Archive for the ‘social media’ Category


#FreePressFriday to highlight link between journalism, democracy

“Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”  Former President George W. Bush, February 2017

Want some evidence? Just this past week, journalists have exposed abuses of power that prompted a congressman, a Cabinet member and a powerful Hollywood producer to step down from their influential positions.

As President Trump ratchets up his attacks on the news media, it’s more important than ever to remind the public about the connection between good journalism and a healthy democracy.

That’s why SPJ is launching #FreePressFriday, a day where we highlight great quotes — like the one above — about the importance of a free press in society. We encourage you to share them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets to help spread the word (or words, as the case may be) about the value of journalism.

We also encourage you to use #FreePressFriday to share news stories that have made an impact on your community. It can be an investigation into government corruption, a feature story that helped a family in need or an enterprise piece that uncovered a social injustice and prompted official action. The public should know about the great journalism that is happening every day all over the country.

The goal of #FreePressFriday is to help make that happen.

 

 

Memos and Emails to Federal Agency Employees Ban Press Releases, Social Media Posts and “Outward Facing” Documents

Denying agencies from sharing and communicating with the public, even temporarily, denies citizens their rights to access and the ability to hold the government accountable.

The public’s access to its government and its employees is dying.

Tuesday, memos and emails, obtained by a variety of news organizations, show federal agencies are being prohibited from sending press releases, posting on social media and sharing information on blogs.

The agencies involved include the Environmental Protection Agency (link 1, link 2) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It is being described as a temporary media blackout but in reality, it is the public that is being kept in the dark.

The Associated Press is reporting emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump took office, ban employees from “providing updates on social media or to reporters.” According to BuzzFeed News, USDA employees, specifically employees in the Agricultural Research Service department, were told not to release “any public-facing documents” including “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”

This is a step away from transparency. This is also a step in the complete opposite direction of what The Society of Professional Journalists and more than 60 other journalism and free press organizations were hoping to discuss with President Trump and his administration when we sent a letter asking for more transparency within government agencies and more direct access to government employees.

The letter, sent to President Trump and his administration less than a week ago, specifically asked for a meeting to discuss three things:

  • the ability of reporters to directly interact with government employees who are subject matter experts, rather than interacting with Public Information Officers (or having all conversations monitored by Public Information Officers);
  • access to the activities of the President;
  • and ensuring that the Federal Freedom of Information Act remains as strong as possible.

Click here to read the letter.

Policies, where federal agencies are barred, even temporarily, from releasing information to the public are unacceptable. These policies prevent the public from knowing what the agencies are spending taxpayer money on. They go against what this country was founded on. They go against our existence as a democracy.

These policies keep the public completely in the dark. They also do not allow journalists to hold the government and its officials accountable.

According to the Washington Post, USDA officials said ARS had not “blacked out public information.” They added, according to the article “that scientific articles published through professional peer-reviewed journals have not been banned.” In a statement, a representative with the ARS told the Washington Post, “as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America.”

It is unclear if these directives came from within the USDA, from Trump himself or from officials overseeing the transition.

What is clear when instituting policies like this is that it shows a complete disregard for the public’s right to know what the government it is doing and it threatens the right of the public to access information through the Federal Freedom of Information Act.

SPJ will not stand by and watch as journalists and the public’s rights are being threatened. Even if temporary, this is a step away from an open and honest government.

SPJ and Journalism Organizations Respond To Election of Donald Trump

Last week, after the election, the Society of Professional Journalists and other journalism organizations released statements reinforcing their commitment to protecting the First Amendment and fighting for the public’s right to know.

Since the election SPJ has seen an increase in donations. Some, when donating, have specifically cited the election outcome.

I want you to know that SPJ is ready to defend the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment and push for government transparency.

We hope that you will continue to join us in this fight. If you have ideas or thoughts or want to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Also, if you need help donating or renewing your membership, we would gladly help with that as well.

Here is a list of statements made by journalism organizations:

Lynn Walsh is the National President for the Society of Professional Journalists. In her day job she leads the NBC 7 Investigates team in San Diego, California. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for public information. Connect with her on Twitter, @LWalsh.

WHAT WE DID IN ANAHEIM

(Editor’s Note: This report is the president’s synopsis of the Executive Committee’s Jan. 19, 2013, meeting and does not represent the official minutes.)

