And the winners are…

regionalconf-tag-2015The national office issued the press release below this morning, listing the MOE winners for Region 4 who were recognized in Athens on Saturday.

Winners who did not pick up their certificates of recognition — or have someone do that for them — will receive them in the mail.

Thanks to the Communications Office in Indianapolis for quick work on this.

* * * * * * * * *

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the 2014 Mark of Excellence Awards winners from Region 4. The MOE Awards honor the best of collegiate journalism from a calendar year.

SPJ’s Region 4 comprises Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Honorees received award certificates the weekend of March 21 at theRegion 4 Spring Conference in Athens, Ohio. First-place winners will move on to the national MOE competition among category winners from the 12 SPJ regions. National winners will be notified in the late spring and will be recognized at Excellence in Journalism 2015 (EIJ15) in Orlando, Florida, Sept. 18 to 20.

Entries are judged by professionals with at least three years of journalism experience. The awards honor the best in student journalism. As such, judges were directed to choose only those entries they felt were outstanding work worthy of such an honor. If the judges determined that none of the entries rose to the level of excellence, no award was given. Any category not listed has no winner.

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

See the list below for details on the Region 4 winners, and direct any MOE Awards questions to Awards Coordinator Abbi Martzall: awards@spj.org and 317.920.4791.

Note: The list reflects the spelling and titles submitted in the award-entry process.

ART/GRAPHICS
Breaking News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Capito elected first female senator to represent West Virginia – by Lexi Browning, Marshall University
Finalist: Cincinnati protests for Ferguson – by Madison Schmidt, Emily Begley, University of Cincinnati
Finalist: Healing service – by Chelsae Ketchum, Kent State University

Breaking News Photography (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Silent witness – by Karleigh Santry, Slippery Rock University

Feature Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Unbreakable bond – by Leah Klafczynski, Kent State University

Feature Photography (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Moonlight madness – by Jillian Philyaw, Cedarville University
Finalist: Columbus Day protesters – by Matt Nemeth, Point Park University
Finalist: Pie-eating contest – by Tianle Li, Cedarville University

General News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Grand Haven community holds candlelight vigil for Trevor Howard – by Julie Angell, Michigan State University
Finalist: Combat water survival – by Chelsae Ketchum, Kent State University
Finalist: Healing Field, Sept. 11, 2014 – by Lexi Browning, Marshall University

General News Photography (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: African choir – by Jillian Philyaw, Cedarville University
Finalist: The ‘Frosty Frolic’ river romp – by Matt Kaminski, California University of Pennsylvania
Finalist: Hashtags to tweets, students launch grassroots ‘CalUProud’ social media campaign – by Matt Kaminski, California University of Pennsylvania

Photo Illustration (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Spirited pumpkins – by Madison Schmidt, Emily Begley, University of Cincinnati
Finalist: Climb the mountain – by Haley Kluge, Michigan State University
Finalist: Jon Horford – by Allison Farrand, University of Michigan

Sports Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Hurdle – by Mark Batke, Ohio State University
Finalist: Tangled up – by Rachael Le Goubin, Kent State University
Finalist: Dunked – by Allison Farrand, University of Michigan

Sports Photography (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Dropped ball – by Rebecca Dietrich, Slippery Rock University
Finalist: Big dunk – by Jillian Philyaw, Cedarville University
Finalist: PSAC hamps – by Alex Mowrey, Slippery Rock University

MAGAZINES
Best Student Magazine
Winner: Backdrop Magazine – by Staff, Ohio University
Finalist: Southeast Ohio Magazine – by Staff, Ohio University
Finalist: Fusion Magazine – by Brittany Rees, Editor Shelby Nicholson, Art Director Kelli Fitzpatrick, Managing Editor, Kent State University School of Journalism

Non-Fiction Magazine Article
Winner: Drawn together – by Jacob DeSmit, Ohio University
Finalist: Pizza makes the man – by Chris Dobstaff, Ohio University
Finalist: Don’t sweat the small things – by Carley Hull, Kent State University

