Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Giving the thumbs-up gesture in solidarity with Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, jailed in Myanmar one year ago today.

Dec. 12 marks the disgraceful anniversary of the detention of two courageous Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. And if the authorities in Myanmar have their way, they will spend the next six years in jail.

A “thumbs-up” gesture has become a global symbol of solidarity with the pair of Reuters reporters, so today, photos of believers in press freedom giving the familiar gesture along with the hashtag #FreeWaLoneandKyawSoeOo have been circulating on social media.

The journalists were detained last year after reporting on a massacre of Rohingya in a broader effort by the government to suppress the minority group that the United Nations has called a genocide. The result of their reporting: a chilling story filed in February, Massacre in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize-winning leader of the country, has not used her position to defend or pardon the jailed journalists.

The Society of Professional Journalists has advocated on behalf of these brave Reuters reporters, as well as the other journalists who made the four covers of TIME Magazine’s “person of the year.” We sent a letter to the White House demanding that it push for an independent investigation into the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. We released a statement last week urging the Philippine government to drop the politically-motivated charges against news website Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa. And we held a forum about the attack on the Capital Gazette at our annual conference in Baltimore in September.

We will keep advocating on behalf of these courageous journalists until the last one is freed or vindicated.

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EIJ sponsorship update

The Society of Professional Journalists has taken an important step in the creation of a sponsorship policy for the modern era. As I wrote in this column when we launched the Sponsorship task force this fall, the Society has effectively been without a written policy since the first Excellence in Journalism conference (EIJ). Although the national board approved sponsorship policies in 2003 and in 2008, these policies were superseded by the agreement to co-host conferences with other journalism groups beginning in 2011.

First and foremost, it is important to understand what a sponsorship policy is. It is a set of guidelines for approving sponsors and for what sponsors will be permitted to do. A sponsorship policy must at the outset be impartial. It does not state which particular organizations will or will not be authorized to sponsor an event, but rather, lays the framework so future boards can make decisions on whether or not a prospective sponsor conforms to the proposed organization’s policy on sponsorship.

I decided to create this task force in mid-August, after learning that there were objections to a sponsored program that had not been approved by the EIJ planning committee, a committee which I have been a member of for the past two years. Although our staff had brought other sponsored sessions to the committee’s attention, I discovered that there was no existing rule or policy requiring this. As the Society’s incoming national president, I asked Patti Gallagher Newberry, who was then running unopposed to become our president-elect, to chair a task force to develop a set of standard operating procedures for EIJ sponsorships.

No conference sponsorship policy should ignore or make light of the fact that EIJ is a partnership. Indeed, the spirit of cooperation among the conference co-hosts is the very heart and soul of EIJ. With this intent uppermost, our first step was to invite our longstanding partner, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association (RTDNA), to join the task force.

Since 2011, we have co-hosted our annual conference with RTDNA. Together, we have had the good fortune to also partner with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), who we’ve been pleased to have join us every other year since 2013; while the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) was a welcome addition to EIJ in 2016 and 2017. As nobody can deny, there is strength in numbers, especially in these challenging times for our profession.

High-level leadership from RTDNA participated in our Sponsorship task force review, and later this month, their board intends to consider the recommendations of this task force and the motion approved by our board.

In our most recent board meeting, conducted by video conference on Dec. 1, the SPJ board decided that both media and non-media entities should be allowed to sponsor EIJ sessions or events. However, sponsored sessions will now be required to be vetted by the entire EIJ planning committee, rather than leaving the decision to do so up to the staff. Although the sponsors can indicate which topics they would like to sponsor, they cannot select the speakers. Furthermore, the planning committee, or the producers that it designates, will now take control of producing the sponsored sessions.

As before, the executive directors of each EIJ partner retain the right to refuse or decline contracts from any sponsor, exhibitor or advertiser. But the rules that SPJ’s board approved earlier this month would give the conference planning committee, which includes elected officers and staff from all of the EIJ co-hosts in a given year, a formal role and the final word in the review process.

The next step is to wait to hear from our friends at RTDNA. Their board may decide to adopt or to reject our guidelines. Once the two established EIJ partners have decided how to collaborate on conference sponsorships, we can inform other groups who partner with us on EIJ conferences now and in the future.

