Getting Better All the Time

Region 1, as I have said before, represents one out of every six SPJ members nationwide so it stands to reason we should have some of the most active and enthusiastic of those members.
Jordan Frias, our New England Pro president, has arranged for several screenings of the NYT documentary “Obit.” We are even working on a northern NE showing.
Even more exciting, we had a Google Training in. . .drumroll please. . .upstate New York! There is life in the former Black Hole of SPJ!
Brett Hall pulled that rabbit out of the hat. Brett was a superstar as a student member and is continuing that trend as a pro. He single-handedly arranged the Google event in Syracuse.
We have a new student chapter at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. Nick Hirshorn, a former member of the Deadline Club board and now a member of the NJPro board, is the advisor.
Plans are also in the works for a student chapter at Montclair State University, also in New Jersey, under the advisement of Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Tom Franklin. (the photo of the 3 firemen and the American flag). For years the only student chapter in the state has been at Rutgers, so NJPro is very happy about this.
NJPro and Keystone are working on a Regional conference April 21 and 22 in Philadelphia. This is the first even there since the Philly Pro Chapter was dissolved. The Regional will be a full day Saturday and Sunday. Of course, we will have a Friday evening event of some kind for the old timers who are used to having their Friday night reception.
The regional will offer a KipCamp and Google training, plus a program on diversity to which we will invite members of the community for their input into how we can do a better job. I’m planning a session on covering casino gambling, a much-neglected issue. And, as per national prez Rebecca Baker, one on sexual harassment. Anybody with great ideas, please contact me or post a comment. Thanx.

Back from EiJ and Looking Forward

buskerThe difference between NYC and NOLA is apparently the decor around their buskers.


We are a fortunate bunch in Region 1.
We have a small geographic footprint (ok, I wouldn’t want to walk to Irwin’s house from mine, but, . . ) and a large population. Somewhere around one in six SPJers lives in Region 1. I learned at EiJ16 we also have a very deep bench compared to other Regions,
At the Regional meeting during EiJ16, I appointed Chris Vaccaro of PCLI my deputy RD. Chris has been doing an awesome job with the Mark of Excellence Awards, no easy task. His duties, in addition to continuing with the MOEs, will be to fill in for me in case I can’t make a required RD appearance and any other task that comes up.
Chris is not the only up-and-comer in the chapter. We gave several other young members who will soon step on the ladder. I learned at EiJ this is more true for Region 1 than most of the other regions.
It is also going to be a challenging year for the region.
Having a Regional Conference in Manhattan presents wonderful opportunities for programs and speakers, but it also presents complications, especially financial complications.
We have already lined up a number of programs: drones (which must be inside because there is no point in NYC more than five miles from an airport), legal issues, covering technology, covering real estate, transitioning to teaching and ethics. Irwin Gratz is looking for our MOE luncheon speaker and keystone is working on another panel. PCLI is on a search for swag, so don hesitate to help them out. Everyone should also come up with silent auction items.
As long as we pull together — and we are so good at that — it is going to be a great regional and a great year.

A Great Day for “Spotlight” and Journalism

It was quite late, but there was no way I was going to fall asleep before I heard “Best Picture” announced.
And it was worth the loss of sleep.
“Spotlight” took the Oscar.
The temptation to have a Woodward and Bernstein moment is overwhelming, but we do need to remember times are very different from the “All the President’s Men” days.
Today surveys show journalists are not respected. We’re down around used car salesmen on the list of least trusted professions. That really stings.
Maybe, just maybe, “Spotlight” being recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will wake a few people up. Maybe these people will start to realize there are real, professional journalists in this country. In this world. Real reporters knocking on doors and making phone calls and following leads and doing interminable research to get to the truth. The truth. Facts. Not opinion. Not appearances. Not innuendo. Not what somebody’s Aunt Eloise posted on Facebook.
There are still working reporters willing to fulfill the mantra of true journalism in the words of Finley Peter Dunne: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
And maybe, just maybe, a few really good, smart, tough young people are among those who saw the movie. People willing to pay their dues by sitting through interminable planning board meetings and slogging through the snow to a plane crash site and taking photos of the mayor’s nephew with his first deer. And maybe, somewhere, there will be a job.
Those thoughts feel pretty good.

