Moving Forward with Regions 4 & 5

Fourteen panels, 48 (!!) speakers, 27 sponsors, ~200 registrants and 200-plus MOE awards. Plus dozens and dozens of Tweets — and $500 from a Silent Auction for the Student Press Law Center.

That’s the takeaway from the joint Region 4/Region 5 spring conference in Cincinnati April 1-2.

Seven Miami University students pick up MOEs at the Region 4/5 spring conference.

Seven Miami University students pick up MOEs at the Region 4/5 spring conference.

Lots of great networking and learning too. Among them:

  • Louisville Public Media has created a model worth replicating by using the strength of its public radio membership base to fund the innovative work of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
  • Journalists in Region 4 & 5, like those elsewhere, need to keep the pressure on police and prosecutors to obtain dash-cam, body-cam and surveillance camera footage in a timely way. The debate over whether such footage is an “incident report” (which should be immediately available) or “investigatory” (and therefore, withheld until the completion of police investigations) rages on.
  • SPJ’s Fix It By 50 campaign is an important effort as House and Senate measures inch forward to bring the Freedom of Information Act into the digital age.
  • Region 4 students are producing a TON of award-worthy work. More than 400 entered the annual Mark of Excellence competition, with more than 100 taking home MOE awards. 

SPJers are among the best group of people to spend a weekend with!

A special shoutout to the conference planning committee: Deb Givens, Region 5 director and conference co-chair, with me; Shannon Brock, Kentucky Living; Carrie Buchanan, John Carroll University; April Corbin, Kentucky freelancer; Michele Day, Northern Kentucky University; Hagit Limor, University of Cincinnati; Ginny McCabe, Cincinnati freelancer; Tom McKee, WCPO-TV Cincinnati; Kaye Spector, Cleveland Clinic; and Jenny Wohlfarth, University of Cincinnati.

Thanks, too, to national SPJ President Paul Fletcher for making the trip — providing remarks at lunch and serving as a panelist for the FOIA session as well as one on ethics. He was, by the way, joined by four former national presidents during the weekend, with Limor, Kevin Z. Smith, Mac McKerral and Paul Davis also in attendance.

Special congrats, too, to Miami University Mark of Excellence winners. I’m especially proud of that kid named A.J. Newberry.

R4+R5=Big show

Journalists and friends-of-journalism from seven states will descend on Cincinnati April 1-2 for a joint Region 4-Region 5 conference, titled Looking Back, Moving Forward.

On tap:

Stephen George

Stephen George

  • Stephen George from Louisville Public Media, presenting the keynote speech about his Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and how to build an investigative culture in newsrooms.
  • Twelve panels on four different tracks: history in journalism, tools and technologies, skill sharpening, and diversity matters.
  • A SuperSession panel on the use of body-cam, dash-cam and citizen video in reporting.
  • MOE awards, from 404 entries from Region 4 and 475 from Region 5.
  • A Silent Auction to benefit the Student Press Law Center.
  • An opening reception, with area millennial journalists populating a Job Hunt 2016 meet-n-greet.

Great work from a great committee. Hoping for an equally great turnout for our great programming.


Did someone say Spotlight?


Miami University’s Department of Media, Journalism & Film will host the real Walter “Robby” Robinson of “Spotlight” fame March 8. Robinson, portrayed in the Academy Award-winning film by Michael Keaton, will speak to several classes and present “Spotlight on Spotlight” at 4 p.m. in the Armstrong Student Center’s Pavilion rooms.

In anticipation of his visit, several MJF faculty members have assigned students to read some of the Boston Globe’s original coverage of the priest pedophile scandal, as well as a comprehensive Columbia University-produced case study related to its Spotlight team. Need a reminder of the importance of deep, investigative work in American journalism? Watch the film. Read the coverage. Read the case study. And if you are anywhere near Oxford, Ohio, March 8, join us to welcome Robby Robinson.

(Just in: As the nation recalls the Catholic church scandal in Boston, a Pennsylvania grand jury on Tuesday released a 147-page report alleging that some 50 priests and other religious leaders in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese abused hundreds of children over four decades. Coverage of the report notes that journalists who cover the central Pennsylvania community have been writing about the scandal there for years.)


Future of Student Media @ OU April 8-9

Schoonover Center for Communication at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University | The Collaborative

Schoonover Center for Communication at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University | The Collaborative

The super smart folks at Ohio University have assembled a super smart conference focused on the future of student media. The Future of Student Media Summit in Athens, Ohio, promises to be two days of top-notch advice and forecasting. Check out the A List speakers — many of whom are OU grads — on the conference site. I’m making the trek east from Cincinnati with two colleagues and a van full of students. Hope to see some of you there.

Looking Back, Moving Forward coming April 1-2

R4-5-16 logoThe Planning Committee for Looking Back, Moving Forward is hard at work lining up a great roster of speakers. We’ll release the list this coming weekend. In the meantime, we’ve extended the early bird prices through March 8. Visit for all the details. And watch for updates!

Save the date: Combined 4/5 Regional is April 1-2

One of the many pleasures of attending the annual Excellence in Journalism conference is meeting up with Region 4 members. This year, the pleasure was doubled as Region 4 and 5 members met together to begin planning a joint Region 4-5 spring conference.Kingsgate

And thanks to some pre-EIJ conversations, we’ve already booked the Kingsgate Marriott and Conference Center in Cincinnati for April 1-2 for the Regional.

The Regional Conference Planning Committee collected lots of great topic and speaker ideas in Orlando — and invites you to add to the list. Who would you like to meet? What topic do you think would attract students, pros, academics and others? Would you volunteer to set up a panel? Moderate? At this point everything is on the table and all ideas are good ideas. Send yours to me at by Oct. 15. (We’ll keep taking ideas after that, but that’s our first idea deadline.)

