Archive for the ‘Future of Journalism’ Category

SPJ in 2017: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for journalism. In 2017, journalists have been arrested, threatened and bullied. They’ve been harassed by sources – and each other. But more than anything, 2017 has been a year when journalists have proven they will continue to do their jobs no matter the obstacles they face.

That’s why SPJ has been hard at work fighting for journalists everywhere, but much of our work is done behind the scenes.

In 2017, SPJ has continued strong advocacy work in fighting for journalists’ rights; recognized amazing works of journalism with our Sigma Delta Chi Awards, Mark of Excellence Awards and many others; launched an Inauguration Day membership drive and continued to partner and support other journalism organizations.

Here are some of our highlights:


We signed onto at least 17 court briefs whose cases would have major effects on journalism this year. We wrote and signed onto a plethora of letters in support of issues that would affect free press, ethical journalism, net neutrality and more. We also committed thousands of dollars from the SPJ Legal Defense Fund this year to journalists facing legal issues.

SPJ spearheaded a letter, signed by 70 journalism and open government organizations, to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence requesting a meeting about government transparency. The groups seek to build on the meeting SPJ led in December 2015 with the Obama administration. To date, however, the Trump administration has not responded.

In February, SPJ – along with Committee to Protect Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, National Press Photographers Association and Online News Association – sent a letter to officials in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to allow journalists to cover the events at Standing Rock safely.

After speaking out against a judge’s actions regarding “prior restraint” in December 2016, SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee granted Isaac Avilucea, a reporter for the (Trenton, New Jersey) Trentonian, $5,000 in March to help with his legal fees. Avilucea obtained a confidential child custody report from the child’s mother. Without giving notice to the newspaper or Avilucea, a New Jersey judge issued an emergency order prohibiting him and the newspaper from publishing information obtained from the complaint. Avilucea won his case in March.

SPJ had its biggest and best Ethics Week in April – with the help of some friends in New York City, we displayed the Code of Ethics on billboards in Times Square. We also had our very first Day of Giving, where we raised $22,025.

Dan Heyman, a West Virginia Public News Service journalist, was arrested in May for questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. SPJ urged West Virginia officials to drop the charges. SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee later granted Heyman’s lawyer, Tim DiPiero, $5,000 to cover his fees. DiPiero, along with the law firm of Wilmer Hale, which worked on a pro bono basis, was instrumental in securing a complete and unconditional dismissal of the charges.

In June, SPJ headquarters staffers and leaders met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of journalism and explain what organizations like SPJ do to help the industry. We also joined a group of press freedom groups in filing a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking that Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) be disciplined after his assault charge for allegedly “body-slamming” a reporter for The Guardian.

SPJ and 32 other journalism and open government organizations sent a letter in July to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) urging the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the state of media in the United States.

Throughout the year, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman shared his thoughts on ethical journalism and the SPJ Code of Ethics, via the Code Words blog. He wrote about journalists speaking out against discrimination; the reasons why journalists are not the dishonest enemies of America like POTUS says; how to cover natural disasters and the situation in Puerto Rico; why journalism organizations and institutions should be held accountable and more.

SPJ joined Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation and 17 other press freedom organizations to launch the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. We also launched a website to continue fighting restrictions on information from Public Information Officers.

SPJ raised more than $10,000 for Giving News Day in support of the Legal Defense Fund, the First Amendment Forever Fund, the President’s Club and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

SPJ spoke out against the secretive new owners of LA Weekly and, most recently, compiled and released a list of resources for journalists combating sexual harassment in the newsroom.


SPJ received more than 3,500 entries for the Mark of Excellence collegiate awards. There were 51 national winners across 12 regions. This year, SPJ also introduced a new videography category for the 2017 awards.

SPJ had more than 1,300 entries for the Sigma Delta Chi awards for professional journalists, with 86 national winners. These awards recognize the best of the best in journalism, which truly makes a difference in people’s lives.

Bruce Sanford, longtime SPJ attorney and First Amendment advocate, was given the highest SPJ honor – the Wells Memorial Key. Jerry Seib, Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Shepard were named Fellows of the Society for their extraordinary contributions to journalism. Rochelle Riley was given the $75,000 Pulliam Fellowship in Editorial Writing. Riley plans to spend the next year studying the effect of trauma and a toxic environment on children’s learning.

Ohio University was named the best SPJ campus chapter, and the Press Club of Long Island, Florida Pro Chapter and Cincinnati Pro Chapter were named the best professional chapters of SPJ.


SPJ gained 219 members in response to an Inauguration Day special membership promotion for professional members. Thanks to the “Fight Back” campaign, we’re trending up in membership compared to this time last year, finally reversing a multi-year decline.