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#ICYMI: My take on the transatlantic divide on press freedom

Paris — More than an ocean separates the United States from France. The contradictory world views of their leaders veered sharply into focus on the centennial of the first world war. Hours after making the now famous Armistice day pronouncement beneath the Arc de Triomphe that “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” French President Emmanuel Macron introduced an event launching a global initiative for freedom of information and democracy.

Everyone living in a free and democratic society should be in agreement on the importance of this issue. The clear advantage of reliable public information, and of the liberty of speech and of the press, should be a nonpartisan issue. Yet in the high-profile announcement, the heavy burden of partisanship, pitting globalists against nationalists, signaled the challenges ahead.

Although none of the speakers mentioned the U.S. president by name, their bête noire was conspicuous by his absence. This highly-restricted event occurred within the Paris Peace Forum — a three-day tribute to multilateralism that President Donald J. Trump bowed out of — in a session hosted by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based global non-governmental organization also known by its French name, Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).

“It is a common good for humanity that there be honesty in information and liberty of the press and of opinion,” the French president told the select audience that included heads of state, diplomats and Nobel laureates. I was there representing the Society of Professional Journalists.

Macron cited philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, a German Jew who fled Nazism and became famous for her writings condemning all forms of totalitarianism, quoting from her 1967 book Truth and Politics in which she wrote, “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed and the facts themselves are not in dispute.”

He went on to draw a comparison between trends today and more primitive forms of democracy last witnessed 50 to 100 years ago. His point was not lost on the audience, which included the heads of state of Canada, Costa Rica, Norway, Senegal and Tunisia, all of whom followed up with remarks about the imperative need to protect freedom of expression.

French President Emmanuel Macron introducing the press freedom event hosted by Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) at the Paris Peace Forum on Nov. 11, 2018.

In the same vein, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to the anxiety stirred up by globalization as paving the way for politicians to scapegoat the press. “Attacks on the media are not just about getting your preferred political candidate elected,” he said, “they’re about increasing the level of cynicism that citizens have towards all authorities, towards all of the institutions that are there to protect us.”

This was one of several veiled digs that Trudeau made at the expense of Trump, who has consistently pushed the envelope to test the limits of the electorate’s appetite for his media bashing. From the U.S. president’s initial mocking of the press trailing his campaign, he progressed to the assertion that the media are the enemy of the American people. In July, the White House barred a CNN reporter from covering a Rose Garden event. In November, it pulled the credentials of Jim Acosta, the network’s Chief White House Correspondent.

The RSF event took place only four days after the revocation of Acosta’s press pass. As one of relatively few Americans present, I was peppered with questions about what this meant. I explained that the U.S. has a solid legal framework, so the question would most likely be decided in the courts.

Heads of state from Costa Rica, Tunisia, Norway, Senegal and Canada addressed the audience. RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire moderated the panel.

Fortunately, the White House has since backed down from what might have proved a protracted legal battle. Yet countries that lack strong democratic institutions are increasingly seeking political advantage by muzzling the media. Examples abound, from Myanmar’s unjustified jailing of the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, to the appalling murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Unsurprisingly, the group of 25 prominent media and communication experts of 18 different nationalities that were assembled by RSF to study the problem came up with a global response. The Nov. 11 declaration by the commission, which was led by RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire and Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, proposed creating an international body of experts to continuously research global information issues and recommend the best practices and norms for public communication.

While we applaud the efforts of press freedom groups to expand free speech around the world, there is no effective substitute for political will. It is up to our citizens to express their outrage at the daily undermining of the credibility of responsible media outlets. When eroding the foundation of a free press is no longer a popular political tactic, we will be closer to realizing the ideal of a free and open information society.

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This column appeared in the Winter, 2018 issue of Quill Magazine. I shot the photos and video while representing the Society of Professional Journalists at the press freedom event hosted by Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) at the Paris Peace Forum on Nov. 11, 2018. French President Emmanuel Macron introduced the event.

Mapping Out the Future of EIJ Sponsorships

After serious deliberation, I am pleased to announce a task force to brainstorm future sponsorship policy for our national conference. This remarkable group has been selected from among the most talented and experienced members within our own organization and other media groups.

The task force will look into creating a policy and standard operating procedures for selling and producing sponsorships at our annual Excellence in Journalism conference, better known as EIJ. Since 2011, we have co-hosted this conference with the Radio, Television and Digital News Association (RTDNA). The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has joined us every second year since 2013; while the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) was part of EIJ in 2016 and 2017.