Kingsgate, by the way, sits adjacent to the University of Cincinnati campus. It’s a short walk to lots of great entertainment options on campus; and a short ride to the hopping scenes in Cincinnati’s downtown, Over the Rhine and Mount Adams areas, as well as over the river in Northern Kentucky. So you’ll be educated by day — and entertained by night!

What else happened in Orlando?

  • Good sessions, from first day to last.
  • New leadership, on the board and elsewhere.
  • Lots and lots of recognition for Region 4 members, reported in earlier 4th Estate posts.

Ohio Bar hosts annual law-media conference

law-media conf f15The Ohio State Bar Association, with the support of the Columbus chapter of SPJ, will once again host its popular Law and Media Conference. The event is Oct. 16 in Columbus, 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

Journalists, lawyers, academics, judges and others will take up such topics as police body cameras, drones, defamation, hot privacy issues and legislation that could affect the Ohio Public Records Act.

One session sure to fill the room: “Punching Out Scruff Face: Jesse Ventura/American Sniper Libel Lessons.” According to event material, speakers (from New York, Minneapolis and Columbus) will provide “a deep dive into the facts and defamation law surrounding the Jesse Ventura v. Kyle case and discuss its potential future impact on media and the First Amendment.”

The Ohio Association of Broadcasters and Ohio Newspaper Association join SPJ as co-sponsor of the conference.

Costs begin at $15 for students and $30 for professionals and go up after Oct. 9, with more information on the Bar Association website.



Cincy chapter to host DuBose session

DuBose session f15The Cincinnati chapter will host “Words & Images: A Media Debrief and Community Conversation” on Oct. 8 to discuss a high-profile July police shooting and the media’s coverage of it.

Panelists will examine all aspects of news coverage of the death of Samuel DuBose, a unarmed black motorist who was shot to death by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on July 19 after being stopped for driving a car without a front license plate.

Panelists will include attorneys for both the DuBose and Tensing families, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black, Julie Wilson of the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Cincinnati Human Relations Commission Executive Director Ericka King-Betts, and representatives from several Cincinnati media outlets.

The event will be sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Jewish Community Relations Council, The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, and the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.

The discussion will run 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, in downtown Cincinnati.

“This is a critical discussion that hasn’t had a public forum, until now,” said Hagit Limor, former Society of Professional Journalists national president and panel moderator. “We look forward to providing everyone the opportunity to be part of this community.”

RSVPs are requested by Oct. 6 at

Journalists interested in covering the panel may contact Jackie Congedo, Cincinnati SPJ, at or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center,, (513) 333-7511.

EIJ15, one photo at a time

EIJ15 was a whirlwind of words, words and more words. I’ll get to those soon — but today, 48 hours after re-entry to the Day Job — the best I can manage is a photo mash-up, with cutlines below. Great to see so many Region 4 SPJers in Orlando — and to see so many recognized for their good work!


Row 1: Sue Porter, vice president at the Scripps Howard Foundation in Cincinnati, took home SPJ’s highest honor, the prestigious Wells Key Award. Former SPJ President Hagit Limor, right in photo, serves on the SDX board with Porter. The Columbus Dispatch and Student Press Law Center won the Eugene Pulliam First Amendment Award for their work on campus crime coverage.

Row 2: Ohio University SPJ chapter adviser Nerissa Young won recognition as the David L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Adviser, while OU senior Kate Hiller won election as one of two student representatives to the SPJ National Board. Cincinnati chapter president Tom McKee of WCPO-TV, with wife Claudia, was honored as one of two pro members of the year.

Row 3: Miami of Ohio students Brett Milam, Alyssa Sato and Ariel Wiley traveled to Orlando with me to up their SPJ cred. Otterbein 360 and adviser Hillary Warren won an SPJ Sunshine Award for their successful battle to open police records at their central Ohio campus.

Row 4 and 5: My four panels — Suicide & Sources; Covering Ferguson & Baltimore; A Rape on Campus; and Covering Cuba — drew respectable crowds despite heavy competition. Happy to see University of Cincinnati prof, SPJ adviser and fellow Cuba traveler Jenny Wohlfarth (center in final photo) at the Cuba session.

Note: Other Region 4 winners included the Cleveland chapter, recognized with a Circle of Excellence Award for its communication outreach, and the OU chapter, recognized as Region 4 student chapter of the year.



Dispatch, SPLC share Pulliam Award

campusinsecurityA little late — but another big honor for Region 4.

SPJ announced on July 24 that the Columbus Dispatch and the Student Press Law Center were awarded the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award for their fight against hidden campus crime rates. The award comes with a $10,000 prize.

The Dispatch and SPLC worked together last year on an investigative series titled “Campus Insecurity,” available here.

“Most campuses are anything but secure. And worse, administrators have cloaked their campus crime rates and poor response to them in secrecy — failing to take some complaints seriously, shunting what should be criminal cases into closed-door campus judicial hearings handled by untrained faculty and students, and refusing public records about the cases or stalling when asked for them,” the authors wrote.

The series revealed flawed and unreliable crime statistics, which misrepresent crime on campuses. In some cases, campus officials failed to even report violent crimes.

The series also exposed lack of transparency on college campuses, especially related to judicial hearings involving crimes.

“Because of all of their hard work, they informed the public of a very serious issue and brought awareness to the importance of accurate crime reporting,” SPJ said in its press release, noting that Dispatch and SPLC staffers had to fight to get public records.

They will honored Sept. 20 at the President’s Installation Banquet during Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando.



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