More than 1,800 people attended this year’s journalism conference in Anaheim, California. At EIJ17, more than $5,500 was raised for the Legal Defense Fund through the LDF auction, and #EIJ17 was tweeted more than 11,600 times during the three-day conference.


SPJ’s partnerships with other journalism organizations also grew in 2017. Now, SPJ provides association management services such as bookkeeping, communications and conference planning to the American Copy Editors Society, Journalism and Women Symposium, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Society of Environmental Journalists and Radio Television Digital News Association, to name a few. Our work with the “boring office stuff” allows them to focus heavily on their mission, which continues to improve journalism across the board.

SPJ regularly partners with more than 100 other journalism and open government organizations across the country on letters, statements, court briefs, etc. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

We know 2018 will bring more challenges for all of us to fight for the First Amendment, freedom of the press and journalists everywhere. It will also bring more opportunities to share with the public who we are, what we do and how and why we do it.

From all of us at SPJ to all of you, best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive 2018.

Community engagement in the form of public news meetings

News as we know it is changing, shifting — and hopefully — becoming even more robust. From social media to the Apple Watch, the means by which we receive our news is also constantly changing. One thing that won’t change in the way we gather and receive news is the importance of community engagement.

Without a community of some sort, news can’t exist. There would be no target audience, no local events and most importantly, no input about what is being covered and how by news organizations everywhere.

A recent Q & A done by the International Journalists’ Network about engaging your community via social media got me to think about all the opportunities journalists now have to give and receive feedback digitally with the audiences they serve in their respective communities. But what if tech isn’t the only way to move community news engagement forward?

The Indianapolis Star held its very first public news meeting on Friday at a local coffee shop here in Indy. Here was their intent for the meeting according to their Facebook invite:

“We want to hear what matters to you.

Join the IndyStar news team for Coffee+News as we hold our morning news meeting — in public — at 10 a.m. Friday at Hubbard and Cravens, 4930 N. Pennsylvania St., and join in on the conversation.

Share your story ideas, let us know what matters most to you in our community and meet the people behind the news.

At the very least, have a cup of coffee on us.”

So, I went. I was curious to see the turn out, the vibe, who came, who participated and what staff and attendees had to say.

Overall my initial thoughts had to do with the overcrowded room and the loud coffee shop, but the overcrowded problem is a good problem to have when a news organization seeks community engagement and opinion. More is more. The loud coffee shop problem is just the result of underestimating the number of attendees who were going to show up and only reserving a small room in a rather busy establishment.

Regardless of the logistics, the meeting was interesting. It began with the Indy Star staff being introduced (the staff filling up a lot of the room space making the ratio 2 staff members to every 1 community attendee) and going through what they had planned for the day and the weekend’s news budget. Other than a story about a stage collapsing at a local high school, most of the topics at that point in their news process were filler content, but talking through their thought processes about how they decided what stories to cover, when and how was informative. Kind of a yawner, though. At least for people who are educated in or at least have a small idea of how a newsroom makes content decisions. But, in the spirit of transparency, I guess it was needed.

Then came the comments. The floor was opened up for “audience members” to contribute thoughts, suggestions and ideas for the staff to take into consideration. None of the input really had to do with the weekend’s news coverage. Instead, there was a little bit of agenda pushing about past coverage and future coverage — mainly concerning political issues. Yes, there were a few constructive suggestions about covering more entertainment and sports topics, but not a lot that were of value.

What was of value was the newsroom getting outside of the newsroom. The staff being able to engage with the community face-to-face was invaluable. The community, in this specific room, ranged from early 20 year-olds to late 70 year-olds all with various reasons for attending, from concerned citizen to political candidate pushing.

I talked with Jeff Taylor, the Star’s executive editor and vice president, after the meeting and asked him why they wanted to hold this meeting, something that isn’t done by a lot of news organizations, to which he replied, “Why not give people a chance to see us, be transparent, see how we conduct our news meetings, see what our thought process is and give people a chance to weigh in and ask questions?”

He said the end goals of the meeting for them were:

1. To make themselves visible and accessible to the public

2. To get story ideas and input

3. To give people a chance to tell them what they think about how they do their jobs

Did the Indy Star get some story ideas from the meeting? Possibly. Did those in attendance get a platform to vent frustrations they had with the news organization and praise what they perceived as triumphs? Yes. But, the real benefit at this event was the opportunity it presented — personal community engagement and access.

I think it is worth it for the Indy Star, and other news organizations for that matter, to try it again. Maybe change the location, maybe make it more of an open forum for a conversation rather than an actual news budget meeting, but one thing I wouldn’t change is the opportunity for the personal involvement it gave the public.

Social media is great. I am obsessed, professionally and personally. But, call me old-fashioned, it will never be a substitute for the value that comes when news organizations have face-to-face discussions with who they are serving on a daily basis.