Unquestionably, EIJ has been a spectacular success — with average attendance over the last two years doubling from the two years before we began co-hosting our annual conferences. A larger and more diverse audience has attracted higher profile speakers, a top-notch journalism expo, and yes, more sponsors. These sponsorships fund not only EIJ, but all of the good work that we and our partners do throughout the year.

However, it has become increasingly clear that SPJ has been improvising our EIJ sponsorship policy. In order to lay the groundwork for EIJ’s future growth, it’s time to stop playing the sponsorship game by ear.

Meet the Sponsorship Task Force

Patti Gallagher Newberry

The task force will be chaired by Patricia Gallagher Newberry. As President-elect, she will be stepping up to SPJ President next year, and so by tradition, she will serve as our representative on the programming task force for our next annual conference. In 2019, we will co-host EIJ in San Antonio with our friends at RTDNA and NAHJ. In her other life, Patti is area director and senior lecturer in the journalism program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she has been a faculty member since 1997.

Robert S. Becker

Robert S. Becker is the chairman of our national Bylaws Committee and of the Washington, D.C., professional chapter’s Freedom of Information Committee, a role he has filled for more than 25 years. The attorney also serves as the Mid-Atlantic Region member of our national Freedom of Information Committee. In this position, he provides advice and information on access to journalists and others in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Alison Bethel McKenzie

Alison Bethel McKenzie is executive director of SPJ and of our foundation. She took over the reins in March, well into the planning of this year’s EIJ, and joined the programming committee. Alison is a veteran journalist with over 30 years of experience as an award-winning reporter, bureau chief, senior editor and media trainer. She has a decade of nonprofit leadership experience, including six years as the executive director of the International Press Institute in Vienna, Austria. Earlier in her career, she worked as an editor at The Boston Globe, The Detroit News, Legal Times, a weekly law journal in Washington, D.C., and the Nassau Guardian, a newspaper in the Bahamas.

Bob Butler

Bob Butler is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, television and print. He is currently a reporter at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He spent 18 months as the diversity director for CBS Corporation. Bob was a key member of the Chauncey Bailey Project, which investigated the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey. He created and executes the Television Newsroom Management Diversity Census. He is a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and sits on the board of SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents thousands of broadcasters around the country.

Ivette Davila-Richards

Ivette Davila-Richards spent 10 years as an associate producer at CBS News in New York. She was one of our diversity fellows at the EIJ conference in Baltimore and has since joined the national Diversity Committee. She is a board member of The Deadline Club, which is our professional chapter in New York. She served in leadership roles at NAHJ for eight years — two years as president of its New York chapter and six years on its national board, first as regional director in the northeast and then as Vice President for Broadcast.

Scott Libin

Scott Libin is chairman of the RTDNA Foundation and Immediate Past Chairman of the RTDNA board. He is a fellow at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Scott has 30 years of experience in broadcast and digital journalism. Before joining the University of Minnesota faculty, he served as vice president of news and content at Internet Broadcasting. Scott has been news director at WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, as well as WGHP-TV, in the Greensboro, N.C., market. Scott spent seven years on the resident faculty of The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Dan Shelley

Dan Shelley is Executive Director of RTDNA and of its foundation, as well as a former Chairman of the Board, the organization’s top officer. Dan is a veteran radio and digital executive. He was Senior Vice President of Digital Content Strategy for iHeartMedia, where he was responsible for the development of a national content strategy for the company’s more than 850 radio stations. He was a Senior Vice President at Interactive One, where he oversaw the digital platforms of the company’s more than 50 radio stations. Prior to that, he was Director of Digital Media at WCBS-TV in New York.

Why We Need an EIJ Policy Review

SPJ members — not to mention the organization’s prestige — have benefited enormously from our partnerships with other media groups. Amid constant assaults on our profession’s credibility and enormous economic pressures in newsrooms, the EIJ model has allowed us to join forces with our colleagues. Sponsorships play a critical role in this success.

However, the national board of directors recently realized that we needed to clarify our sponsorship guidelines so both the staff and the board understood how sponsors were approved and how any sponsored sessions were produced.

Let me take this opportunity to dispel some lingering misconceptions that have formed in recent months and apologize for any erroneous statements by our board.

The SPJ staff has traditionally handled approving EIJ sponsorships and organizing any sponsored sessions. Apparently, it wasn’t unusual for sponsors to have a significant hand in the planning of these sessions, a relatively common practice at other national journalism conferences. The board was unaware of this. Now that we know, one of the key assignments of this task force will be coming up with recommendations for how this programming should be handled in the future.