Let Me Introduce Myself

I guess it’s about time I introduce myself.
My name is Jane Primerano and I’m your new-ish Interim Region I Director. Appointed to succeed Rebecca Baker as she moved up the ladder to secretary-treasurer.
I’ve been in the news business since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I spent years on the typical newspaper beats: municipal, county, cop-shop. Then environment, historic preservation and agriculture. That’s what I do now, I’m an “independent journalist,” which I still refer to as freelancer, covering agriculture and agri-buisness, equine topics, wine and craft beverages for trade publications. Mostly. Like most freelancers and in the noble tradition of Larry, Darryl and Darryl from the old Newhart TV show, “I’ll do anything for $1,” so I pick up work from other publications which is how I became the foremost expert on fresh-water weed control in New Jersey. Somebody’s got to do it.
I’ve been a member of SPJ since 1983. Not always active, especially while I was raising three kids as a single mother. Around 2005, kids semi-launched, I walked into an NJPro Chapter board meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.
I helped the wonderful David Levitt with the 2006 Regional conference and preceded to move up in the ranks of the board. I served on an informal committee, with Connecticut’s Cindy Simoneau, to help the Deadline Club with its Regional, which was so terrific it earned Rebecca the sobriquet Marvel Girl. I served as NJPro president for three years and ran our own Regional in 2013.
I really hadn’t thought of serving as RD. I was content to be NJPro’s representative to our Garden State Scholastic Press Association, the organization of high school j-teachers. But, I have been a delegate to the national convention several times and have learned a little bit about how the national works. So, when Rebecca asked me if I’d be interested, I realized I was.
So, for better or worse, you’ve got me. At least until September. And, longer if I decide I’ve done a decent enough job and have more I want to do and decide to run for a full term. And, of course, if I win. But that’s all in the future.
We have some important things going on, but I’ll save that for my next post.

RIP Phil from Philly, 1959-2015

Sad news to share … Phil Beck, who was president of the now-closed Philadelphia Pro Chapter of SPJ, died Thursday, July 9, on his 56th birthday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he had been a writer. His funeral was Sunday.

SPJ leaders from around Region 1 shared their remembrances of Phil over the weekend. If you would like to add your own thoughts, send them to and we’ll add them here ….

SPJ is a big outfit with thousands of great members who are dedicated to advancing and protecting journalism day in and day out. But sometimes there are parts of the country where this work falls mainly on the shoulders of a few very dedicated individuals. Such was the case in Philadelphia, where for many years Phil Beck was the person who kept the flame burning for SPJ. I know that in the end, the chapter was deactivated because it could not meet the minimum standards SPJ sets for programing and annual reports. But having worked personally with Phil on several projects, I admired his dedication to SPJ.In particular, I remember his invaluable help in going to bat for a Temple University photojournalism student who ran afoul of the Philadelphia police for simply taking pictures while on assignment. Phil was a good guy. I will miss him.

—John Ensslin, former national SPJ president, New Jersey Pro

I first met Phil through SPJ. I can’t remember precisely where or when, but it was surely with a smile and wonderful conversation. Through the years we’d see each other and catch up at Regions or National, and always with a warm hug and as though it hadn’t been a year since we last saw each other. Conversation with Phil ranged from journalism to travel to family. He was an intense listener and offered guidance so easily. More recently we have only kept in touch via Facebook, but he was always there with comforting words or encouragement or just something to make me chuckle. When I heard of his passing it was like a punch to the gut. To not be able to hear his laugh, see his smile, or listen to his stories again leaves an empty feeling in my heart. Phil was one of those people you are so glad to have in your life and his absence will be felt deeply.

—Kara Matuszewski Sassone,  New England Pro

I remember when he needed help with the Philadelphia conference, and me and Carl worked to put it together. He was so genuinely appreciative and kind. He greeted us both with smiles and hugs, and you could tell he just seems so happy for us to be there. He was truly genuine in his appreciation.