“This really helps make us better journalists and makes us think how people perceive what we do, how people perceive what we write,” Taylor said.

Taylor Carlier Headshot

Taylor Carlier | Photo credit: Matt Thomas

Taylor Carlier is the communications coordinator at the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a 2014 Purdue University graduate of Mass Communication: Journalism and previously was the special projects editor at The Exponent. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @Taylorcarlier.

BRANDED: How young journos can make a name for themselves

Let’s be honest, I’m not great at branding myself in the journalism world, and if we run the stats I am probably not qualified to write a post about it. But, I am really good at regurgitating other people’s thoughts, so I went to someone with more experience, credentials, knowledge and really just someone who knows a lot more about branding than me — Robin J. Phillips.

Robin J Phillips











Robin J. Phillips

My Twitter followers: 356 (mostly pity follows)

Robin’s Twitter followers: 3,736 (probably all legitimate) 

I had the opportunity to talk with her at Excellence in Journalism 2014 in Nashville, when she was a speaker for the Branding for Journalists breakout session. Phillips just so happens to be the digital director for the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism and a journalism professor at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, so who more fitting to give all of us up-and-coming journos a branding lesson than Ms. Journo Branding herself?

Want more tips, tricks and advice on breaking into journalism as a young journo? Join SPJ’s  #youngjournojobs Twitter chat at 2 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 with Kenna Griffin, assistant professor of Mass Communications at Oklahoma City University. In the meantime, check out her awesome website with loads of young journo helpful tools.

Now back to branding with Phillips:

Q: What are the top five things a young journalist who is trying to brand themselves must do?

  1. Get your own domain name. Register a Dot Com name that is as close to your real name as you can get.
  2. Even if you aren’t working as a journalist yet, get moving. Create a blog on a topic you’re passionate about and be creative. While you’re waiting to work as a journalist, be a journalist – write, report, take photos, make videos, show what you can do.
  3. Join journalism organizations where you can find training and begin to network with other journalists: There is a group or two for everyone like SPJ, NAHJ, NABJ, AAJA, NLGJA, NAJA, AWSM, JAWS, RTDNA, ONA, #wjchat.  If you don’t know what those are, go look them up, follow them on Twitter.
  4. Spend time every once in a while taking a look at the bios you have for all the social and online platforms you belong to. If you joined Polyvore or Pinterest as a kid and haven’t been back in a while, take a look at the photo and bio you have there and update them. You don’t necessarily want to kill the under-used sites, but it’s a good idea to make sure that if someone finds you there, they are seeing what you want them to see.
  5. Have fun. Social media and sharing things on the web is all about relationships. It’s time-consuming, but should not be a big chore. If you’re having fun – in a healthy, safe, professional way – then people will pick up on that and want to “hang out” with you.

Q: What is the worst mistake you see young journalists make in the name of branding? 

Trying to be something you aren’t. It’s important to be yourself. Figure out who you are, what you want to do and keep that in mind.  Life is too short to pretend you’re something else. That doesn’t mean you should stay the same always. Figure out your goals and make sure that everything you do to present yourself in a professional way is consistent with those goals.

For example, if you want to be an investigative reporter specializing in healthcare (could happen!), then follow healthcare reporters on Twitter and Facebook. Read everything you can about your subject and share the good stuff. Comment once in a while about what you are reading or watching – your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s about what is good and interesting.

Q: What are three incorrect stereotypes about journalist’s branding themselves?

  • People sometimes think Branding is being fake. See my answer above. Don’t be fake. Branding is actually being very real – true to yourself and true to others.
  • Some journalists think Branding is a sell-out and that your work should stand for itself.  Not true. There is too much news and information out there these days.  It’s OK for you to give your work a little push. Share it.
  • Journalists, who often are basically shy, can be critical about Branding because it feels like bragging. So what’s the matter with that? You don’t want to be obnoxious, but if you’ve done something new, interesting, smart, go ahead and blow your own horn. If you don’t tell people (prospective employers, for example), they may never know. That doesn’t mean Tweet each story you write 5 times a day. Just like any other relationship, share your successes, but don’t be obnoxious.

Q: What phone app can you not live without? 

Flickr. I love photos. My camera – HTC One – has a great camera so I take a lot of photos. I try to quickly kill the poor ones and upload high-resolution versions of the good ones to Flickr where I can keep them for later or share them with family and friends.

Q: If you could only use one social media outlet to brand yourself as a journalist, what would you choose and why?

It’s got to be Twitter. Twitter is great for journalists because it is so easy to find people interested in the same topics you are. A local journalist might have more luck on Facebook, but that gets too mixed up with personal and professional contacts. Twitter is a good place to establish your voice.

Q: If a young journalist was trying to better their personal brand and could only revamp three things, what would you suggest they focus on?