Unfortunately, in a flurry of emails leading up to our Baltimore conference, some SPJ national board members became convinced that sponsors were not, in fact, involved in planning sessions. They shared this inaccurate information in emails to our members. The board of directors sincerely regrets this error.

For the record, the specific panel in question was the FOIA panel sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation with a track record of sponsoring First Amendment programming by a wide range of press groups such as The Washington Post, the Poynter Institute and the Newseum. A past national SPJ president contacted the board in mid-August to say that he had been invited to speak on the conference’s FOIA panel by the session’s sponsor. Until this time, the board members did not realize that sponsors had been involved with planning sessions.

Further confusion ensued a few days later, when another past national president retrieved a memo from 2003 and sent it to both boards. The 2003 memo outlined a policy at a time when SPJ still held its annual conferences alone. For example, this memo says that “SPJ will control all aspects of the convention program,” and that “non-media contributions shall be handled by SPJ staff.”

The media business itself has evolved enormously in the last 15 years, with nonprofit and for-profit corporations stepping up to fill the void left by the decline in advertising and programming dollars.

Although the 2003 memo will be among the historical reference materials available to the task force, these capable individuals will need to start from scratch to build our new sponsorship policy.

As a consequence of these misunderstandings, I decided in mid-August that forming a task force to draft an EIJ sponsorship policy would be the first order of business once the new board took office in Baltimore. On Aug. 16, I asked Patti if she would chair this task force. To those who know Patti, it will be no surprise that she instantly agreed.

I think we can all rest more easily for the time being and allow Patti to take charge of this important work. I’ve asked her to bring recommendations to the national board at our Dec. 1 meeting that will help us create an enduring sponsorship policy.

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SPJ demands Khashoggi’s killers be brought to justice

We call on Trump to push for independent investigation in a letter to White House

Editor’s note: Shortly after this letter was mailed and sent electronically to the White House, Saudi Arabia confirmed the death of the missing journalist. The Society of Professional Journalists still calls for a full and transparent independent investigation that leads to the arrests of the perpetrators of this crime.

 

October 19, 2018

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you today on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, to express our deep concern over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as your ongoing rhetoric attacking press freedom, a crucial pillar of our democracy.

While our organization takes no political party stance, like all free speech groups we are partisan on the issue of press freedom and the other rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which you have sworn to uphold.

Today, we implore you to lay aside political rhetoric and stand up for press freedom worldwide. As President of the United States, a position long viewed as the leader of the free world, we urge you to insist on a full and transparent independent investigation into the disappearance and alleged extrajudicial killing of Mr. Khashoggi. That would send a strong message to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — where journalists critical of the royal family have been jailed — that attacking, jailing and murdering journalists is an affront to the people’s right to know and the people’s right to participate in the democratic process.

That message, Mr. President, must be followed by a sincere commitment on your part to condemn those who would seek to weaken our democracy by silencing a free press. We were extremely disappointed by your apparent praise of Congressman Greg Gianforte’s assault on a reporter who asked him a question — behavior for which the congressman himself has publicly apologized. Assaulting or otherwise threatening a journalist is not macho behavior to be commended at a campaign stop. It signals a cynical disregard for the safety of journalists to repressive political leaders around the world.

Now it is time to take a stand for global press freedom. We expect you as our President to remind Saudi Arabia that there are grave consequences for an ally of the United States if it takes, as alleged, the unconscionable step of silencing a journalist by premeditated ambush, torture and murder.

Respectfully,
J. Alex Tarquinio
President
Society of Professional Journalists

President’s Installation Banquet Speech

 

Remarks Given by National SPJ President

J. Alex Tarquinio

after being sworn in at the

President’s Installation Banquet

at the Excellence in Journalism Conference

in Baltimore on Sept. 30, 2018

 

An editor once opined, as editors do, in a time of deep skepticism towards the media that it was imperative for journalists “to make their voice one of energy rather than of hatred,” and, “if we take pride in objectivity rather than in rhetoric, in humanity rather than in mediocrity, then we will preserve many things and we won’t be without merit.” That editor was the writer and philosopher, Albert Camus, and the time was 1944, a week after Paris was liberated from Nazi occupiers. In his moment, Camus understood the endemic public mistrust of journalists. After all, not a few had been Nazi collaborators and the political divisions appeared to be insurmountable.

