Posts Tagged ‘portland’

While judge protects journalists in Portland, court ruling in Seattle endangers reporters

UPDATE: Within hours of the issuance of the temporary restraining order in Portland, federal agents shot Oregon Public Broadcasting journalist Rebecca Ellis with tear-gas projectiles. She was not injured, but it it appears to be a flagrant violation of the order.

Journalists won some and lost some in the past week in the Pacific Northwest.

The good news was that a federal judge temporarily barred federal agents from using force or threats against journalists covering the demonstrations in downtown Portland.

But that legal victory was tempered by a King County Superior Court judge’s ruling that the Seattle Times and other news outlets had to turn over unpublished photos and videos of a violent May 30 protest, despite a strong shield law in Washington state.

Both cities have seen protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. There has been violence with the protests, and President Donald Trump sent federal agents to protect federal property in the city.

But there are reports that the agents, who do not wear agency patches on their camouflage uniforms and body armor, have gone outside the boundaries of the federal courthouse and other federal buildings, grabbing people off the street and bundling them into unmarked vehicles.

During the protests, these agents have also fired “impact munitions” — so-called less-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets, beanbag rounds and wooden dowels — at journalists and legal observers during the protests.

Attorney Matthew Borden, representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said the assaults on journalists were not accidents, but the “acts of intimidation by a tyrant, and they have no place in the city of Portland.”

We’ve already seen this happen in other cities, where police target journalists who are observing the protests and police actions, some of which border on violent themselves.

In a 22-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon issued a temporary order barring the federal agents from willfully targeting, threatening or intimidating journalists who were covering the protests, as well as legal observers.

Simon rejected the U.S. Justice Department’s arguments that it was too hard for the officers to tell the difference between journalists and violent protesters, as well as the assertion that journalists did not have a right to access above the public to the closed-off areas.

“When wrongdoing is underway, officials have great incentive to blindfold the eyes of the Fourth Estate. The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the judiciary is the guardian of the press,” Simon wrote.

Unfortunately, farther up Interstate 5, King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee believes journalists should be the Seattle Police Department’s eyes rather than those of the public.

Lee upheld a subpoena ordering the Seattle Times, KIRO 7, KING 5, KOMO 4 and KCPQ 13 to turn over all unpublished photos and unaired video and outtakes from coverage of a May 30 demonstration downtown.

Police say they are seeking the video and photos to identify who stole firearms from SPD vehicles that were set afire during the demonstration.

Lee claimed that the police had met the burden of overcoming the state’s shield law by demonstrating that the information was “highly material and relevant” and that all other reasonable means were exhausted.

First, let me say that stolen weapons are a serious matter. But it’s also no excuse to force journalists to surrender information that is protected by the state’s shield law.

It is highly unlikely that police have exhausted all reasonable efforts to get the information from other sources. For example, there are social media posts, surveillance camera footage from nearby businesses and homes and plain old shoe-leather detective work. Police could also offer a reward for information that will loosen someone’s lips enough to finger the suspects.

Forcing journalists to turn over footage, photos and other information gathered in the process of reporting undermines journalistic independence and puts journalists in danger.

A shield law recognizes the Fourth Estate’s role as an independent observer capable of bearing record to government’s actions and informing the public of what they do. In order to do that, journalists need protection from turning over their work materials, unpublished information or names of confidential sources to government.

It’s akin to the privilege we grant clergy, doctors and lawyers not to disclose things they were told by those they work with. While it may frustrate police and prosecutors, those privileges ensure that society works and justice is served.

The same goes for journalists. Allowing us to protect information ensures that we can do our jobs of holding the powerful accountable and helping those who are wronged.

If this subpoena is allowed to stand, it will make journalists’ jobs much harder — and dangerous.

There are already reports of protesters attacking photojournalists  because they don’t want their pictures taken. If journalists are forced to give information to the police, we will be seen as merely informants for the government and targeted even more for violence.

To follow that path to its conclusion, it would mean journalists would likely not want to cover a demonstration for fear of violence, and thus deprive both sides of an independent observer who can stand as a witness for what happened on both sides.