—Dominick Miserandino, Press Club of Long Island

To say someone’s smile lights up a room is the ultimate cliche, but Phil Beck’s smile did just that. I remember him walking into the hotel at Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Indianapolis and grabbing me in his great bear hug, lifting me off the ground. We had a blast at Scripps, convincing the hotel bartender that he couldn’t make mint juleps because we weren’t in Kentucky, he had to make Whiskey Rebellions; posing for pictures getting carded at the duck pin bowling alley, trying to teach Midwesterners how to properly sing “Sweet Caroline” and, oh, by the way, learning how to make our chapters better. On that trip, he almost, almost, convinced me that birds make good pets. Phil from Philly was a lot of fun, but he was also a serious, dedicated journalist. And, he loved SPJ the way we all do. He pretty much singlehandedly arranged a regional conference at Temple and, if he was sometimes reluctant to accept help, well, nobody knew what Philadelphia needed quite so well. My heart is aching today for I have lost a dear friend. And so has SPJ.

—Jane Primerano, New Jersey Pro

I will miss his smile, his motorcycle and his passion for the truth… Especially in journalism.

—Pat Trotsky, Keystone Pro

My favorite memory of Phil was at the 2010 national conference in Las Vegas, my first conference as Deadline Club president. Phil was the only person who would accompany me to Downtown Las Vegas, or Old Vegas, for the tacky (yet wonderful) Fremont Street Experience. Phil, who was roughly the size of a grizzly bear, protected me from getting harassed from street-corner proselytizers, alleyway hustlers, run-of-the-mill drunks and any variety of crooks and con men. Along the way, we cracked so many jokes that my sides literally hurt with laughter afterward. Phil not only was a good journalist and a good friend, he was a Good Man (™, ®, etc). The world is a lesser place without him.

—Rebecca Baker, Region 1 Director, New York Deadline Club

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Greetings Region 1 SPJ members. It’s been an exciting time for our region, for reasons big and small ….

First, we held a successful regional conference at Hofstra University. Hats off to the Press Club of Long Island and its conference committee for all of their hard work.

We announced the Mark of Excellence Awards winners and celebrated the best in collegiate journalism in Region 1.

We were represented at the SPJ national board meeting in Indianapolis and at the SDX Foundation board meeting by Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker.

We started planning for JournCamp, a day-long journalism training seminar in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday, June 13.

We marked our calendars for Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

And finally, we learned that we are #1. At just over 1,300 members, Region 1 is the largest region in SPJ. Nearly 1 out of 6 SPJ members lives in the Northeast U.S., which as we know, has more major media outlets than any other part of the country.

Let’s get together in NYC this June and/or in Orlando this September and toast to our success!


2015 Region 1 Conference Update

UPDATE: The Region 1 Conference website has been updated with details on panels, discussions and speakers. Check it out!

Registration is now open for the Region 1 Society of Professional Journalists Conference at Hofstra University on April 17-18.

The Press Club of Long Island is hosting the event and all you have to do is sign up by April 1 to take advantage of the early bird registration rates. You also can register on-site starting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 17.

The two-day extravaganza will kick off with panel discussions and sessions followed by an opening-night reception at 5:30 p.m. at the top of the Hofstra Library.

The conference will continue all day Saturday with a continental breakfast, morning and afternoon panels and resume critiques.

Lance Ulanoff, a Hofstra alumnus and the editor-at-large at Mashable, will be the keynote speaker at the Saturday lunch. The lunch will also feature a Region One Fund auction and a presentation of SPJ’s Mark of Excellence student journalism awards.