Our fight to maintain high journalistic standards today, amid assaults on our credibility and economic pressures, isn’t a new one. In each age and across the globe, journalists have been combatting government propaganda, roadblocks to public information, interference with news distribution, and even trials and executions for exposing the truth. These battles still rage on, as far off as Myanmar, where two of our colleagues have been arbitrarily imprisoned, and as near as Washington, D.C., where the president refers to the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

Demagoguery isn’t new, it just takes on a new face in each age.

Our challenge as journalists is to rise above the rhetoric, to use our craft to reveal the humanity of the voiceless rather than the mediocrity of the talking heads.

That is why the Society of Professional Journalists will continue to support reporters who are stymied at every turn with lawsuits or endless Freedom of Information requests.

That’s why we’ll keep sharpening the skills of all of our members, especially freelancers and journalism students, who don’t benefit from on-the-job training.

That’s why we’ll enlighten the public about how we do our jobs, through public speaking engagements, editorials and our innovative new program, #Press4Education.

That’s why we’ll push harder for diverse coverage by media outlets that reflect the communities they cover.

And above all, that’s why we’ll keep educating the public and our fellow journalists about our ethics code. This is the gold standard by which mutual trust between the public and the press can be earned.

As news gatherers, we need to be rigorously even-handed in our coverage and leave rhetoric to the opinion pages. We mustn’t lose sight of the diverse spectrum of opinions in our society and succumb to the phony dichotomies of reality TV. And we must be unswerving in our support of free speech. Just as citizens living in a free society have the right to be informed, those same citizens, no matter what their viewpoints, have the right to be heard.

As American journalists, we are privileged. Although the First Amendment is under constant pressure it stands tall and by association so do we while conducting our everyday reporting. This is far from the case in other oppressed parts of the world, where the journalists live in fear that they might be jailed or murdered for exposing wrongdoing. We have traditionally enjoyed real freedom of the press—unparalleled in the history of the world.  We must not take this for granted, but rather set shining examples to inspire our international colleagues who risk their liberty and their lives in simply doing their jobs.

Yet it’s hard to deny that anti-press rhetoric has been rising in many democracies—including our own—at a time when our reporting is being overwhelmed by a steady digital stream of opinion, publicity, rumor and deceit. As our country becomes more polarized, we must rise above partisan politics. We mustn’t retreat into defensiveness. Let the restrained response we give to those who label us “fake” show who has the moral high ground.

As the largest journalism association in the land, SPJ has advocated for the free flow of information for generations. We supported legislation in 2016 to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and will push to see that this is fully implemented, creating a consolidated online portal to request information from any federal agency. We see a real need for legislation currently sitting in Congress that would make it a federal crime to assault a journalist reporting in the field. And we will keep pressing the government not to use public information officers as gatekeepers to limit our access to sources, and not to pursue whistleblowers who sound the alarm about government waste or wrongdoing.

One thing we could be better at is communicating our goals to our members and to the public at large. SPJ signs on to countless legal briefs and supports journalists in peril, yet we do very little to tell the public about this advocacy. If Americans understood what it takes sometimes to get the story, they might be better able to discern the difference between reporting and propaganda.

And as I stated when I ran for this office a year ago, I’d like to see SPJ form closer partnerships with other press freedom organizations. SPJ should be the go-to press group for journalists from across the globe when they think of freedom of information and democracy.

We can learn from the expertise of other groups that specialize in foreign reporting, covering trauma or digital journalism, while spreading the word about our esteemed code of ethics and our fight to improve access to public information.

I hope to make these partnerships a cornerstone of the coming year. Because we amplify our message when we speak with one voice.

As this audience knows, we couldn’t do all of this without our members who step up to lead these efforts. Much of our work is done by the national committees, so I wish to announce a few new faces who I’ve asked to chair the committees in the year ahead. I will begin with those who are continuing to lead the same committees—and obviously, we thank them for their past and continuing service to SPJ. And if you’re here, please stand up when you hear your name.

Andy Schotz will continue to chair the Awards & Honors committee; Danielle McLean will continue to lead the Freedom of Information committee; Hagit Limor will once again chair the Legal Defense Fund committee and Bob Becker will continue to keep us on the straight and narrow with Bylaws.