NEWSPAPERS
Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper
Winner: The State News – by Staff, Michigan State University
Finalist: The Post – by Staff, Ohio University
Finalist: The Michigan Daily – by The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan

Best All-Around Non Daily Student Newspaper
Winner: The University of Toledo Newspaper – by Staff, The University of Toledo
Finalist: The News Record – by The News Record staff, University of Cincinnati
Finalist: The Yellow Jacket – by Nick Farrell & Yellow Jacket Staff, Waynesburg University

Breaking News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Union in flames – by Staff, Ohio University
Finalist: Feds probe MSU for sexual assault misconduct – by Olivia Dimmer, Michigan State University
Finalist: President named: Schlissel, Brown provost, to succeed Coleman in July – by Peter Shahin, Jennifer Calfas, Sam Gringlas, University of Michigan

Breaking News Reporting (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Third student-athlete dismissed after new sexual assault investigation – by Abbey Nickel, The University of Findlay

Editorial Writing
Winner: The Parthenon staff editorials – by The Parthenon editorial staff, Marshall University
Finalist: The Post editorials – by Staff, Ohio University
Finalist: Editorial writing – by Staff, The University of Toledo

Feature Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: What is being Black at the University? – by Will Greenberg, University of Michigan
Finalist: #Anonymity – by Meryl Gottlieb, Ohio University
Finalist: Beauty over brains: Drunkorexia puts students in medical danger – by Olivia Braude, Miami University

Feature Writing (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: When life gets rough, any help welcomed – by Josh Herman, California University of Pennsylvania
Finalist: Shelters making pet adoption too dog gone hard – by Taylor Brown, California University of Pennsylvania
Finalist: New generation. New perspective. – by Kari Morris, Cedarville University

General Column Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Lean in further – by Jessica Ensley, Ohio University
Finalist: Columns by Danielle Seamon – by Danielle Seamon, Ohio State University
Finalist: Columns by Michele Theodore – by Michele Theodore, Ohio State University

General Column Writing (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Higl’s Squiggles – by Alexandra Higl, John Carroll University
Finalist: Opinions by Taylor Brown – by Taylor Brown, California University of Pennsylvania
Finalist: Cup of Joe – by Joe Ginley, John Carroll University

General News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Three hours of fear – by Staff, Kent State University
Finalist: Performance reviews for Ohio State employees – by Liz Young, Ohio State University
Finalist: The Michigan Daily’s coverage of the Brendan Gibbons situation – by Matt Slovin Adam Rubenfire, University of Michigan

General News Reporting (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Restaurant ministry closes after minimum wage hike – by Natalie deMacedo, Hillsdale College
Finalist: Detroit Institute of Arts aims for independence – by Micah Meadowcroft, Hillsdale College
Finalist: Wading through the storm – by Alexandra Higl, John Carroll University

In-Depth Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: A look at Ohio State’s administration – by Kayla Byler, Caitlin Essig, Kristen Mitchell and Liz Young, Ohio State University
Finalist: Booze, books and the balance – by Madison Curtis, Michele Theodore, Chelsea Spears and Liz Young, Ohio State University
Finalist: The perks of SGA – by Jacob Bojesson, West Virginia University

In-Depth Reporting (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: The costs of accreditation – by Lauren Eissler, Emily Finlay, Madison Troyer, Cedarville University
Finalist: Inauguration XV – by Yellow Jacket Staff and Nick Farrell, Waynesburg University
Finalist: Is grad school worth it? – by Staff, Cedarville University

Sports Column Writing
Winner: Sports column writing – by Greg Garno, University of Michigan
Finalist: Sports column writing – by Joshua Miller, Lauren Kremer, Phil Didion, University of Cincinnati
Finalist: Sports column writing – by Colin Hanner, Ohio University

Sports Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: In their own words: Former Rockets talk about their experiences with the I-75 rivalry – by Blake Bacho, The University of Toledo
Finalist: Tough love: As women step up to mixed martial arts, empowers sister – by Adrian Hedden, Central Michigan University
Finalist: Herd scores late touchdown to win first C-USA title – by Shannon Stowers, Marshall University