Act now for early bird ticket prices

Student SPJ member, early bird, $50

-Pro SPJ member, early bird, $65

-Student non-member, early bird, $75

-Pro non-member, early bird, $95

Here’s a look at the SPJ R1C schedule:


-11:30 a.m. Registration opens

-12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-12:30-2 p.m. Panel 1: How to get a job / Panel 2: FOIL

-2-2:30 p.m. Coffee Break

-2:30-3:45 p.m. Panel 1: Book publishing / Panel 2: Speciality Reporting

-4-5:15 p.m. Panel 1: Personal Branding / Panel 2: Media rights and legal issues

-5:30-8:30 p.m. Opening Reception


-8-9 a.m. Breakfast, chapter and regional leader meeting

-9 a.m.-12 p.m. Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-9-10:15 a.m. Panel 1: Photography / Panel 2: Freelancing

-10:30-11:45 a.m. Panel 1: Social Media / Panel 2: Sports Broadcasting

-12-2 p.m. Lunch with auction, keynote and Mark of Excellence Awards

-2 p.m. to closing Resume, clip and tape critiquing

-2:15-3:30 p.m. Panel 1: SEO / Panel 2: Narrative Storytelling

For hotel options, directions and other information, please visit or

Questions? Please email

FOI Fight Moves to Massachusetts

UPDATE: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has vowed to mend the FOI rift with the Secretary of State’s office. We’ll keep you posted.

Massachusetts’ public records law, already considered one of the weakest in the nation, has taken another hit.

A series of rulings by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin has given police greater power to withhold and censor arrest records—including those of officers themselves.

On Friday, The Boston Globe ran an editorial blasting Galvin for his actions. A day later, Galvin publicly pledged to push for a ballot referendum in November 2016 that would punish government agencies who ignore the state’s public records laws.

Other news outlets, including the Boston Herald, have joined the cry for much needed open records reform in the state.

SPJ is proud to stand with them, especially during Sunshine Week. This is the letter we sent to Galvin today (UPDATED with minor corrections):

March 17, 2015

William Francis Galvin
Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
McCormack Building
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108

Secretary Galvin:

State and national leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists, which represent about 7,500 journalists nationwide, stand with the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Patriot Ledger and other news outlets in condemnation of your recent rulings on the state’s public records law.

These rulings give Massachusetts police departments new discretion to withhold public records that are deemed covered by Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and impede the taxpaying public’s ability to hold law enforcement officials to the standards to which they expect them to perform. The rulings are also redundant and unnecessary since there are already laws in place protecting the privacy of police personnel.

We believe these rulings severely damage the public’s ability to gain access and insight to information to which it is legally entitled. At a time when the public is demanding more transparency from law enforcement agencies, we see this as a significant step backward. It’s a disservice to the citizens of the Massachusetts and an insult to the spirit of open government.

We applaud your attempt to reform the Commonwealth’s public records law by proposing a November 2016 ballot initiative increasing penalties for agencies that ignore the rules. But citizens should not have to wait 20 months to vote for easier access to, what is in truth, their property.

In the name of transparency and good government practices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we respectfully request you to withdraw the recent rulings and publicly support legislation filed by Rep. Peter Kocot of Northampton and Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester that would greatly improve the public records law.

With its proud history of championing freedom and liberty, Massachusetts should be a leader in government openness, not secrecy.


Danielle McLean
President, SPJ New England Professional Chapter

Rebecca Baker
SPJ Region 1 Director

Fighting for FOI in New Hampshire

Region 1 rallies when local lawmakers try to throw up barriers to public documents.

New England chapter president Danielle McLean and Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker sent a letter (expertly written by Danielle) Tuesday, March 10, to New Hampshire legislators urging them to vote no on HB 646, a bill that would allow government agencies to charge an upfront fee to access many public documents.

UPDATE 3/12: The House has tabled the bill indefinitely. We will keep an eye on the situation in case the legislation is reintroduced.

The issue has been covered by the New Hampshire media. Trent Spiner, the executive editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and president of the New Hampshire Press Association, has been at the forefront in trying to stop this bill. “Imagine an agency telling you it’ll take 100 hours to produce documents—which isn’t out of the question for a complex request—and that they want the money up front,” he wrote in an email.

Here is the text of the amendment that received a 14-4 “Ought to Pass”  recommendation by the state House Judiciary Committee:


Amendment to HB 646

Amend RSA 91-A:4, IV as inserted by section 1 of the bill by replacing it with the following:

IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any governmental record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such governmental record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a governmental record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a computer, photocopying machine, or other device maintained for use by a public body or agency is used by the public body or agency to copy the governmental record requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the public body or agency.Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged. No charge shall be imposed for allowing a person to inspect a record that is immediately available.

