Archive for the ‘SPJ report’ Category

How to give kids a free hit of journalism

Journalism is like crystal meth: If you want repeat customers, hook ’em young.

That’s happening right now in Vero Beach, Florida.

A retiree named Thomas Hardy runs an after-school program called the Glendale Young Authors’ Club. Hardy launched it with a half-dozen fourth- and fifth-graders and the enthusiastic support of the principal at Glendale Elementary School.

Weirdly and nobly, Hardy isn’t a journalist. He owned a software company before retiring to sleepy Vero Beach (population: 20,000). This Atlantic coastal town is 90 minutes north of Trump’s Mar-A-Lago and two hours south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

When the local newspaper shriveled up and died, Hardy launched his own novice effort, called Vero Communique. But he knew enough to join SPJ and write on the about page, “We endorse the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists” and link to it. (Personal aside: I wish some pro news outlets cared as much about the code as Hardy does.)

Hardy didn’t stop there, concluding the best way to keep journalism from perishing is to teach young people why it’s so damned important. When he launched the after-school program, he contacted SPJ looking for help.

SPJ Florida paid for a visit from Wesley Wright, a former higher-ed reporter for the Virginia Gazette who later covered education for Chalkbeat in Denver before heading back to college, where he’s pursuing a master’s in education policy – because he wants to change education in this country, not just cover it.

Below is Wright’s report. My personal hope is that SPJ can help Hardy and Wright duplicate this program elsewhere. If you’re similarly interested, email me.

Publish or perish

by Wesley Wright

Media literacy has become as important as ever in the digital age, where so many companies and interests are competing for consumers’ eyes.

One Vero Beach man is using his own money (along with $700 in donations) to give elementary schoolers in Indian River a head start on how to become informed about issues they see in the world and in their community.

Thomas Hardy has spent four hours each week in helping preside over the Glendale Youth Authors’ Magazine. Since October, Hardy has walked the children through everything from reputed reporters of yesteryear to the way in which reporters approach an interview.

“What I’m concerned with is helping the kids learn how to be informed and inquisitive,” he said. “It’s this day and time, learning how to be research subjects on your own is especially key, and it is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.”

County school board member Tiffany Justice was one of several who hope Hardy give the basic tenets of his program over to a larger organization, like the Boys and Girls Club or Gifford Youth Action Center.

Many more students may be interested in a program like this, she said, but lack of transportation to Glendale or Internet access at home could mean some students forego the opportunity.

“What you’re looking for is an organization that has more resources,” she said. “Not only would you not have to do all the work, you’d also be opening this type of program up to children who otherwise might not access to it.”

Fourth-grade math and science teacher Zac Trahan allows Hardy to use his classroom for the purposes of the magazine.

“It has helped their writing for sure,” he said. “What it really has done is compel them to take the rest of their subjects that much more seriously, and it has made them curious.”

“We enjoy it, ” said Emma Cahill, who has been in the program since it began. (That’s her sitting at the computer in the photo atop this post.) Their next issue, she said, will be centered around the reasons that local beaches closed during to the rampant growth of red tide recently.

Justice, the school board member, applauded Hardy for his initiative in starting the program, which she called astute way of getting children to think critically about the world as their place in it.

Two of the six students currently involved in the program enter sixth grade next year. Hardy hopes he can drum up enough interest in the program to keep it afloat for years to come.

“There is a wealth of retired reporters here and others who would love to help you,” Justice said.

Say what?


Here’s an irony: Media maligning SPJ.

Last week, someone told me about an article that ripped this fine organization.

(To be specific, it was a tweet from the “crown regent of tactical shitposting.” Just how barren was my life before Twitter?)


One of my few deeply held personal convictions is, “Never trust a headline in ALL CAPS unless a war is ending or a man is walking on the moon.” So I was skeptical before I began reading.

If you’ve already clicked the link, you’ll notice it ran on WorldNetDaily, a conservative website that most journalists can’t stand — not because of its right-wing politics, but because of its crappy reporting.

However, one of my other convictions is to judge each story on its own merits, whether it runs in The New York Times or the National Enquirer (maybe because I’ve freelanced for both).

SPJ makes an appearance about halfway down, after a man named Colin Flaherty agreed with the statement, “black activists and elected officials pressure editors to ignore or downplay black violence.”

The story continues from there…

The Society of Professional Journalists aids the cover-up, according to Flaherty, by telling their members to not report the race of people involved in violent crimes.

“The SPJ chapters all over the country give seminars on this,” Flaherty said. “Their national magazine writes stories about this, all saying the same thing: Race has nothing to do with violent crime, so do not report it.

“This is weird because this same group with the same reporters are constantly writing about black colleges, black churches, black funeral homes, black police officer groups, ad infinitum. But black violence? Nothing.”

That would be awful. If it were true.


Colin Flaherty is a controversial guy.

WND says he’s “done more reporting than any other journalist on what appears to be a nationwide trend of skyrocketing black-on-white crime.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him a “marginal media figure.”

I’m going to lean toward marginal, because I‘ve served on the SPJ board since 2008 (with one year off to preserve my sanity) and have never heard about any of this. I’ve also been a chapter president, and we never gave “seminars” about not reporting stuff.

So I emailed Flaherty to ask him how he did his reporting. He replied, “check out the article in Quill on the topic.” That’s it. That’s all he wrote me.

Quill is SPJ’s bimonthly magazine for its members. I found this article from last month: Finding Your Voice: Reporting on Inequality Fairly and Ethically. It’s a lot more nuanced than Flaherty implies.

In fact, to be honest, it’s kind of boring. It uses terms like “perception cycle” and “responsibility continuum” and has sentences like this: “This continuum illustrates the hierarchy of influence that ultimately leads to disparate social outcomes.”

I emailed Flaherty again and asked if this was the story he was talking about. He replied…

was invited to write a reply to the Quill about it. which i did. which they never used or replied to. and it all began when the quill ran a review of my book from thomas sowell. without mentioning my book. you have a ton to go on. so go for it.

That’s weird, because Quill has no record of Colin Flaherty or Thomas Sowell. (The latter is a conservative economist.) Maybe Flaherty is right, but I can’t find any evidence, and he’s not offering any. So there’s a ton of something going on. If I had to guess: Flaherty is mostly upset that SPJ didn’t pimp his book.


But there’s no crying in journalism.

The world won’t shed a tear for a journalism organization getting railroaded by a media outlet. SPJ won’t shed a tear, either.

That’s because we’re real familiar with shoddy journalism. Hell, if we weren’t, we never would’ve written the SPJ Code of Ethics.

But here’s what sucks: While we’re accustomed to this crap, most regular citizens aren’t. Once they get this treatment personally, or their heroes do, they distrust all journalists forever.

That turns to downright hatred when readers ask those journalists for proof of their reporting, and they get arrogance rather than explanations.

I’ve always said and still believe: “Nothing is more hypocritical than a thin-skinned journalist.” Now I’m adding “dangerous.”

Can’t wait till Dave’s dead

dave cuillier legal offense fund


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