Sports Writing (Small) 1-9,999 Students
Winner: Two sports, one goal – by Jon Gallardo, Cedarville University
Finalist: They call him “Das Boot”, a profile on Cal U Punter Andrew Cerett – by Matt Hagy, California University of Pennsylvania

ONLINE
Best Affiliated Web Site
Winner:The News Record – by The News Record Staff, University of Cincinnati
Finalist: The Michigan Daily – by The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan
Finalist: statenews.com – by Staff, Michigan State University

Best Digital-Only Student Publication
Winner: West Virginia uncovered – by staff, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: Grand Central Magazine – by Samantha Smallish Kate Woodruff Jessica Fecteau, Central Michigan University

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: Coming home – by Chelsae Ketchum, Kent State University

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Shame – It’s okay to be not okay – by Soundarya Varma, Michigan State University
Finalist: Recycled clothing business brings jobs back home – by Tyler Mertins, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University
Finalist: Geocaching finds a home in West Virginia tourism – by Diane Jeanty, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University

Online In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Powerless: Six Stories of the 2013 Michigan Ice Storm – by Staff, Michigan State University

Online News Reporting
Winner: Living with Alzheimer’s – by Katie Amann, Michigan State University
Finalist: Hocking Hills horrors – by Kelly Fisher, Ohio University
Finalist: The advancement of the Islamic State – by Collin Krizmanich, Michigan State University

Online Opinion & Commentary
Winner: TV columnist – by Meryl Gottlieb, Ohio University

Online Sports Reporting
Winner: Inside the Huddle with Connor Cook – by Impact Sports Staff, Michigan State University
Finalist: Into the wild and back – by Colin Hanner, Ohio University
Finalist: Training athletes with disabilities – by Mason Dixon, Michigan State University

RADIO BROADCAST
Radio Feature
Winner: Micro-distilling in Michigan – by Steven Rich, Michigan State University
Finalist: Visiting Writers Series – by Rebecca Turnbull, Marshall University
Finalist: Tom Sawyer – by Jessica Patterson, Marshall University

Radio In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Exposure 6.03.14: Equality – by Steven Rich, Michigan State University

Radio News Reporting
Winner: Greenworks employees ex-cons – by Reem Nasr, University of Michigan
Finalist: Pigs at MSU student organic farm – by Gabriela Saldivia, Michigan State University
Finalist: Police Chief – by Amanda Reesman, Marshall University

Radio Sports Reporting
Winner: Evan Hudden feature – by James Collier, Marshall University
Finalist: Home for the Fountain Ceremony – by Adam Polsky, Marshall University

TELEVISION BROADCAST
Best All-Around Television Newscast
Winner: TV2 News: April 3, 2014 – by Nicole Septaric, Kent State University
Finalist: Focal Point Newscast: February, 14 2014 – by Focal Point Staff, Michigan State University
Finalist: UT: 10 News – by Staff, The University of Toledo

Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: CMU protests Ferguson decision – by Clayton Cummins, Central Michigan University
Finalist: Rachel Shoaf’s sentencing – by Nicole Linder, Reed College of Media
Finalist: Missing football player found dead, remembered for his passion – by Ritika Shah and Franz Ross, Ohio State University

Television Feature Reporting
Winner: Cuyahoga Valley scenic railroad – by Brian Ivey, Kent State University
Finalist: 88-foot tall visitor – by Jennifer Swanchara, Michigan State University
Finalist: There’s something happening here – by Daniel Hamburg, Michigan State University

Television General News Reporting
Winner: Mount Pleasant continues to contribute to the great beer state – by Erica Francis, Central Michigan University
Finalist: Who needs a ticket? – by Nicholas Blaskowski, Michigan State University
Finalist: Potholes in Morgantown – by Taylor Eaton, Reed College of Media