  • Review your bios.
  • Think hard about your true goals – what do you want to do, how to you want to spend your time.
  • Then start to think of yourself as a professional. Social media can feel personal and intimate, but don’t lose site of the fact that you are representing yourself as a young professional at all times. That gives you both power and responsibility. Use them wisely.

Q: Who are some examples of good journalists who are great at branding themselves?

Sarah Lane

Andrew Nusca

Afrah Nasser

Marcia Pledger

Carmen Drahl

Sonari R Glinton

Ivan Moreno

Personal Branding for Journalists slides in full.

Q: Do you think branding has become a completely digital game, or are there still tangible techniques outside of the online sphere young journos should be aware of?

Oh, in-person, real-life friendships and contacts are invaluable. After all, that’s what life is about. As you establish yourself in your field, you’ll find that relationships you make online go only so far. If you find a source online, you need to treat that person with suspicion, perhaps not quoting them at all until you’ve met in person, and certainly until you’ve talked on the phone. As far as friends and mentors and colleagues you meet online, you’ll find that you get a lot out of relationships that are only digital. But, when possible, turn those into real-life relationships.

Attend journalism conventions when you can and set up in-person meetings. If you’re on vacation to a new city, ask an online connection to meet for coffee or see if you can stop by their office. You’ll both know a lot more about each other because you’ve been following each other online. Go the local journalism organization’s meet-ups. Or organize one yourself. I once had a dozen people meet in a local bar to “attend” #wjchat on a Wednesday night. We were talking to people around the world on Twitter, but it was fun to be with ‘real’ local folks at the same time. This goes back to No. 5 above.  Sometimes it’s just more FUN in real life.

Taylor Carlier Headshot

Taylor Carlier. Photo credit: Matt Thomas

Taylor Carlier is the communications coordinator at the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a 2014 Purdue University graduate of Mass Communication: Journalism and previously was the special projects editor at The Exponent. She can be reached at or interact on Twitter: @Taylorcarlier.

Can journalism go digital? A millennial’s perspective

What do you do for a living?

I’m a journalist.

Isn’t journalism dying?

No, it’s just changing.

Though I haven’t been in journalism for long, I can’t tell you the number of times I have had this conversation. It is the age-old conversation in journalism and everyone, journalist or not, is asking the question: Will journalism survive going digital?

Of course it will. End of conversation.

Let’s start a new conversation about how we can accomplish this.  This is pertinent in light of the recent newspaper world scare having to do with the New York Times losing money on its print edition.

Believe it or not, this issue at the New York Times isn’t the end of print as we know it, again, it is just the transformation.

Though I fall into the horrendous millennial category that I would rather not accept because of the idiotic stereotypes that I would have to take on, I like to hold an actual newspaper in my hand just as much as the next ink-smell-loving individual. But, at the end of the day, that smell isn’t really what is important to me; it is the words on those pages.

Once those in the journalism sphere get over the idea that our words have to be on actual paper, maybe we will actually be in tune with our consumers.

Breaking news isn’t found in between the pages of the comics, but rather on Twitter. That is just the reality of journalism today. Print newspapers are always a day behind, which in today’s time, seems more like a week.

So, let’s talk solutions. I know and you know that the big news organizations, such as Times, INC., can survive the digital change, but it seems like only I know that the small community papers can do it too.

Penelope Muse Abernathy knows it, as she explained how community newspapers can adapt to the digital world in an interview with Nieman Journalism Lab.

So why do the actual community newspapers not understand this? Probably because many of them let their readers dictate their every move. Newspapers should be leaders in their communities, not followers. If they build digitally, the readers will come.

Now this is all advice from a lowly communications coordinator at a national journalism organization, but it might be worth a thought at least.

I guess my main points are: Journalism isn’t dying, newspaper is changing, and the consumers of news will consume it digitally when newspapers give them the chance to.

Have I just been drinking too much coffee and can’t think straight, or does anyone else feel the same way? Comment below or tweet me at @taylorcarlier.


Taylor Carlier is the communications coordinator at the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a 2014 Purdue University graduate of Mass Communication: Journalism and previously was the special projects editor at The Exponent. She can be reached at or you can stalk her on Twitter at @Taylorcarlier.

Oregonian layoffs a disservice to the future of journalism

Editor’s note: This blog post represents the opinions and ideas of the individual staff member and not of the Society of Professional Journalists as a whole.

One afternoon during my 2011 summer internship at The Oregonian, my editor DeAnn Welker took me up to the fifth floor of the newspaper’s building.

“It’s quieter up here,” Welker said as we rode the elevator.

It was quieter. And darker and emptier. She led me through the carpeted hallway to a large room filled with lifeless furniture. Rows of gray desk tops collected sheets of dust. There were office chairs that hadn’t been swiveled in some time.