At its winter meeting in Anaheim, Calif., the SPJ Executive Committee adopted new financial-reporting requirements for chapters, recommended that the full SPJ Board adopt proposed openness and accountability guidelines and asked me to present proposed social media guidelines to the full board at its April meeting.

CHAPTER FINANCES

 The seven-member Executive Committee unanimously adopted an immediate change in the financial-reporting requirements that professional chapters must meet when they file their annual reports with SPJ headquarters. The change requires chapters, beginning with the annual report to be filed in June, to include copies of the chapter’s bank statements for the preceding 12 months.

 The committee took this extraordinary step because of the recent discovery of financial impropriety in the Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter. This marked the second time in less than a year that a pro chapter learned that a trusted member had made unauthorized withdrawals from its bank account.

 The L.A. chapter discovered its financial losses after adopting the fiscal best practices that the SPJ Board approved last September in Ft. Lauderdale. One of the recommended practices advises chapters to create an ad hoc budget committee to craft a chapter budget. The Los Angeles chapter did that and wound up removing its treasurer from office. The chapter board hired an attorney and took steps to get a professional accounting of its assets.

National Executive Committee members were gravely concerned at this latest news of mishandled chapter finances. We asked ourselves how many more chapters might be oblivious to such impropriety because they fail to take sensible steps to treat their financial activities in a business-like manner.

Consequently, the committee acted to ensure that someone at the national level keeps an eye on all chapters to make sure they are relying on evidence rather than trust when it comes to their finances.

As it happened, President-elect Dave Cuillier’s report on openness and accountability (see next section) contained a recommendation that every chapter and regional director be required to submit copies of their bank statements as part of their annual reports to SPJ headquarters. (Regional directors aren’t required to submit annual reports, but that may be something worth considering.)

The Executive Committee also voted to recommend that the full board offer the Los Angeles chapter a line of credit up to $5,000 to help it with its legal expenses. The committee’s vote was split – 4 to 2. (I did not vote.)

L.A. chapter representative Lauren Bartlett asked SPJ’s national leaders for a grant, but the committee opposed an outright grant. While the chapter still has several thousand dollars in its bank account, its board is concerned that its legal fees may exceed its remaining treasury, Bartlett told us.

Since the Executive Committee meeting, L.A. chapter President Alice Walton has told me that the chapter may not need the line of credit.

The Oklahoma chapter’s treasury was wiped out by its former treasurer, but the chapter has so far not asked for assistance, relying instead on donations and fund-raising.

 OPENNESS & ACCOUNTABILITY

In the wake of debate over openness and accountability at last September’s convention in Ft. Lauderdale, I asked Dave Cuillier to develop, with others, recommended best practices for chapters to make sure their actions are as transparent as possible. The proposal that Dave presented to the Executive Committee is equally applicable to the national organization.

Here is the preamble of the proposed Openness and Accountability Best Practices:

The Society of Professional Journalists and its professional and student chapters are not government entities, but members believe in the strongest principles of transparency — the business of the people should be done before the people, inviting the people to participate. The following guidelines provide tips and recommendations for fostering openness and accountability at the local, regional and national levels of the society.

The guidelines address methods for making meetings accessible and being open in our communications and with our records.

The committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the full board for adoption in April. The full text of the proposal can be found here. OPENNESS DRAFT

Dave’s report addressed the background under which the best-practices proposal was developed. The report cited the Press Club of Long Island’s openness policy, which the chapter adopted in December. And it noted that chapter leaders who responded to a quick survey are generally supportive of more openness.

Along with the openness guidelines approved by the Executive Committee, Dave’s report also included proposed action steps, some of which headquarters staff are already implementing. Such as: providing chapters with a basic level of web support to help them create and maintain websites, blogs and/or Facebook pages for posting meeting notices, agendas, minutes and other records.

During discussion of this report, the committee urged staff to make sure that important national SPJ documents can be easily found on the website. SPJ’s bylaws, IRS Form 990s and other financial reports, the conflict of interest policy, whistleblower policy and other items already are posted to the site but are difficult to find.

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

After EIJ12, I asked Brandon Ballenger, treasurer of the South Florida Pro Chapter, and staff chapter coordinator Tara Puckey to head up a small task force to develop recommended social media guidelines and to answer questions about the use of SPJ’s many blogs.