Television In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Physician aid-in dying – by Carmen Scruggs Jennifer Swanchara, Michigan State University
Finalist: OSU students catch peeping Tom masturbating outside off-campus homes – by Chelsea Spears and Ritika Shah, Ohio State University

Television News and Feature Photography
Winner: There’s something happening here – by Daniel Hamburg, Michigan State University
Finalist: I don’t believe I will keep my business – by Max Gun, Michigan State University
Finalist: Morgantown garbage fines residents – by Taylor Eaton, Reed College of Media

Television Sports Photography
Winner: MSU Rose Bowl on-field and locker room celebration – by Gregory Monahan, Michigan State University
Finalist: Yellowjackets fall in State Finals – by Mason Flick, Central Michigan University

Television Sports Reporting
Winner: Jasmine Harris returns Home – by Mason Flick, Central Michigan University
Finalist: Game day in Morgantown – by Brandon Vansickel, Reed College of Media
Finalist: Kent State women’s golf team – by Zach Harley, Kent State University

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500 tweets from Athens

OU chapter adviser, far left, and OU president Kate Hiller, second from right in front, worked with an able and energetic crew to stage the regional.

OU chapter adviser Nerissa Young, far left, and OU president Kate Hiller, third from right in front, worked with an able and energetic crew to stage the regional. (Photo by Eli Hiller.)

A giant (single) SPJ clap for the Ohio University chapter for staging a terrific Region 4 conference March 20-21.

The chapter, led by President Kate Hiller and advised by OU journalism instructor Nerissa Young, attracted 150 students, journalists and academics to Athens for relevant and important discussions about current topics in journalism.

Among the highlights:

  • OU grad Wesley Lowery, a political reporter for the Washington Post, offered evidence that not every parachute reporter is the same. To cover Ferguson, Mo., unrest and the Boston Marathon bombings, Lowery made a point to get away from the pack and into the community to talk to as many sources on the ground as possible.
  • Lowery, with three other crack political journalists, noted that Hillary Clinton’s email mess has become a reliable punchline for GOP hopefuls in pre-campaign mode. As they handicapped the 2016 presidential race, they predicted that high-minded issue-oriented political coverage will once again have to compete with low-level click-bait news (think Ted Cruz and the 3-year-old in New Hampshire). No one exactly called it, but the four seemed pretty convinced it’ll be Bush vs. Clinton in 2016.
    National Secretary-Treasurer Lynn Walsh made it back to her alma mater for the Region 4 conference.

    National Secretary-Treasurer Lynn Walsh was back at her alma mater for the Region 4 conference. (Photo by Gary www.journalismorbust.com.)

     

  • On the legal front, former national SPJ president Kevin Smith, now at Ohio State University, reported that efforts toward a federal shield law are, at present, dead. Tara Tighe, an assistant U.S. attorney in West Virginia, said federal courts are allowing for more media access each year, citing current coverage of the Boston Bombing trial as an example. Good media practices will help accelerate that trend, she noted.
  • Student members of a panel on internships offered evidence that networking is essential – and pays off. OU senior Jim Ryan, editor of The Post, has worked for three papers and a network affiliate and will intern for The Oregonian in Portland this summer. Josh Jamerson, an OU senior who is a senior editor at The Post, will intern at The New York Times this summer after earlier internships at The Wall Street Journal, the Detroit Free Press and The Columbus Dispatch. Arielle Hines, a junior at Central Michigan University, is writing for USAToday College, her fifth media employer. Central to their success: Figuring out who to talk to about opportunities and how to reach them.
  • When it comes to gender identity and journalism, the best tip is one of the oldest: Ask your sources how they want to be identified. He? She? They? Two Spirit? With growing attention to transgender issues, journalists are struggling to keep up with the options, according to panelists delfin bautista and Alfred Walking Bull. When in doubt, ask. Another essential tip: Do not assume trans sources are out in whole just because they grant an interview. Ask about that too.