DeAnn showed me where she once worked, and the places where her colleagues met daily, as a team, to produce the features section. The newsroom had shrunk significantly since she had started as a reporter several years prior.

At the time, this moment did not make a huge impression on me. After all, just one floor below, the newsroom was alive and well. It wasn’t until last week that I was reminded of the ghost town on the fifth floor.

Last week, the newspaper announced a new company name, Oregonian Media Group, and their plans to concentrate on a digital model in order to be more accessible to their readers. It’s the same model other Advance-owned publications have done.

Buried underneath the lead of this story was tragic news: many contributors to the publication are losing their jobs, the print edition will only be sent to subscribers four times a week, and the organization is selling the building where award-winning journalism has been produced for the past 65 years.

Change and innovation is imperative in order to maintain a sustainable business model. I commend The Oregonian for pushing toward digital journalism and being in tune with how readers engage with the news. Newspapers across the country have made similar moves. And I hope — for the sake of the people who are continuing to do great work at the newspaper — that their new system will prosper.

But what is supposed to be a breath of fresh air seems more like a final gasp.

I won’t pretend to fully understand the economics of running a major news outlet. The changes certainly bring up many issues, but I am concentrating on what I know: how this move will affect young journalists.

During the alterations, I hope that The Oregonian and its owner, Advance, keep in mind that the organization is not only sustaining a consumer product, but is also providing an important public service: quality journalism. Which — go figure — can’t be done without outstanding journalists.

According to a Poynter article, editor-in-chief Peter Bhatia said that the goal of the Oregonian Media Group is to have a newsroom staff of 90. Aaron Mesh of Willamette Week reports that at least 90 Oregonian employees have already been fired. It’s unclear how many of them are from the editorial department.

It appears The Oregonian is cutting costs by replacing longstanding reporters in favor of less-experienced reporters who will require lower wages. In fact, they already have job openings posted online.

The scale of the layoffs causes one to wonder if Advance has lost sight of the newspaper’s values.

How does Advance think The Oregonian will be a better publication by firing experienced reporters? Everyday, media enthusiasts wonder why people don’t read newspapers anymore. There are plenty of complicated reasons, but The Oregonian has just provided the public with a very simple one — lower quality.

I’m sure the new journalists The Oregonian hires will be eager to do a good job. But without a plethora of experienced mentors, The Oregonian has robbed these new reporters of the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Journalists learn best from other journalists. Shoving talent out the newsroom and infiltrating it with naïveté can only muddy the waters.

Looking back on my internship, I often think of the people who took immense amounts of time to provide guidance — Welker instructed me how to write a solid nut graph, David Stabler taught me how to choose musical words, and Dave Killen showed me the ins and outs of Final Cut Pro.

If well-practiced journalists aren’t there to teach, how are young journalists supposed to improve? Even more importantly, who’s going to inspire them to meet high standards?

After all, it’s not 140-character tweets or even 300-word blog posts that encourage journalism students to pursue noble endeavors. It’s the moments of life captured by journalists that make readers capable of understanding the world around them — if only for a moment.

Among the fired is a versatile reporter, who moved seamlessly from being an art critic to covering business news. Another has had the bravery and patience to cover his own neighborhood. Another pays utmost attention to every piece she edits — even if it’s just a 200-word blurb about cherries. And yet another carries his camera at all times — at major sporting events, in Ireland, and when Portland is dark and only neon signs glow. And no one but Ryan White can make readers laugh out loud at the ridiculous theatrics of a Britney Spears concert.

These journalists aren’t indispensable. They’re needed.

I don’t discount the intense pressure on The Oregonian to keep up with new technology and fast-paced news. But here’s the secret: Newspapers will become better at technology as young adults who grew up in the Internet age enter the workforce.

However, good journalism practices — strong ethical standards, detailed reporting, captivating writing — can’t be self-taught. That’s what is at risk if news organizations favor quick and cheap above experienced journalists and quality journalism.

The Oregonian may have considered many issues when they decided to make their changes, but they forgot about future journalists — interns at news outlets all over the country, students grinding away at their campus publications and soaking in all they can in their journalism classes before they graduate.

The Oregonian forgot about its legacy.

Ellen Kobe is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and was a features reporter at The Oregonian in the summer of 2011. Connect with Ellen through email,, or Twitter: @ellenkobe.

Chat tonight: Manti Te’o and journalism’s history with hoaxes

Failure. Disappointing. Sloppy. People had a lot to say about the role of journalism in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, and much of the commentary assailed the media.

The criticism has merit, but in the weeks since the scandal unfolded, the more bizarre and complex the details have become. The media cannot be wholly blamed for or excused from the mishap, and all that mess is meaningful to journalism and its mission to report the truth.