Amend the bill by inserting after section 1 the following and renumbering the original section 2 to read as 3:

2 New Paragraph; Right-to-Know; Charges for Retrieval of Governmental Records. Amend RSA 91-A:4 by inserting after paragraph IV the following new paragraph:

IV-a. A public body may charge a fee to cover the actual labor cost of retrieving and copying the requested records, including reviewing and redacting confidential and other exempt information, subject to the following:

(a) The amount charged per hour shall not exceed the applicable minimum wage, and no charge shall be made for the first hour.

(b) The public body or agency shall provide the requester with a reasonable estimate of the time necessary to respond to the request and of the total cost. If the estimate of the total cost exceeds $50, the requester may be required to pay all or a portion of the cost prior to retrieval of the records. If the final cost differs from the estimate, the difference shall be refunded or collected, as the case may be, at the time the records are provided.

(c) No charge shall be made for the cost of searching for or retrieving minutes of any public body meeting that occurred less than one year before the date of the request.

(d) Upon request, the public body or agency shall provide a detailed itemization of the costs charged.

(e) A court may reduce or waive the fees charged if it determines that the information requested is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.

(f) The public body or agency may waive any charges for an individual who demonstrates an inability to pay.

And this is the letter that was emailed to every single one of New Hampshire’s state representatives:

State and national leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists, which represents more than 8,000 journalists nationwide, urge the withdrawal of amendments to HB 646, which would allow a public body or agency to impose fees for the retrieval of right-to-know public records requests.

This bill, if passed, would impede not only the media’s, but the tax- paying public’s ability to hold their elected representatives and public servants to the standards in which they expect them to perform.

It is essential that the public have at its disposal a complete picture of how our government is operating. Public records belong to members the public and are an important piece to completing that picture. Under no circumstance should a member of the public ever be charged a costly fee for materials that by law, belong to them. The addition of a fee would inflict financial hardships on many members of the public seeking documents to which they are legally entitled.

While preparing and administering some public records requests may seem like a costly and tedious activity, it is fundamental in allowing members of the public to review how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent and to expose waste and corruption. Rather than treating public records as an inconvenient cost, government agencies and officials should budget for and treat those requests as an important piece of good governance.

We urge you to withdraw amendments to HB 646 for the sake of transparent governance in New Hampshire.


Danielle McLean
President, SPJ New England Pro Chapter; Reporter, Somerville Journal

Rebecca Baker
SPJ Region 1 Director
Managing Editor, New York Law Journal

SPJ has at least one New Hampshire lawmaker on its side. Rep. Max Abramson emailed the following response: “Thank you very much. I will be speaking on the House floor against this awful bill first thing tomorrow.”

The vote on the bill was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 11 but may be postponed. We will update you with new information as it becomes available. Meanwhile, feel free to tweet to the New Hampshire Speaker of the House (@nhspeaker) to share your thoughts about the Granite State’s proposal.

Get Free Money for your Chapter Event!

For the second consecutive year, the Region 1 Fund is offering quarterly grants of up to $500 to help professional and student chapters recruit speakers, book space and promote events. This is in addition to the national chapter grants that SPJ national offers:

Over the past year, Region 1 Grants were awarded to The College at Brockport to produce a Western New York Media Conference and to the Keystone Pro chapter to purchase the documentary “A Fragile Trust” for screening events with local college chapters.

The deadlines for quarterly funding are as follows: Nov. 21, 2014; Feb. 21, 2015; May 21, 2015; Aug. 21, 2015

Simply cut/paste the following application into an email or Word file and send it to:

Region 1 Director Rebecca Baker:

Region 1 Treasurer Bill Bleyer:

Chapter Name:
Program name:

Please describe your program and include any objectives you would like your program to accomplish:

Approx. Date program will take place:

How will this program benefit your chapter’s members and the journalism community as a whole?

What format will your program follow?

Who will be invited to speak at and/or present the program?

Requested grant amount: $

Preliminary budget: $

Reasons why your chapter cannot fund this event without grant funds:


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