All that – plus a lively opening reception in the “living room” in the new OU home of the Scripps School of Communications; terrific mixing and mingling between students, pros and profs; plentiful and pleasing menus (more cheese, anyone?); and comfortable accommodations in the Baker University Center.

For more highlights and plenty of photos — great shots, Eli Hiller and Gary at journalismorbust.com — visit the OU chapter on Facebook or read the Twitter chatter – 500-plus tweets in about 24 hours!

Next up: The hunt for a 2016 Region 4 conference site. I had a fruitful conversation with hosts for one possible site. Any other takers? Be in touch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To (good) journalists: Happy Valentines Day

All week, I’d been writing a Valentine’s Day letter to my husband in my head.

Then Brian Williams fell and Jon Stewart quit and Bob Simon lost his life in traffic and David Carr — oh, God, no, not David Carr — dropped dead in the newsroom after yet another week of covering the hell out of one of the most heart-wrenching weeks in American journalism.

So sorry, spouse-that-I-love, my Valentine goes to journalists today.

My Valentine’s card to Brian Williams is a heart, ripped in half. When the suave, good-looking face of NBC News revealed, at long last, that he “misremembered” his role in covering a story in Iraq, he became just another hack with a tall tale.

For Jon Stewart, I offer a Valentine of thanks – thanks for serving as watchdog of the watchdogs, thanks for making news cool with college kids, thanks for adding levity to some of the worst news stories of the past 17 years. But no thanks for keeping me up past 11 far too many nights.

For Bob Simon, I offer a Valentine apology. I wish I knew your work better. I wish I’d shared it with my students. I wish I remembered to watch “60 Minutes” more often.

Carr, the survivor of cancer surgery that weakened his neck muscles, often wore a scarf in public.

Carr, the survivor of cancer surgery that weakened his neck muscles, often wore a scarf in public.

For David Carr, I offer a Valentine pronouncement: You were the heart of American journalism.

I “met” Carr a few years ago when I invited him to Skype into a class. I read a Media Equation column I loved, I shot him an email, and I asked if I might book him for a virtual visit to class. He came through – and spent an hour answering questions from students he’d never met at a university he’d never visited. With his legendary wit and wisdom on full display, students were wowed by him – and the family dog cavorting around his kitchen.

When I began assembling a class called NYC Media a few years later, he was top on my hit list. Lucky me, he said yes again – in 2014 and 2015.

When we visited in 2014, he offered generous praise of his employer and colleagues. He said his bosses were smart to push The Times’ digital initiatives (“That’s the pony we’re going to ride.”), deep reporting (“We’re almost never going to be first. But we’re almost always going to be best.”), and supportive editing (“This place will pick you up and throw you over the goal line on deadline.”) He also extolled students to be open with sources, especially in tougher stories. He recommended one of his own lines: “Put the nut cup on. It’s not going to be a very friendly column.”

When he chatted with a new group of students just last month, on Jan. 14, he had a whole new script from recent columns and stories.

In the wake the Charlie Hebdo deaths, he lamented changing attitudes toward journalists in hot zones or dealing with hot topics. “It used to be we got a pass.” He also said he disagreed with Times’ management decision not to run the relevant Hebdo cartoons, saying, “When you hide stuff it gives it power.”

On Sony Pictures’ decision to hold release of “The Interview,” he said, “Do not tell me what I can f—‘g watch.”

On the growing number of tools that make us all our own media curators, he wondered, “What happens when we have no serendipity?” (Of those tools, he noted that Snapchat “doesn’t satisfy my need for story or narrative.” The app, he said, seems to say: “ ‘I’m here. You see me.’ That blows a whistle I don’t hear.”)

On “The Night of the Gun,” his 2008 memoir, he said he aimed to tell a reported tale of his 1980s drug and alcohol addictions while raising money for his daughters’ college funds. But he worried his bosses might not be on board. “I gave it to them with an oven mitt,” he said. The reaction: They published an excerpt in The New York Times Magazine.

And he talked a lot about Twitter, with its power to award instant gratification and inspire uncivil behavior.

