Archive for July, 2014


How SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund helps real journos

The Staff of Otterbein360 | Photo Credit Hillary Warren

The Staff of Otterbein360 | Photo Credit Hillary Warren

BY: Taylor Carlier, Communications Coordinator

The Legal Defense Fund came to the aid of a university media organization, in order to defend its right to access police records.

In 2011, the Otterbein University Security Force converted to the Otterbein University Police Department. Up until that time, any crime on campus that was more than the security force could handle, was taken over by the Westerville Police Department.

The Westerville Police Department cooperated fully with Otterbein360, Otterbein University’s publication, and released to them all documents covered under Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, whenever requested. When OUSF became OUPD, this all changed.

OUPD argued that it didn’t have to adhere to the same Sunshine Laws because they are a private entity, due to being a part of a private university. They claimed that they weren’t under the same obligations as the WPD, because WPD is a public institution. This claim was made, even though OUPD officers are trained under the WPD and have the same authority as WPD officers.

Otterbein360 took action against OUPD in whatever way they could by going through mediation, ordering a cease and desist letter and taking any pre-lawsuit action possible regain its access to what they thought should be public records.

“It came to the point where it was like, ‘Well, we can either stop now, put out an editorial about it that we’ve done everything in our power that we could do, or we could move forward with legal action,’” Gena DiMattio, editor-in-chief of Otterbein360 said.

This is where the Society of Professional Journalists’ Legal Defense Fund came into action. Otterbein360 applied for and received money from LDF to obtain funds in order to pursue legal action.

The case, which was filed in February 2014 by Otterbein360 news editor Anna Schiffbauer, is now sitting in mediation in the Ohio Supreme Court.

“It has definitely been a combined effort and so many organizations, especially the Legal Defense Fund, have been incredibly supportive of our effort,” DiMattio said. “For me this has just been an amazing experience to see how not only is it something that we here at Otterbein360 believe in so strongly, but also that we have people that are generous enough to share that passion with us … We just can’t say thank you enough.”

To help other journalists who need funds to fight legal battles that support freedom of speech and press, donate items to the LDF Auction. The auction will take place at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 4-6. Send donations to SPJ Headquarters at 3909 N. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46208 by Aug. 1 with this donation form.

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SPJ in the news: White House letter reaches its destination and then some [updated 7/29]

The story so far

On July 8, SPJ, along with 38 other journalism and open government groups, called on President Obama to stop practices in federal agencies that prevent important information from getting to the public. The national organizations sent a letter to Obama urging changes to policies that constrict information flow to the public, including prohibiting journalists from communicating with staff without going through public information offices, requiring government PIOs to vet interview questions and monitoring interviews between journalists and sources. Since then, more groups have signed on.

Read the full letter
Read the press release
Freedom of the Prez Blog: A voice in the wilderness finally heard

Update, July 29: New link added:

New York Times: It’s Time to Push Back When Government Controls the Message


Update, July 15: New links added:

USA Today: Rieder: An important crusade for open government

Russian TV Channel Life News: Journalism groups blast Obama admin for ‘politically driven suppression of news’

Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute: ‘Look No Further Than Your Own Administration’


Update, July 14: New links added:

Huffington Post Live: Free Speech Zone with @AlyonaMink

Fox and Friends: Journalists call out White House on lack of transparency

Fox Business: No transparency at the White House?


Update, July 11: New links added:

Cihan News Agency: US journalists criticize Obama administration for media censorship

The Rock River Times: 38 journalism groups urge president to stop excessive controls on public information

Asian Tribune: Obama administration’s politically-driven suppression of news in US

Washington Examiner: Journalism groups accuse Obama of news censorship

Fox News: Why media groups are accusing the administration of ‘censorship’

Steamboat Today: Rob Douglas: Journalists to Obama: ‘Stop the spin’

The Epoch Times: Coalition Seeks Open Government


Washington Times: Journalists’ group to Obama: “Stop the spin and let the sunshine in’

Huffington Post: Journalism Groups Want Obama To Stop These Frustrating Practices

Washington Times: Journalists to Obama: Whatever happened to that new ‘era of openness’?

Fox News (blog): Censorship: 38 Journalism Groups Slam Obama’s ‘Politically Driven Oppression Of News’

Politico (blog): Media orgs: Obama ‘stifling free expression’

Evening Moscow: Американские журналисты призвали Обаму вмешаться.

LeMonde: L’administration Obama à nouveau accusée d’étouffer la liberté d’expression

McClatchy Wire Service: Media, transparency groups to Obama: Keep your word

Examiner: Obama slammed for selectively ‘blocking’ reporters access to truth

The Voice of Russia: 38 journalist groups in US protest against suppression of media by White House

The Blaze: Why Journalists Are Blasting Obama’s ‘Censorship’ Policies Toward News Coverage

The Kansas City Star: Obama must end the public information barriers

Breitbart News: Journalist Groups Protest Obama’s ‘Suppression of the News’

RIA Novosti: US Journalists Criticize Obama Administration for Media Censorship

United Liberty: Unprecedented: Media assails Obama’s “politically-driven suppression of the news”

Firedoglake: 38 Journalism And Open Government Groups Call On Obama To Stop Excessive Information Control

O’Dwyers PR News: Frustrated Journo Groups Tell Obama PA Officers Stymie Reporting

Multichannel News: Journalists Accuse WH Of Politically-Driven Suppression of News

Broadcasting and Cable: Journalists Accuse White House of Politically-Driven Suppression of News

The Washington Free Beacon: Press Groups Call on Obama Admin to End ‘Pervasive’ Secrecy Practices

Associations Now: JOURNALISTS TO OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: WHERE’S THE TRANSPARENCY?

Mintpress News: Media Groups Ask Obama To Save Democracy

Maryland Reporter: Journalists ask Obama to stop ‘politically driven suppression of news’ at federal agencies

Western Journalism: Did The Media Just Turn Its Back On Obama? If So He’s Really In Trouble

NewsBusters (blog): In Open Letter, Journalist Groups Hit President Obama for ‘Politically Driven Suppression of News’

Personal Liberty Digest: Dozens Of Media Outlets Call On Obama To Stop Stifling Free Expression

Newsmax.com: Journalists Complain Obama Not Keeping Transparency Promise

Fort Worth Star Telegram: Media, transparency groups to Obama: Keep your word

NetNewsCheck.com: Journalism Groups Decry Public Info Controls

Mediaite: Journalism Groups: ‘Politically Driven Suppression of News’ in Obama WH

Bellingham Herald: Media, transparency groups to Obama: Keep your word

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National Press Club Podcast: SPJ’s Code of Ethics Adapts to the Digital Age

The process of revising SPJ’s Code of Ethics is well underway, with the newly-issued second draft available for public consumption (and, we hope, your feedback) right here.

Over at the National Press Club website, SPJ Director At-Large Bill McCloskey sat down with Ethics Committee Chair Kevin Smith to discuss the process of revising the code, as well the relevance of the code to both journalists and the public at large.

Follow this link to give it a listen. [Press.org]

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