Instead of compiling an expert-laden media analysis, SPJ wants to talk to you about it. An issue of this magnitude deserves wide discussion, which is why SPJ will participate in tonight’s #muckedup chat about the media’s tangled history with hoaxes.

Join us tonight at 8 EST for the chat hosted by Adam Popescu (@adampopescu) for Muck Rack. The more SPJ members we can include in this conversation, the better — the topic means a lot to the growth of journalism.

Follow the #muckedup hashtag to participate, and we (@spj_tweets) will see you there.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Messy SCOTUS coverage is damaging for media

Today, I am disappointed in journalism.

Not everyone botched the announcement of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, but plenty of trusted media outlets did a disservice to their audiences by prioritizing speed instead of accuracy.

Like half a million others, I turned to SCOTUSblog at 10 a.m. today, toggling between that and my Twitter feed. At 10:08, the explosion began: The Associated Press said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. CNN said it was ruled unconstitutional. The Daily Beast said it was struck down at 10:08 but retweeted The AP at 10:09. Confused, I went back to SCOTUSblog to read their measured reports.

twitter feed

My Twitter feed in the seconds following the ruling announcement.

From the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

Many of the erroneous tweets and headlines have disappeared from their primary sources, though those blunders live on, thanks to screen shots and the copy-paste function. But the confusion was costly from a future credibility standpoint. The networks and publications that got it right should take note of the ridicule and criticism raining down on their Twitter-happy peers.

Most of my frustration came from seeing the incorrect reports retweeted. As the minutes after the announcement passed, I continued to read posts of misguided happiness and anger, all because a friend of a follower of a follower of a news organization perpetuated the seemingly reliable information.

(Jeff Sonderman of Poynter has a good roundup of and reaction to the inaccurate reports/tweets.)

The social media response to the blunders proves that people would rather get correct information as it becomes available, rather than quickly receive an imperfect report. The point of engaging with a news outlet is to stay informed.

I don’t want to have to congratulate the journalists who waited to verify the ruling to publish the result. They just did their jobs correctly, which I expect of them. I am disappointed that this expectation was not met by others.

The winner in this brawl to break news is SCOTUSblog — it’s a non-traditional outlet started by law professionals, and they presented reliable coverage of the complicated ruling. By 10:22, they had 866,000 people tracking their live blog.

But for the millions who referenced Twitter, breaking news alerts, live TV and 24-hour-news-cycle websites, the day was one of defeat. Regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation, news consumers were exposed to a slew of unreliable reports before being corrected.

I hope health care isn’t the only industry that sees reform after today’s ruling.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Big hashtags for journalists

Twitter is an exciting place for new and seasoned journalism professionals to come together and share ideas and opportunities. One key to optimizing your Twitter experience is to take advantage of its hashtag resource, which links related topics together with a simple # at the beginning of a word, acronym or phrase.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve researched some of the most frequently used journalism-related hashtags and their benefits. For new tweeters out there, or those still thinking about using Twitter, I hope you’ll take advantage of these hashtags for journalists and all those interested in such topics.

Leave a comment below and tell us what journalism-related hashtags you like to use. Of course, the below list isn’t exhaustive. Thanks in advance for your input.

Most Common:
#journalism – Obviously one of the most encompassing journalism-related tags, it is the most used and is great for mixed industry-related posts. While similar, each of its three following variations often differs in content.
#journo – One of the four most encompassing related tags for journalism trends, it is great for mixed industry related content.
#journos – See above.
#journ – See above.
#news – A wide array of real-time, streaming news content as well as trends.

AP Style:
#apstyle – For talking about thoughts and trends related to the Associated Press Stylebook.
#apstylechat – Monthly chat devoted to various issues of the Associated Press Stylebook.