  • He’d just tweeted out a photo of daughter Madeline and a friend after they visited him at work — “and it made me feel good for a minute.” (The friend loved Twitter exposure from Carr, who had more than 469,000 followers; the daughter, not so much.)
  • He avoided tit-for-tweets, believing “I get to say what I get to say. They get to say what they get to say.” (His imitation of a Twitter war: “You’re a moron.” “No, sir, you are a moron.”)
  • He tried to disarm hostile tweeters with a “thank you for writing” reply – and said that was sometimes enough for “hotheads (who) feel like they are yelling into a well.”

When he died, the Times’ obit recounted his gruff demeanor, his gravely voice and his reputation as a Tough Old Coot. Just as many tributes noted that David Carr was also a kind and generous man who made a singular impact as the nation’s most informed and erudite media critic.

DSC00253

Sixteen Miami University students meet with David Carr and two colleagues in January.

Some 50 Miami University journalism students, and their instructor, were among the legions who got a taste of both sides of the Man Who Decoded The Media Equation. On this day for sharing affection, I feel safe in saying they would join me in this love letter to his wizened wisdom.

(Happy Valentine’s Day, honey. I’ll write about you next year.)

 

 

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OU ready for your RSVP

OU logoThe Ohio University chapter is ready to take your registration for the Region 4 conference, set for March 20-21 in Athens, Ohio.

The chapter launched its conference Web site this week, with best rates available through March 1 and a higher walk-in rate after that. The registration fee covers an opening night reception on Friday, March 20, along with breakfast, lunch and snacks on Saturday, March 21. Hotel rooms (with options listed on the site) are extra.

At this date, organizers are planning sessions related to covering the environment, water issues, gender labeling, CMS debates and more. Mystery will be on the agenda, too: “Ghost story enthusiasts will learn about Athens’ haunted past and the abandoned ‘Ridges’ insane asylum that overlooks the main campus. History fans will learn about the journalism contributions and mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, who was born in neighboring Meigs County, Ohio,” according to the conference site.

The event will be at the Schoonover Center for Communication, home of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, kicking off with the Friday reception at 4 and wrapping up after a day of Saturday sessions at 5.

Need more information? Contact the chapter at ohiouspj@gmail.com.

Want to follow the action on Twitter? Use #Reg4SPJ.

Hope to see you in Athens!

 

 

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Ohio passes bill clouding execution process

In Ohio, 138 men on Death Row await execution in Lucasville, Ohio, above, with the lone woman sitting on death row in Marysville.

In Ohio, 138 men on Death Row await execution in Lucasville, Ohio, above, with the lone woman sitting on death row in Marysville.

Ohio will add secrecy to executions of death row inmates next March 20 — assuming the governor signs a bill passed yesterday.

The measure will allow the state to keep private the names of companies that make drugs used for executions, along with medical personnel who administer the drugs.
Supporters of the bill said the state needed to provide confidentially in order to obtain the drugs. Like other states with capital punishment, Ohio has had difficulty obtaining drugs for lethal injections, with manufacturers worried about negative public reaction to their participation in the process.
Opponents — including SPJ — argued against the bill as limiting transparency around executions.
While Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the bill next week, the debate could go on. “Prosecutors who want a condemned child killer executed in February say the legislation will undoubtedly lead to court challenges, and they’re confident the procedure won’t happen as scheduled,” the Associated Press reported.
One other silver lining: The bill went through with an amendment calling for the law to be “sunset” after two years. During that time, a study committee will consider issues addressed in the bill — and others related to capital punishment. Sen. John Ecklund, R-Chardon, chair of the Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the study committee can recommend anything it wishes, including an end to the Ohio’s death penalty, according to the Hannah Report, a newsletter that covers the Ohio Statehouse.
Ohio has scheduled 11 executions for the next two years, with the first set for Feb. 11. The state carried out just one execution in 2014 — the fewest since 2001, according to Ohioans to Stop Executions. Because of the drug protocol used in that procedure, it went badly and prompted a federal judge to impose a de facto moratorium on executions for the balance of the year.
Thanks to former SPJ national president Kevin Smith, now with the Ohio State University’s Kiplinger Center for Public Affairs Reporting, for presenting SPJ’s concerns about the bill at two hearings. Thanks, too, to President Dana Neuts and the SPJ communications office (Jennifer Royer and Taylor Carlier) for issuing statements on the matter over the last month.
Stay tuned: The fight for transparency on this (literal) life-and-death issue is not over. It could very well be back in the headlines in February, when Ohio moves Ronald Phillips to the “Death House” in Lucasville.