Now for the new faces, Leticia Steffen will co-chair the Education Committee, along with last year’s chair Becky Tallent; Rebecca Aguilar, will chair the Diversity Committee; Lynn Walsh will chair the Ethics committee; Michael Arena will chair the Membership committee; one of the new national board members, Michael Savino, will chair the Resolutions committee; and finally, the Nominations committee, which recruits candidates for the national board and the regional coordinators, will be chaired by Eddye Gallagher.

It is the volunteer efforts of these dedicated members that allow SPJ to thrive. We thank you.

And my appreciation to everyone here for your support and belief in SPJ. Together, we set the bar high. Now let’s go out and make our voices heard.

Thank you, and good night.

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Retooled SPJ staff is ready to confront new attacks on our free press

President Trump continues his verbal assaults on the press at rallies and in tweets on almost a daily basis. But the Society of Professional Journalists is responding the best way it knows how: by providing the training, networking and professional development that journalists need to continue uncovering the truth, holding the powerful accountable and perpetuating its role as a pillar of democracy.

SPJ is working toward those goals with largely a brand-new staff, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Ted Scripps leadership training program in Indianapolis last weekend. Make no mistake: this is an impressive and experienced group of people. Their passion, talent and energy will propel SPJ forward in its mission to improve and protect journalism.

The new hires are: Director of Development Larry Messing, Quill Editor and Training/Education Manager Monica Williams, Director of Programs Marilyn Garateix, Director of Conferences and Events, Basharat Saleem, Manager of Membership and Chapters Caroline Escobar, Director of Finance and Administration Amy Wong, and Communications Coordinator Isaac Taylor. Kudos to our new executive director, Alison Bethel McKenzie, for assembling such a laudable group.

They join Director of Communications and Marketing Jennifer Royer, Communications Coordinator Marina Cinami, Program Coordinator Christine Cordial, Creative Director Tony Peterson, Office Manager Linda Hall, and Web Administrator Billy O’Keefe as the engine behind SPJ’s day-to-day operations.

SPJ also recruited longtime Associated Press editor Rod Hicks for a brand-new position, Journalist on Call, to address the dwindling trust in the media by some segments of the public. From the SPJ press release on Rod’s hiring:

Hicks will serve as something of an ombudsman, helping journalists understand why the public doesn’t trust them and what they can do to re-earn more trust. He will also spend time with the general public, local officials and community groups to explain the important role ethical journalism plays in society. A great deal of the focus will center on how the media and public can work together in crisis situations. 

Rod is representing SPJ this week at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Detroit, and will continue travelling around the country, reporting back to U.S. newsrooms what he learns in his travels. No other journalism organization has such a position, and I couldn’t be prouder that SPJ is leading the charge in working to restore trust in fact-based news reporting.

SPJ now has the most racially and culturally diverse staff in its 109-year history. I want to thank the staff who preceded our new team for their years of hard work and wish them well in their new endeavors.

SPJ’s 6.21 Day of Giving: Journalism Needs You!

At a time when journalists are called “enemy of the people,” fired for doing their jobs and forced to compromise their ethics, it’s crucial to take a step back and remind ourselves of the important and meaningful work that journalists are doing all over the country. Go online, open a newspaper, or turn on your TV set or radio and you’ll find journalists seeking truth and reporting it – the first tenet of SPJ’s Code of Ethics – challenging spin and false statements by government authorities, and revealing the impact of public policies on some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

It’s the kind of work that has become a beacon for journalists throughout the world. In May, I attended a World Press Freedom event hosted by Nepali-American media in the Washington D.C. area. They are covering the news of Nepali communities in the area and helping journalists in Nepal cover the news under unfavorable circumstances. As I write this, the SPJ Code of Ethics is being translated into Nepali, and will join Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish as languages that share these tenets of ethical journalism.

The incredible work that journalists do takes center stage, literally, each spring as SPJ recognizes excellence in news reporting at its Sigma Delta Chi awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., through awards banquets hosted by SPJ chapters, and during Mark of Excellence awards ceremonies for outstanding student journalism.

Try not feeling inspired or energized after attending the SDX awards. This year, we recognized stories that exposed racial bias and unfair treatment in the war on drugs, uncovered the price of homelessness in one American city and revealed the hidden scourge of domestic violence in one of the wealthiest communities in the country. The work SPJ honored had undeniable impact, from national stories about Harvey Weinstein that prompted his arrest to local stories about sexual misconduct at a state capitol that led to systematic change in government policy.

There were international stories such as the “Paradise Papers” investigation revealing offshore tax havens of the global elite and regional stories such as the questionable financing of a casino project that voters halted after journalists did their jobs.