Professional Development:
#journchat – Weekly chat (Mondays, 8 p.m ET) between journalists, bloggers and PR pros.
#wjchat – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET) for Web journalists discussing all things journalism, technology, ethics, content and the business of journalism on the Web.
#pubmedia – Weekly chat (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET) for public service media practitioners and supporters. Also for general topics in public media outside of weekly chat.
#spjchat – Weekly chat (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET) sponsored by SPJ DePaul University chapter and national Digital Media Committee. Features specific topics and trends in the profession. Founded by Mike Reilley.
#HARO – Help a Reporter Out is for journalists seeking sources for a wide range of specific topics.
#journorequest – Similar to HARO and mostly used by UK journalists seeking sources for a wide range of specific topics.
#ddj – Geared towards data driven journalism topics, trends and tips. [Added:1/20/11]
#datajournalism – Focused on methods and advice for finding data. [Added:1/20/11]
Editing and Jobs:
#copyeditor – Includes thoughts, tips and frequent copyediting jobs that come available. [Added:1/20/11]
#copyeditors – Mostly thoughts and trends, the one character difference provides diverse content from the above hashtag. [Added:1/21/11]
#copywriter – Great for thoughts, advice, jobs and trends on copywriting.
#journalism #jobs – Resourceful combo for finding journalism and media jobs.
For Fun:
#jpeeve – Where journos and others vent their journalism pet peeves about style, grammar, clichés, newsroom issues other news topics.
#partylikeajournalist – Often humorous, sarcastic, celebratory thoughts from journalists in action.
#followjourn – recommended journalists to follow on Twitter by [Added:1/21/11]
Open Government and Freedom of Information:
#FOIA – Current news and trends concerning the Freedom of Information Act and public records on the local, state and federal levels.
#FOIAchat – Weekly chat (Fridays, 2-3 p.m. ET) focused on issues in freedom of information and public records.
#opengov – Covers news, trends and strategies for developing better open government and public records access.
#ogov – Covers news, trends and strategies for developing better open government and public records access. Content often varies from #opengov content.
#opendata – Another source for information and trends involving open government and public records.
#edem – Open government trends and news related to electronic democracy. [Added:1/20/11]
#pressfreedom – Covers trends, struggles and those fighting for unabridged free speech and press freedoms. [Added:1/28/11]

Digital Journalism:
#jtech – Designed for topics involving journalism and technology.
#digitaljournalism – Content related to the digital application of news.
#hyperlocal – Refers to stories and events that are located within a well defined, community scale area.
#ireport – Derived from CNN’s public journalism initiative that allows people from around the globe to contribute pictures and video of breaking news stories from their own towns and neighborhood.
#crowdsource – Trends on leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.
#photojournalism – Latest trends on news photography content.
#photojournalist – Often showcases trending photojournalists and their work.
#tog – Trends, thoughts and other news pertaining to photographers. [Added:1/28/11]
#togs  – The once character addition creates similar but diverse content. [Added:1/28/11]

#ascj – Content related to the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.
#cojosm – Content for online journalism, social media and other trends from the BBC College of Journalism social media trainers. [Added:1/20/11]
#cronk – Trends and news related to ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for coverage of public policy issues affecting Arizonans. [Added:1/28/11]

Here are some other Twitter resources for journalists
What the Hashtag – Helps to distill chatter and analyze real-time metrics for hashtags.

@Tagalus – A dictionary-type resource for hashtags and their meanings.

Media On Twitter – A database of over 2,000 media and journalism professionals on Twitter.

40 Writing Hashtags for Twitter – A collection of hashtags for writers, editors and publishers.

Andrew M. Scott (@PRMillennial) is the communications coordinator for SPJ Headquarters. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and an SPJ member since 2008. Additional insights for this piece were contributed by social media trainer and freelance journalist Jeff Cutler (@JeffCutler), SPJ Director of Communications Quill editor Scott Leadingham (@scottleadingham), and Regional Editor and past SPJ Region 7 Director Holly Edgell (@HollyEdgell).

Why journalism should and should not copy bicycling culture

Posted by Scott Leadingham

Hang on for a moment while I invoke two strange bedfellows – comedian Bill Hicks, who built his routine on smoking, and bicyclists – in writing about what journalists should do better.

Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer, was nothing if not passionate. His rants and stage presence are famous among stand-up comedians. He’s particularly well-known for his stance on smoking, or, more accurately, on why non-smokers made him so angry. In one bit he polls the audience and asks who smokes and who doesn’t. When the non-smokers voice their presence in laudatory, enthusiastic tones, he calls them a bunch of “self-righteous slugs.” (Warning: his language is rather “colorful.” Don’t watch if you object to such language.)


“I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of you,” he says in the bit.

That line reminds me of my interest in biking (the kind with carb-loading and spandex, not chaps and Sturgis).

I’d become a hardcore bicyclist if it weren’t for hardcore bicyclists. In fact, I remarked to a friend recently that “the worst part about biking culture is biking culture.”

Forgive the gross generalization, but it’s been my experience that bicycling breeds an upper-crust crowd comparable to the snottiest fox-hunting, caviar-eating, polo-playing societal elitists out there. Go into any bicycle shop (not big box retailer) and ask about the lubrication benefits of using WD-40 on your chain.

“Eh. That’s a cleaner, not a lubricant. Don’t EVER use it to lube a chain!” is a likely response. “Here’s our selection of specialized lubricants – $10 per three oz. bottle.”

This notion of superiority, the kind coming from people on bikes that cost more than my car, keeps me away from becoming fully immersed and involved in biking culture.

Transfer that to journalism.

It’s not a new sentiment to say there’s a certain amount of arrogance in the profession. One doesn’t lead to the other, of course, but perhaps it’s more apparent in an industry that sees its practitioners’ names, faces and voices constantly before the public. As Linda Thomas aptly noted in a recent Quill piece on journalists to follow: “ … having the title of journalist doesn’t make you more interesting or important than anyone else.”