Unless police Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan exercise some common sense and withdraw the subpoena, we have to hope that an appeals court judge has more courage than Judge Lee.

2010 SPJ NW Excellence in Journalism Contest: Call for Entries

Seattle, Washington, January 17, 2011 – Today Region 10 of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) announced its call for entries for the 2010 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. The contest honors exceptional journalism published or produced in 2010 in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana in all forms of media (print, online, radio, and TV). Both SPJ and non-SPJ members are invited to participate in the contest.

This year’s contest is getting off to a late start so that organizers could implement a different online contest vendor this year, omniContests. The SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest is officially accepting entries today through 11:59 pm on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. SPJ Regional Director Dana Neuts, a freelance journalist in Kent, Washington, highlights several changes to this year’s contest:

— All entries except General Excellence entries must be submitted online this year.

— Entries can be paid online (preferred) or via check.

— In the Daily Newspaper category, Feature Photography has been expanded from one category to two to include both Feature Photography and Portrait Photography.

— SPJ members will receive a $5 discount on contest entry submissions, $15 for regular entries and $40 for General Excellence entries. Non-SPJ members will pay $20 and $45, respectively.

In the 2009 contest, more than 2,500 entries were received from around the region. An increased number of entries is expected this year. Entries will be submitted to out-of-state judges in March, and he Western Washington Pro and Southwestern Washington/Oregon Pro chapters will present awards to those in their area at banquets in Seattle and Portland on Saturday, May 21. The remaining awards will be announced online that evening and presented by their respective chapter leaders.

To enter the contest online, please visit For questions, please contact contest administrator Ruth Pettis at 206-781-8097 or contest coordinator Dana Neuts or 360-920-1737.

2010 Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest Timetable

(Revised 1/11/11)

We are getting ready to launch the annual Region 10 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. Here is the timetable for this year’s contest, honoring work produced during 2010:

12/31/10 – Contest categories solidified (to include any new categories, changes, etc.)

01/14/11 – Online contest entry information posted

01/14/11 – Press release issued, announcing the contest:  official “call for entries”

02/22/11 – Entry deadline for all categories

02/25/11 – Payment deadline for all entries to advance to judging (pay online or via check)

02/28/11 – Contest entries submitted to out-of-state judges

03/31/11 – Judges’ decisions to be returned to regional director

04/30/11 – Notification of winners (names only, no place or category info. will be given)

05/21/11 – Awards banquets to be held in Seattle and Portland for those chapters; other chapters will receive trophies and certificates via mail around the same time. For information about your chapter’s awards, please contact your chapter president.

Questions? Please contact regional director Dana Howard Neuts or contest coordinator Ruth Pettis.

Congratulations to our 2009 NW Excellence in Journalism Contest winners!

This year our 2009 NW Excellence in Journalism Contest brought in 2,500 entries from Region 10, including entries from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The entries were submitted online for the first time this year, and judged online as well by journalists around the country. It was a big effort, but well worth it to be able to honor the very best in journalist in our corner of the world.

For those of you who were not able to attend the Portland or Seattle chapters’ May 22 awards banquets, or who belong to a chapter that doesn’t host an awards ceremony, we are pleased to be able to share the winners of this year’s Region 10 SPJ contest with you.

Download the winners here!

Congratulations to all of those who submitted entries this year! We are honored to work along side you!

Award results to be posted by midnight, May 23

Everyone is anxious to hear the results of the Region 10 Excellence in Journalism contest, and we’ve been getting lots of requests for more information about when winners will be posted. We’re glad you are so enthusiastic!

As in past years, we will post the winners by midnight the night of the Portland and Seattle banquets, May 22. So by 12 am on Sunday, May 23, the full list of regional winners will be posted at that time. They will be posted to Western Washington Pro Chapter’s website and passed onto other chapters who have websites. They will also be posted to the Region 10 blog.

If you have any questions, please direct them to your individual chapter presidents. Thank you and good luck!


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