This is the kind of work that the Society of Professional Journalists honors once a year but supports every single day by training journalists, funding large-scale projects and paying for legal battles. It’s also why SPJ needs your support. This Thursday, June 21, is SPJ’s Day of Giving, when we raise money and awareness for all the good work that the Society does. Go to spj.org/dayofgiving.asp and get involved. Journalism needs you!

The ‘power’ of respect in the newsroom

I was honored to represent SPJ this month at “The Power Shift Summit,” a meeting of more than 100 media leaders in Washington, D.C. who came together with a shared purpose: “to address the problem of sexual misconduct in newsrooms and to identify solutions for creating meaningful and sustainable change.”

The invitation-only event, held at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, was organized as a series of discussions featuring leaders from all media platforms. Journalists who have reported stories about sexual misconduct, and victims of that misconduct, discussed the impact of the coverage to date. The event was trending on Twitter under #PowerShiftSummit for most of the day.

The end of the summit offered some solutions as to what newsrooms and media organizations are doing to deal with emerging cases, and what systemic changes are needed for the future. They included educating young journalists about their rights to a safe and hostile-free workplace, involving human resources as a partner in developing and enforcing sexual misconduct policies, including men in any and all conversations about sexual misconduct, and making sure sexual harassment awareness and prevention is an ongoing topic.

One solution stood out: creating a culture of respect in the newsroom. Too often, rudeness, hostility and boorishness can open the door to more serious misconduct. In short, management should not tolerate seemingly minor acts of bad behavior and stop them from spreading or worsening. In the words of some of the panelists (and yes, these are exact quotes) “Don’t be an a**hole. Don’t hire a**holes.”

As members of SPJ, each of us can serve as an example of what an ethical, respectful and tolerant journalist should be. We can be leaders of good behavior in our newsrooms and in the field. We can take steps to see that our workplaces not only have sexual misconduct policies in place but that they are enforcing them. We can share SPJ’s sexual harassment resources page with your colleagues and encourage them to speak up about any abuse they see or experience. Working together, we can we stop the scourge of sexual harassment.

Postscript: I was delighted to see two members of the Sigma Delta Chi board (SPJ’s foundation) at the summit: Evelyn Hsu, representing the Maynard Institute as its executive director, and Sonya Ross, representing the Associated Press as its race and ethnicity editor. Both serve the SDX board well.

Trust and the Media in a New Era

How can the press regain the public’s trust?

That’s a question some of the country’s top journalists attempted to answer this week at the inaugural Poynter Journalism Ethics Summit in Washington, D.C. I was privileged to attend and want to share with you some highlights of the event.

The all-day gathering kicked off with the release of Poynter’s media trust survey called “You’re Fake News!” It confirmed what many of us in the media have experienced or sensed: “Republicans and Trump supporters have far more negative attitudes toward the press” (19% confidence in media reporting) than do Democrats and Trump opponents (74% confidence)

What was truly disturbing was some of the overall findings: 44 percent of those surveyed said they believe journalist make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent agreed that the media are the “enemy of the people” and “keep political leaders from doing their job.” Nearly two-thirds of Trump supporters believe those statements, the survey found.

Perhaps the worst of all: 16 percent of Trump opponents and 42 percent of his supporters said that government should “be able to stop a news media outlet from publishing a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate.”

So what can be done about all of this?

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, offered a three-step plan to restore trust, which I shared on Twitter: 1. Don’t oppose Trump, oppose a political style where facts and truth are expendable. 2. Focus on people’s troubles, not issues created to get them angry. 3. Generate trust through transparency, not authority.

Poynter itself outlined several steps to move the needle toward public trust of the press:

  • Be transparent: describe your process for ensuring accuracy. Shift from “show-me” journalism to “this is why you should trust me” journalism. Have an ongoing explanation of who you are and what you do.
  • Adopt signifiers of trust outlined by The Trust Project, which offers tips to help news consumers feel confident that what they’re reading and seeing is legitimate
  • Strike a balance between the courage/confidence needed to do our work with the humility needed to listen to your audience and find out their concerns
  • Educate people about the public role journalism plays in Democracy
  • Protect and defend Democratic institutions include the First Amendment

The last one has been the mission of the Society of Professional Journalists for more than a century, and we will continue to join legal battles to preserve the rights of a free press and the free flow of information to the public.

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