If there’s a lesson to be learned in this era of “citizen journalism” and CNN iReports, it’s that acts of journalism can come from any source and any moment. And now comes the obligatory invocation of informative video and messages disseminating from Iran in 2009 from “ordinary people” and not journalists. As my boss often says: Great journalism happens everywhere. I’ll add my own addendum: And by those who didn’t mean for it to happen.

So that’s what journalists should avoid in the bicycling culture – the notion that anyone is better for any reason, primarily based on the quality and price tag attached to one’s equipment and training.


Call it a “God smack” or cruel irony or karma or whatever, but I recently found myself needing help from the very people I’d previously scorned: hardcore bikers.

Two days after remarking that the biking culture was the worst part of biking, I committed the cardinal sin of long-distance riding: no spare inner tube in case of a flat. Six miles from home, and no nearby bike shop open at the time, I began the long walk of shame down the bicycle friendly paved trail through Indianapolis. Nearly every biker I’d deem “hardcore” stopped to help or inquired of my situation. These were the type wearing team riding jerseys and specialty bike shoes more expensive than my monthly rent. One guy, who it turned out worked at the kind of bike store I avoid, offered to change my tire on the spot with his spare tube.

I denied all help, however, reasoning that I needed to learn my lesson, even if that meant walking well into the darkness of a muggy summer night. It occurred to me later that no “casual” biker – of which I saw at least 30 – offered assistance or even moral support. Nothing so much as an “are you okay, dude?” from the people in cotton t-shirts riding mountain bikes.

Perhaps that’s because they, like me, had no spare parts to offer. They, like me, weren’t prepared (another cardinal sin broken, this time from my Eagle Scout training).

Whatever the reason, I knew immediately that the “hardcore bikers” that I so passionately didn’t want to become were exactly the right model for journalists.

It’s that kind of willing-to-help attitude that more experienced journalists (the type winning Pulitzers and Sigma Delta Chi Awards) need to selflessly pass on to a new generation of reporters. Instead of getting locked into the box of “how can I turn this award-winning project into a best-selling book” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) perhaps the first thought should be “how can a younger journalist benefit from my experience?” The book deals and fellowships will fall into place. Heck, some news outlets are still lucky enough to have staff coordinate such opportunities for their high-profile journalists.

But the mentoring opportunities, such as SPJ’s program, for some strange reason aren’t as sought after as a Pulitzer or Peabody nomination. It’s not because there’s no one out there seeking help. Just take a look down the hall from your office. There’s a young reporter out there, perhaps limping along, waiting for you to put air in his tires. Stop and help. Don’t just blow smoke in his face as you walk (or ride) by.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. He quit smoking on December 31, 2009 and to his knowledge has not become one of “those” non-smokers. Twitter: @scottleadingham.

Happy Earth Day. When is Journalism Day?

Today, on Earth Day, we’re all thinking about the planet, apparently, whether how to be more “green,” how to antagonize those who preach being more “green,” or how to cover one of the two. But at SPJ, we’re always thinking about the journalism industry and the journalists who drive it.

That got me wondering: When is Journalism Day? We need one.

Stay with me.

I’ve got a habit of walking around the neighborhood during lunch. Nothing fancy, and certainly no power walking or sweat suits. And only a sweatband in truly dire circumstances. Normally I try to pick up stray litter and pieces of garbage that won’t cause bodily harm, at least in the short run. But today, Earth Day, I took a little more time and expended a little more energy – call it the product of National Parks-loving parents and being an Eagle Scout. (It’s true … on my honor.) Normally I wouldn’t pick up empty beer bottles, especially in the middle of an overgrown lawn.

A sample of litter from the SPJ neighborhood. Who's drinking all the Bud? (Not it!)

 ‘But hey,’ I thought, ‘it’s Earth Day. I earned that Environmental Science merit badge for a reason!’

What would prompt the public to have a similar thought for journalism? When people walk past a news stand or go online, what would make them say, “I need to read the news today because I recognize the importance of a free and independent press and the news journalists report.”?

Who’s planning that event? What do we have to do to get that message across? Where’s the trending topic on Twitter for Journalism Day? Why aren’t there rallies supporting the fourth estate? When is journalism’s day?

I’d like to think it’s every day. But I also like to think people don’t toss empty beer bottles in yards for strangers to pick up.

No one is planning the event FOR the industry. Journalists have to do it themselves, every day, through their honest, fair, accurate reporting.

And SPJ is there to help. If we’re out of the office, don’t worry. We’re just on a quick stroll. We’ll be right back.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. He didn’t earn the Journalism merit badge. Twitter: @scottleadingham


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