Call SPJ if you have questions

I shared the following story with my colleagues and one of them thought I should share it with all of you (see Scott Leadingham):

Over Easter weekend, I met my parents in Washington, D.C. to take a walk beneath the cherry blossoms. We joined the 100,000-plus admirers of the blooms and braved the crowded metro to see some sites that we’d never visited before. I’ve lived in D.C. and visited as a tourist many times, but what I love most about the city is that there’s always something unfamiliar or new to explore. In addition to the Blossom Festival, Lincoln’s summer cottage and Hotel George’s Bistro-Bis, the Newseum was high on our priority list.

While all of our destinations on that trip’s agenda were fantastic, the Newseum was divine. My parents and I spent an entire afternoon systematically moving from one exhibit to the next, completely enthralled with the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery; the exposed pieces of the Berlin Wall, one of which you could touch;   the moving display of the coverage of 9/11; and the recreation of Tim Russert’s office. We could have spent all day opening the drawers of preserved pages from over 30,000 historic newspapers. I found the memorial to all journalists who were killed while doing their job particularly emotional. So emotional, in fact, that I could not form words to describe how I felt standing beneath the glass panels that paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in the name of getting a story to the public.

When we went to sleep that night, I, and my unfortunate roommates, my parents, found out just how much I had been affected by the Newseum. I awoke my parents by loudly declaring:

“WE MUST BE TRANSPARENT. WE MUST BE TRANSPARENT. WE MUST BE TRANSPARENT.”

According to my mother, I repeated these four words with gumption before taking a breath and starting again. My poor startled parents said they stared at me in the darkness as I rallied unseen supporters for FOI and open government, wondering if I was OK or if the Newseum and my internship with SPJ truly had infiltrated my dreams. Then they got their answer….

“Tell them to call SPJ if they have any questions,” I said resolutely. Shortly thereafter, I was silent.

Of all places to get on my soapbox about the importance of transparency, I should be doing it in D.C.

Too bad I was doing it in my sleep.

But I am very happy that I asked whoever was listening – in my dream or in the adjacent hotel rooms – that they could call SPJ if they needed any additional information. I hope you tell your journalism friends, preferably the real ones, to call SPJ, too.


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