 

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Mr. Smith goes (back) to Columbus

SPJ stalwart Kevin Smith returned to the Ohio Statehouse this week to once again present the Society’s objections to a bill that would add secrecy to Ohio’s death penalty. In addition to submitting a statement, Smith offered this round-up of the proceedings:

Former SPJ prez Kevin Smith lobbied against a "Secret Executions" bill this week. (Photo by Brittani Ray.)

Former SPJ prez Kevin Smith lobbied against a “Secret Executions” bill this week. (Photo by Brittani Ray.)

The Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hold a second and final hearing likely next week on HB663, the “Secrecy Execution Bill.” The committee heard testimony from five groups in opposition to the bill on Thursday, including SPJ, Ohio Newspaper Association, The Ohio Office of the Public Defender, the Catholic Conference of Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Testifying for SPJ was me.

I was asked several questions by the chairman, Sen. John Eklund, along with  Sen. Jim Hughes. At one point Hughes asked me what I thought would be a respectable time for releasing of the names of the pharmaceutical companies and physicians involved in the administering of the death drugs. I said, in the public’s interest, such matters should be made available immediately. A public act that creates a public record is public information upon its creation, I said.

At one point chairman Eklund took issue with social media posts I shared late Wednesday afternoon regarding the agenda. On the senate committee’s website, the agenda was conspicuously missing any title or bill reference, unlike the other two. I noted that a secrecy bill was showing greater secrecy because it was merely identified as HB663, not by title. The agenda handed out at the meeting Thursday morning had the bill title.

Eklund accused me of impugning his and the committee’s names by suggesting that they were intentionally trying to hide the work from the public. I told him that the facts before him were the facts: it appeared on the committee website at the end of the business day without reference and that was worthy of criticism. He said it was an oversight. I’ll take him at his word. In this environment of secrecy in Ohio, one expects the worst.

The bill was attacked on several fronts, from the lack of access to public information, to issues regarding medical malpractice, contract law violation and civil rights. All parties are in agreement that the federal government will find this unconstitutional on many fronts upon a first challenge.

The committee adjourned without stipulating when the next hearing would be.

Alan Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch filed this report about the Thursday hearing. Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press, meanwhile, reported more issues with death penalty sentences in Ohio, as the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday voted 4-3 to overturn a 1996 death penalty conviction because of poor representation for the accused.

(Sidenote: As a longtime watcher of death penalty news — I taught an investigative reporting class dedicated to the topic a few years back and also profiled an anti-death penalty nun– I offer thanks to Johnson and Welsh-Huggins, two of just a few Ohio journalists who continue to cover Ohio’s penal system aggressively.)

 

 

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Ohio Senate: Round 2 for execution bill

The Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee will take up House Bill 663 — the so-called “Secret Executions” bill — twice this week. An informal hearing is set for Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 10:45 a.m. at the Statehouse. A “first reading” will follow at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Want to write a member of the committee to speak against the bill? Here is the full list of committee members: http://www.ohiosenate.gov/committee/criminal-justice.
Want to send a statement to the Committee Chair? Go here:
Ohio residents can also reach their state senator via the Ohioans to Stop Executions site at http://action.otse.org/page/speakout/secret-executions-bill. (Input your ZIP code to send a form letter to your senator.)
Region 4 veteran Kevin Smith, a former national SPJ prez now at Ohio State University’s Kiplinger program, is planning to attend the Thursday hearing to speak against the bill.
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“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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