is expected to answer questions about two free-speech Ohio University controversies: the blood-bucket anti-Israel challenge of OU Student Senate President Megan Marzec and the federal lawsuit against the university filed by Isaac Smith regarding a campus group’s T-shirt at the 2013 Campus Involvement Fair.

“The First Amendment and controversy go hand in hand,” Tinker said. “What are our rights? What are the limits? I can’t wait to discuss current issues of student expression with OU students, whether it’s T-shirts and ‘bucket’ campaigns but other issues as well.”

Tinker, a pediatric nurse, began a national tour in fall 2013 to high schools, college campuses, church groups and others to educate and empower young people about their rights and responsibilities to speak up. The tour is a project of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Her visit is sponsored by the Ohio University chapter of Society of Professional Journalists and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Athens activist Arlene Sheak, a friend of Tinker’s, helped arrange the visit.

UPDATE at 9/26/14: To watch Tinker’s presentation at OU, visit: http://www.ohio.edu/media/?videoid=F5B10AF95056A81E8DF6B78F5CB9BA7B

Note:  Special thanks to Nerissa Young, lecturer in journalism at OU and adviser to its SPJ chapter, for providing info for this posting.

 

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Nashville Need-to-Knows

Back from an action-packed national conference in Nashville, with some highlights:

First, kudos to outgoing President Dave Cuillier who moved SPJ forward on many fronts during the past year, especially advocacy efforts and visibility among journalism groups; to executive director Joe Skeel for crafting a long-term vision for SPJ; and to Dana Neuts, our 2014-15 president, for bringing the first “SPJ online communities” along.

Here are my takeways from five days in Nashville:

Dana Neuts assumed the top SPJ spot in Nashville.

Dana Neuts assumed the top SPJ spot in Nashville.

  • SPJ is changing with the industry and looking to increase the volume of its voice and the validity of its place among journalism groups working to protect the First Amendment.
  • Cuillier, who will stay on as head of the FOI committee, enhanced the long-term goals outlined by ED Skeel with his proposal, passed by the board in Nashville, to create a $75,000 endowment account as part of the Legal Defense Fund.
  • Miami students Sara Dastagir and Sarah McIlwain grabbed NPR star Michele Norris for a group shot.

    Miami students Sara Dastagir and Sarah McIlwain grabbed NPR star Michele Norris for a group shot.

    Programmers, working with the support of Scott Leadingham at SPJ HQ, offered a diverse mix of sessions for journalists of all ages, all skill levels and all employers. (Special thanks to those of you who made my two sessions – the Race Panel with Michele Norris, Jerry Mitchell, Kathleen Wickham and Bob Butler; and the New Media Entrepreurs discussion with Brian Stelter, Kara Swisher and Etienne Uzac.)

A few fav moments:

  • Wins. Always feels good to win. Especially if you played even a tiny-teeny role in making it happen. I was thrilled that other members of the board endorsed my nominations for the Cincinnati chapter as small chapter of the year and the Ohio University chapter as student chapter of the year. They did all the work, of course. I was happy to promote their accomplishments. But not as happy as they were to win! (Tip to pro and student chapters alike: A well-written, detailed annual report is a powerful tool when it comes time to pick the winners. Brag on your accomplishments!)
Tom McKee, with Dave Cuillier, collected Cincinnati's big award.

Tom McKee, with Dave Cuillier, collected Cincinnati’s big award.

  • More wins. In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that Kevin Smith helped me land at Miami University 18 years ago. He was teaching in Oxford at the time and, because we were SPJ acquaintances, let me know Miami was looking for a visiting instructor way back in the fall of 1997.  I’ve watched Kevin climb the ranks of SPJ, move from job to job, and maintain his good humor and dedication to ethics all the while. Quite a big moment for him and all of us in Region 4 to be on hand as SPJ awarded Kevin him its highest honor – the Wells Memorial Keys. He did a stellar job of overhauling the SPJ Code of Ethics, with lots of last-minute behind-the-scenes negotiating.
Lindsay Friedman ran the OU chapter in 2013-14, with Kate Hiller taking over this year.

Lindsay Friedman ran the OU chapter in 2013-14, with Kate Hiller taking over this year.

In other news:

  • Save March 20-21, 2015, for the Region 4 conference at OU in Athens. The chapter already has a game plan in place for sessions. Adviser Nerissa Young (youngn2@ohio.edu) would be happy to hear from you with suggestions of panelists from your locale. Speaking of Nerissa, she showed her stuff in rushing to the aide of Pittsburgh stalwart Ginny Frizzi. Sadly, Ginny had to have an emergency foot amputation while in Nashville. Nerissa and Becky Tallent of the University of Idaho worked with national staff to attend to Ginny’s needs.  She’s back in Pittsburgh now and would, I’m sure, appreciate hearing from her Region 4 friends at 1715 Chislett St., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15206, or 412-361-6028.

What else?

  • Great session on media issues from Ferguson, Missouri. Panelists noted that journalists have far less access on big “crisis stories” in a post 9/11 world. That’s especially true given the new militarization of local police forces.
Kara Swisher joined Etienne Uzac and Brian Stelter to tackle media entrepreneurship.

Kara Swisher joined Etienne Uzac and Brian Stelter to tackle media entrepreneurship.

  • If you don’t know the name Kara Swisher, you should — or will soon. She was the belle of the ball – showcasing her big ideas and big personality on three or four panels. The co-creator of the Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD created a new site in January. Check her and the site out at recode.net. Smart, sassy – and proof that great ideas and hard work are still great combinations in the Internet Age.
  • Students – and working pros – need personal/professional web sites. Long gone are the days of printing off resumes, copying clips, working up demo tapes – and sending them off via USPS. Today’s hiring news managers want to see your work on a digital platform. And if it does not grab them in mere seconds, they move on to the next link in their folder.
  • EIJ15 will be in Orlando, Sept. 8-10, 2015, with the 2016 national convo in New Orleans (also Sept. 8-10) and the 2017 event in Anaheim.  (BTW, as part of the national strategy to expand partnerships with other journalism groups and lock-in preferential pricing, our national execs are working on a plan to rotate conventions between four to six cities. I made a pitch for a Midwestern venue to stay on the list; Chicago is in the running!)

Finally, if you did not make it to Nashville, you missed a real treat in the Opryland Hotel. With lush gardens and water features, it felt like a quick trip to the Amazon. (The directionally challenged however — that would be ME! — wore a lot of tread from the tires walking in circles looking for rooms.)

Another SPJ convo; another badge for the bulletin board.

Another SPJ convo; another badge for the bulletin board.

Hope to see you in Athens in March! In the meantime, keep sending me updates about what’s happening in your chapter.

And catch me on Twitter at @pattinewberry. I finally jumped into the Twittersphere (is that a word?) this summer and had fun trying to keep up with veteran Tweeters in Nashville.

 

 

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