Posts Tagged ‘Excellence in Journalism’


EIJ has a new sponsorship policy

 

As I wrote in this column in the fall, we’ve been hammering out a new sponsorship policy for the annual conference that we co-host with our friends at RTDNA.

Until this month, our Society had effectively been without a written policy since the first Excellence in Journalism conference (EIJ). Although the SPJ national board approved sponsorship policies in 2003 and in 2008, these policies were superseded by the 2010 legal agreement to co-host conferences with RTDNA, which states that both groups must agree on sponsorships.

The new policy, which both group’s national governing boards have now approved, allows media and non-media entities to sponsor sessions or events and to propose session ideas and speakers. However, these sessions will now be required to be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee, which includes elected representatives and staff members of each of the co-hosts of the convention in a given year. 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 new rules give the EIJ Planning Committee a formal role and the final word in the review process.

EIJ partners will disclose the new sponsorship policy to potential conference sponsors in sales materials and other appropriate publications or web pages.

Officially, the new policy now agreed to by both partners states:

  • Both media and non-media entities will be allowed to sponsor sessions/events, and to propose session ideas and speakers. Proposals will be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee. Once proposals are accepted, the Committee and its designated producer will assume full responsibility for participants, topics, times, places, etc.
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may offer speaking fees for sessions/events they sponsor. SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to provide fees to speakers.
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may cover expenses for speakers participating in sessions/events they sponsor. SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to cover speaker expenses.
  • EIJ partners will retain the right of refusal over all sponsors, exhibitors or advertisers, with contracts reviewed by the executive directors of partner groups before accepting.
  • EIJ partners will disclose its policies on sponsorship of sessions/events to potential sponsors in sales materials for EIJs and other appropriate publications or web pages.

As soon as we closed the doors on the last EIJ in Baltimore, I appointed a task force to draft the policy. This task force was chaired by SPJ President-Elect Patti Gallagher Newberry and included high-ranking officers and the executive directors of both conference partners, as well as others with experience in media conference sponsorships. A key goal of their work was to ensure that the EIJ Planning Committee, which I have been a part of for the last two years, was consulted on sponsorships and took the lead on producing any sponsored sessions.

In December, the task force presented the above recommendations to the SPJ national board of directors, which passed it with two amendments. After consultation with RTDNA, the SPJ board elected to drop both amendments at its meeting earlier this month.

One amendment that the board later rejected would have banned the conference organizers from offering honorariums to speakers. In practice, that rarely has happened, as EIJ speakers volunteer their time and expertise, but the conference partners decided to retain the flexibility to consider such payments in the future.

Another amendment at the December meeting that the board later overturned would have banned EIJ sponsors from suggesting participants for sponsored panels or other events. In the past, some events have included participants suggested by sponsors. Both boards agreed to continue that practice, with the additional oversight from the EIJ Planning Committee.

The new sponsorship policy increases transparency and puts firm control of the process in the hands of the EIJ Planning Committee. This is an important step to build on EIJ’s already considerable standing as a leading national journalism conference.

Personally, I’m thrilled that SPJ and RTDNA agreed on a responsible sponsorship policy for the conference that we have hosted as co-equal partners for nearly a decade. This is a huge step in validating our close partnership.

The two groups have collaborated on EIJ every year since 2011. From time to time, they have been joined by other groups, notably, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), which has joined the conference every other year since 2013; while the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) was a welcome addition to EIJ in 2016 and 2017.

This year, EIJ will be co-hosted by SPJ, RTDNA and NAHJ from Sept. 4-8 at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio. For more information and to register, visit www.excellenceinjournalism.org

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Requesting Public Information Should Not Result in Felony Charges

Fannin-Focus publisher Mark Thomason spoke at the SPJ National Convention in New Orleans on Sept. 20. Outgoing national SPJ president Paul Fletcher (left). Photo by Curt Yeomans, SPJ Georgia board member

Fannin-Focus publisher Mark Thomason spoke at the SPJ National Convention in New Orleans on Sept. 20. Outgoing national SPJ president Paul Fletcher (left). Photo by Curt Yeomans, SPJ Georgia board member

Mark Thomason, publisher of the Fannin Focus newspaper in Blue Ridge, Georgia was arrested June 24 and charged with three felonies, including one for making a false statement on his open records request.

No journalist or member of the public should ever have to put up with what Thomason has when exercising his or her right to public information.

On the day of his arrest Thomason said he had no idea why he was arrested.

“For two days I sat in a jail cell without a pillow or blanket,” he said.

After his release on a $10,000 bond, Thomason said he faced unusual bond restrictions and was required to provide numerous on-the-spot urine samples for law enforcement in his hometown.

When the Georgia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists first heard of Thomason’s arrest, they began sharing their outrage with the public.  The chapter also filed a formal complaint to the Judicial Qualifications Commission against the judge, Brenda Weaver, Chief Superior Court Judge of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, who had Thomason and his attorney arrested.

At it’s annual convention last month in New Orleans, SPJ’s members commended Thomason’s “relentless pursuit of the public’s right to know” in a freedom of information battle involving the actions of chief superior court judge.

Click here or watch below (jump to the 11 minute, 47 second mark of the video) to hear Thomason’s comments to SPJ members and journalists at the convention.

The SPJ membership also called for Judge Weaver to resign and thanked the SPJ Georgia chapter members for their hard work and due diligence bringing this issue into the public conversation.

What Thomason did, standing up for his right to public information, is something, I hope, no other individual, journalist or news organization has to experience. But, if you do find yourself in a similar situation, I want to know.

SPJ was founded to fight for these very issues. Whether that is your right to government access or recording video on a public sidewalk. We are here for you. Or maybe you find yourself being forced to tell a story or write something in a way that you feel is journalistically unethical. Please tell us, so we can help.

So, please contact me and let us know what we can do to help. We are here to help protect journalism and the public’s right to know.

Lynn Walsh is the current National President for SPJ. In her “day job” she manages and leads the NBC 7 Investigates team in San Diego. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter, @LWalsh, or contact her via email: Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.

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