The task force ultimately included SPJ Gen J co-chair Victoria Reitano, Director-at-Large Carl Corry and former SPJ board member James Pilcher.

The group’s report stressed common sense in all digital communications involving SPJ. A copy of the full report can be found here. Digital Media Committee 1.7.2013

The group made two proposals:

  • A set of guidelines to follow when SPJ’s president asks another officer, board member or chapter leader to conduct a fact-finding mission in anticipation of an official SPJ statement or comment on an event of interest to journalists and journalism.

  • Proposed social media practices that focus on disclosure, content and live events.

I recommended to the Executive Committee that it forward to the full board the proposed social media guidelines with the understanding that a new draft with some slight changes will be prepared. The committee supported that recommendation.

WORKING PRESS

The Executive Committee gave Joe Skeel the authority to alter the Working Press program and partner with RTDNA’s student project. As a result SPJ will no longer produce a printed newspaper at the annual conference. Some members may disapprove of this move, but the committee felt the timing was right.

The time, energy and costs associated with printing a daily journal for just three days have expanded to the point that we had to take a serious look at the cost-benefit ratio. Another factor we considered is that a fourth of the students who participate in the Working Press are dedicated to production activities rather than going out and about to gain reporting experience. While there remains a need for designers and other “production” workers, we felt the more valuable experience would for students would be in honing their online and video production skills along with their reporting and writing skills.

We intend to keep the project a competitive internship for about 12 students. They will cover the convention as they always have (while making contacts within the news industry.) Working professionals will continue to serve as advisers. The only major difference will be in how the news about the convention is delivered – online via social media and other platforms.

Breaking from tradition is always difficult, but when faced with the challenges and limitations of a printed product and the need for SPJ to be perceived as relevant among the next generation of journalists, the change was relatively easy to decide.

OTHER BUSINESS

Secretary-Treasurer Dana Neuts reported on three initiatives she’s spearheaded:

  • Providing freelancers and other SPJ members with SPJ Solutions, a source of insurance and financial services products through Westpoint Financial Group in Indianapolis.

  • Creating a Contest Advisory Group to connect chapters and regions that sponsor journalism contests and facilitate contest-judging swaps among them.

  • Securing a copyright for the Freelance Guide that the Freelance Committee developed while Dana was committee chair.

One of the traditions of the winter Executive Committee meeting is deciding which officers attend which regional spring conference. Here’s the list:

  • March 15-17

Region 3, Atlanta – Cuillier and Albarado

  • April 5-7

Region 4, Dayton, OH – Ralston

Region 12, Oxford, MS – Albarado

  • April 12-14

Region 1, New Brunswick, NJ – Albarado

Region 6, Bloomington, MN – Ralston

Region 9, Santa Fe, NM – Eckert

Region 10, Spokane – Neuts

Region 11, Las Vegas – Cuillier

  • April 19-21

Region 2, Norfolk, VA – None. This is the same weekend as the SPJ Board spring meeting in Indy

  • April 26-28

Regions 5 & 7, St. Louis – Ralston

  • May 3-5

Region 8, San Antonio – Albarado

Musing on ‘Post Industrial Journalism’ report

Post Industrial Journalism

That’s the title of an important new “survey/manifesto,” as its authors call it, from Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I’ve just skimmed it so far, but there are some fascinating nuggets.

In the introduction, the authors (C.W. Anderxon, Emily Bell and Clay Shirky) establish five core beliefs: “Journalism matters; Good journalism has always been subsidized; The internet wrecks advertising subsidy; Restructuring is, therefore, a forced move; There are many opportunities for doing good work in new ways.” (Their emphasis, but I heartily agree.)

You might say most of these observations/beliefs have been pretty obvious for some time now, but they lay the foundation for what follows in the next 100-plus pages. And what follows is interesting and provocative — at least from the pieces I’ve skimmed.

While much of the essay focuses on descriptions of the new news environment, its conclusion offers a few simple prescriptions — the most significant being that journalists and news organizations must be adaptable.

True and obvious to even a 40-year veteran journalist who has spent his entire career adapting.

If you can’t take in the entire report in one sitting, some good nuggets come from Jeff Sonderman at Poynter and Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab.

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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