Posts Tagged ‘Excellence in Journalism conference’


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 Although the national board approved sponsorship policies in 2003 and in 2008, these policies were superseded by the agreement to co-host conferences with other journalism groups beginning in 2011.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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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.

–30–

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.

–30–

Do yourself a favor: come to Fort Lauderdale

I’ve been a journalist for 34 years, and the learning curve in the past five years has been just as steep as it was for the first five.

I’ve learned to tweet, blog and use social media to advance my writing and reporting.

I’ve learned how to shoot and edit video. I even spent some time in film school learning about visual grammar and how to tell a story in a minute or two.

I’ve produced my own Internet radio news program. I’ve covered raging floods with my trusty iPad. And I still take notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and notepad.

None of this is remotely a complaint. Learning how to tell old familiar stories in completely new ways has been one of the pure joys of being a reporter in recent years.

I look at the world differently now. While on assignment, I think to myself: I can live-blog this, shoot some raw video, write my story on a park bench and tweet breaking news. It’s terrific fun, and somehow I still get paid for it.

One very tangible reason I still have this job (aside from my sheer incompetence at almost everything else) is the fact that I’ve managed to stay somewhat current with all these changes thanks in no small part to SPJ.

Most newsrooms have had to cut back if not eliminate their budgets for training and continuing education. If you want to take a couple of days off now to attend a seminar or a conference, chances are they will be on your own dime and time.

That’s why I think SPJ is such a solid investment in myself. For $75 a year, I’ve been able to access a ton of training and tools that have enabled me to be a better reporter.

I think back to all those spring conferences I’ve attended in Salt Lake City, Denver, Fort Collins, Colo., Long Island, N.Y., and Tacoma, Wash. There wasn’t one where I didn’t come back to the newsroom the following Monday and start applying something I had learned.

The pace of learning accelerates even more when I think of what I learned at our national conventions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

That’s one reason I’m so looking forward to this year’s convention, Sept 20 to 22 at the Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. It’ll be our second year teaming with the Radio Television Digital News Association to present the conference we call Excellence in Journalism. (Information and registration are atexcellenceinjournalism.org.)

First, there’s the hotel itself. It is so unlike any of the earlier convention venues we’ve been to in recent years. You walk out the back door and you’re a short walk from the ocean.

The white-sand beach has sections roped off for a tortoise nesting area. I’m told on a moon-lit night you can go down to the water’s edge and see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

If I were not slated to be at a national board meeting, I would definitely take the hovercraft tour of the Everglades. And I plan a return visit to an outrageously retro Polynesian tiki bar that dates back to the 1950s. (Think “Mad Men” with flame dancers and umbrella drinks.)

But I digress. There’s also some excellent learning opportunities and great speakers.

One of our keynote speakers is Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University journalism professor who I heard talk earlier this year at an SPJ event in New York City. He is an expert on using social media to enhance your journalism skills. An hour with him will definitely raise your reporting game.

And not everything is high tech. Another speaker is Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter and best-selling author. In my book, Rick is one of the best storytellers of our generation. And trust me, even in a digital age, stories still matter. I think they matter more.

Our partnership with RTDNA has made our conventions even more useful. As all forms of media have converged in recent years, people on all sides of our profession have skills that are useful to share.

For example, one breakout session I’m hoping to catch is “Unleash Your Inner Broadcaster,” presented by the Public Radio News Directors. This is a program we would never have been able to assemble without our friends from RTDNA.

Oh, and one of my personal journalism heroes, longtime public radio host Bob Edwards, will be speaking. He’ll also receive our Fellows of the Society award, one of our highest honors. I can’t wait.

This convention also will mark the end of my year as president. This job has been a joy, and I intend to work it hard right up to the last day.

But one thing I’ll enjoy when I turn the presidency over to the very able Sonny Albarado is this: When the 2013 convention in Anaheim rolls around, I expect there will be a lot more time to soak up the learning there.

But you won’t have to wait that long. Stop reading and register today while you can still get the early bird rate (ends Aug. 28). After all, aren’t you and your career worth the investment?

Focus on membership: Highlights of April board of directors meeting

One of the pleasures of being SPJ president is the opportunity to preside over meetings with lots of intelligent discussion on large, meaningful issues.

That was the case Saturday in Indianapolis when the national SPJ board gathered for its spring meeting. We took on several big topics. Here’s a brief recap of what was discussed:

– Past president Hagit Limor briefed us on the email ballot system we will be using in September when all 8,000 SPJ members will have their first chance to directly elect officers under the one member, one vote rule we adopted last year.

We also approved a set of campaign guidelines for candidates that reaffirmed our long-standing tradition that board members should not engage in any electioneering for other candidates.

Our plan calls for a process that will enable candidates to send up to three email messages directly to members as well as a means to create candidate websites. You’ll hear more about this in the months ahead.

Much of our meeting was devoted to issues involving growing SPJ’s membership. No surprise there since that had been my emphasis this year.

-We discussed reviving our institutional membership for media organizations on a one-year trial basis. We currently have about 19 collegiate institutional members. We formerly had some newspapers join as institutions, but currently we do not have any.

The board instructed Executive Director Joe Skeel to craft a proposal later this year as well as to explore ways in which we can make SPJ’s presence felt in more newsrooms.

-We had a long discussion on the pros and cons of actively recruiting SPJ members from other countries. We also talked about whether our legal defense fund should be only for U.S. journalists or should it be a global fund.

The board didn’t take a vote on that,  although an informal show of hands indicated a majority of the board favored taking a global approach on both of these questions. This matter will come up for a vote later in the year.

-We also adopted a recommendation from Region 11 Director Teri Carnicelli, by streamlining the requirements for a new campus chapter to form. From now on, such chapters will be required to have one adviser who is an SPJ member rather than three faculty members.

-Sadly, we deactivated several pro and student chapters that we had been carrying on our membership rolls despite the lack of any recent activity. We did, however, welcome a new chapter, the Texas Panhandle Pro chapter.

-Last but not least, the board agreed to locate our 2014 Excellence in Journalism conference at the Grand Opry Hotel in Nashville, TN. I’m very excited by this selection. Nashville is a great city in which to hold a national conference.

Your national board members are a hard-working bunch. They started at 8 a.m., and except for a lunch break, kept going until 5:30 p.m. when we adjourned. I appreciate their effort and attention.

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