Saturday, September 24, 2016

Region 4 Meeting Highlights at #EIJ16

REGION 4 MEETING HIGHLIGHTS

Representatives of the SPJ professional and student chapters of Region 4 gathered for a one-hour update during Excellence In Journalism Conference in New Orleans.

Here are the highlights.

  1. The 2017 Spring Regional Conference will be hosted by the Detroit professional chapter on March 17-18.  Program ideas are welcome.  The contact is treasurer Mike Ramsey.  The event will likely be in partnership with Wayne State University.
  1. Cleveland will host the Ohio SPJ Awards Luncheon in 2017.  The location has not been determined.  The 2016 luncheon in Columbus drew nearly 100 people, reflecting a contest that has grown in the number of entries.  The Columbus folks say that’s due to new categories being provided — especially in the freelance areas.  
  2. The national office is evaluating costs associated with on-line platforms for regional contests.  All chapters need to do is indicate their willingness to participate in the study of using one of three possible platforms.  There is no obligation.  This is just a review of costs.
  3. Two chapters in Florida and one in Washington have had their charters revoked and the balance of their $25,000 in finances has been turned over to national.  Works is underway to develop a system on how to apply for grants from this sum.
  4. An exploratory study is underway on possibly reducing the size of the 23-member national board and change the focus of its operations to strategic from day-to-day operations.  
  5. CINCINNATI PRO CHAPTER.  Names Small Chapter of the Year for the second time in three years.  Partnered with Cincinnati Police on two forums to explain new public records requests forms and introduce a new Open Data Portal system to more easily obtain records.  Future plans include panel discussion on officer-involved shooting videos from police and a tribute to long-tim SPJ member and Cincinnati Pro Chapter founder Emil Danker.
  6. COLUMBUS PRO CHAPTER.  Hosted the Ohio SPJ awards in August, which drew 96 people to The Boat House restaurant.  The number of entries for the contest was up because of the addition of freelance categories.  A movie night featuring “Spotlight” was a success and a similar program featuring “Snowden” is in the works.  Future plans include a possible forum on police and media coverage following the shooting of a teenager by a Columbus officer.  The annual Law & Media Conference will again be in partnership with the Ohio State Bar Association.
  7. CLEVELAND PRO CHAPTER.  The focus for the coming year is increasing membership and reaching out to freelancers.  A scholarship contest for high school students is in the works.  An international film festival is scheduled for March and the Ohio SPJ Awards luncheon will be held at a site to be determined. 
  1.  PITTSBURGH PRO CHAPTER.  Program plans include an October 1st forum on the changing face of newsrooms, an ethics program and one featuring local broadcast legends.
  2. OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY - KIPLINGER PROGRAM. The news train with AP managing editors is planned for four sites around the country and a Journ Camp is set for Columbus in June.
  3. OHIO UNIVERSITY STUDENT CHAPTER.  Named Student Chapter of the Year.  Marty Baron of “Spotlight” notoriety spoke on campus.  The chapter is hosting “Freedom Sings” in the Baker Center Theater on September 29th at 7:00 p.m.  The show traces the path of freedom in the U.S. by focusing on the music pertinent to historic moments.  A partnership is in the works with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to develop a curriculum on how to report on suicide.  The 90-minute program will be presented from mid-February to late March at Ohio State, Ohio University and possibly the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Kent State University, John Carroll University and Bowling Green State University.  Backup sites may be the University of Toledo, Wright State University, Youngstown State University, Cleveland State University and the University of Akron.  The chapter is also looking to partner with pro chapters on future events.
  4. MIAMU UNIVERSITY STUDENT CHAPTER.  This is a reboot year with new officers and members.  Program plans include a forum with the writer of “Concussion” and Joe Stephens from the Washington Post. 
Reporting by Tom McKee, President, Cincinnati Pro Chapter

National SPJ Board Structure Studied

HOW MANY MEMBERS SHOULD SIT ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS?

WHO SHOULD BE ON THE BOARD?

SHOULD THE BOARD’S FOCUS CHANGE?

THOSE ARE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS POSED BY THE SPJ GOVERNANCE TASK FORCE CHARGED WITH MAPPING OUT A PLAN OF ACTION.

AN OVERVIEW OF POSSIBLE CHANGES WAS DISCUSSED IN GREAT DETAIL IN A ONE-HOUR MEMBERSHIP SESSION DURING THE EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM ’16 CONVENTION IN NEW ORLEANS.

THE TASK FORCE HAS BEEN MEETING FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND NOW FEEDBACK IS BEING SOUGHT FROM EVERY MEMBER.

THE NUMBER OF BOARD MEMBERS NOW STANDS AT 23, BUT THE THOUGHT IS A TOTAL BETWEEN FIVE AND 11 MIGHT BE MORE EFFICIENT.

PLUS, THE SMALLER NUMBER MIGHT MAKE THE BOARD MORE FOCUSED ON STRATEGIC ISSUES INSTEAD OF TASKS.

IT ALSO MIGHT MEAN BETTER EFFICIENCY WITH QUICKER RESPONSES ON KEY ISSUES.

SPJ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JOE SKEEL SAYS STUDIES SHOW THE MOST EFFECTIVE MAKEUP HAS STRATEGIC LEADERS MAKING DECISIONS.

IT’S A CORPORATE GOVERNANCE MODEL.

“GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE ON THE BUS AND DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN NUMBERS OR PEOPLE FROM SPECIFIC AREAS,” HE SAID.

“ENGAGEMENT DOES NOT EQUAL GOVERNNANCE OR LEADERSHIP."

WHO WOULD BE ON THE BOARD?  ALL 12 REGIONAL DIRECTORS CURRENTLY ARE MEMBERS.  SHOULD THEY REMAIN?  SHOULD A SINGLE REGIONAL DIRECTOR BE CHOSEN FOR THE BOARD BY THE OTHER DIRECTORS?   

SKEEL SAID THERE IS A COST SAVINGS FOR A SMALLER BOARD.  STIPENDS FOR TRAVEL, LODGING AND MEALS CURRENT RUNS $50,000 TO $55,000 A YEAR.  A SMALLER BOARD, PERHAPS WITH NINE MEMBERS, WOULD MEAN A SAVINGS OF $22,000 TO $25,000 ANNUALLY.

THE PLAN UNVEILED IN NEW ORLEANS IS FOR STUDY AND DEBATE.  NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE.  NO TIMETABLE HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR MAKING ANY DECISIONS.

DETAILS ARE POSTED ON THE SPJ WEB SITE AT WWW.SPJ.ORG.

ON-LINE FOCUS GROUPS ARE BEING FORMED. - Reporting by Tom McKee, President, Cincinnati Pro Chapter

Georgia Pro Chapter and National SPJ to the Rescue #EIJ16



IMAGINE BEING ARRESTED ON FELONY CHARGES SIMPLY FOR MAKING A PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST.

WHILE IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING FROM A SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE, IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN GEORGIA.

THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS MADE IT A POINT TO STEP IN AND HELP DEFEND THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW.

MARK THOMASON, PUBLISHER OF THE FANNIN FOCUS IN BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA, WAS CHARGED WITH THREE FELONIES, INCLUDING ONE FOR MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT ON HIS PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST.

THOMASON SPOKE TO SPJ DELEGATES DURING THE EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM ’16 CONVENTION IN NEW ORLEANS AND THEY APPROVED A RESOLUTION COMMENDING HIM.

THE CASE STEMS FROM THOMASON ASKING FOR COURT REPORTER AUDIO TO CONFIRM WHETHER A RACIAL SLUR HAD BEEN UTTERED BY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE BRENDA WEAVER.

THE REQUEST WAS DENIED SEVERAL TIMES AND THOMASON WROTE ABOUT IT.

THE COURT REPORTER SUED HIM FOR $1.6 MILLION, CLAIMING REQUESTS FOR THE MATERIAL WERE NEVER MADE.   THE CASE WAS DISMISSED, BUT THE COURT REPORTER WANTED $20,000 IN ATTORNEY FEES.

THOMASON GOT A TIP THAT A JUDGE WHO STEPPED AWAY FROM THE CASE PAID THOSE FEES WITH PUBLIC FUNDS.  HE MADE FOIA REQUESTS FOR COPIES OF THE CHECKS “THAT COULD HAVE BEEN CASHED ILLEGALLY” AND STATEMENTS.

THAT SET OF A FIRESTORM AND CHAIN OF EVENTS THAT RESULTED IN THOMASON BEING ARRESTED AND SPENDING TWO NIGHTS IN JAIL.

THE GEORGIA PRO SPJ CHAPTER GOT WORD OF WHAT WAS GOING ON AND NOTIFIED THE NATIONAL OFFICE FOR ASSISTANCE.  THE CASE IS STILL IN THE COURTS.

JUDGE WEAVER IS STILL ON THE BENCH, BUT THE SPJ RESOLUTION CALLS FOR HER TO RESIGN.

“I AM HERE TODAY BECAUSE OF SPJ,” THOMASON SAID.  “I DON’T KNOW HOW THE STORY WOULD HAVE ENDED IF WORD HADN’T GOTTEN OUT.”

“THANK YOU, SPJ,” HE ADDED. - Story by Tom McKee, Mark Thomason photo by Ginny McCabe

'Spotlight' Super Session with Marty Baron at #EIJ16

By Tom McKee

There is a great deal of investigative reporting going on in the country right now, but more is needed to keep the public informed.

That was the message delivered by Marty Baron to journalists from across the country during the Excellence In Journalism ’16 Convention in New Orleans.

Baron was the Boston Globe’s Editor when the paper’s Spotlight Team published an exhaustive series of stories about Catholic priests sexually abusing children and the church covering it up.

The effort began modestly with a single column that raised questions about one priest abusing eight children.  

However, Baron said that led to more questions about what church leaders knew, when they knew it and whether it was policy and practice to cover things up to let priests abuse kids again and again.

A total of 600 articles were published the first year and 900 by the time a year-and-a-half had elapsed.

Baron said the work was the result of timeless investigative traits including…

—Shoe leather street reporting — something of a lost art 

—Source cultivation — the basic blocking and tackling of reporting

—Computer assisted reporting — going beyond work that had already been done

“Every reporter should be an investigative unit,” Baron said.  “You have to be willing to go to places where you’re not wanted.”

“We need more of the work that differentiates us from everyone else,” he added.  “Work hard to make it authentic."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SPJ inducts new president Lynn Walsh


Thinking outside the box will be the rule, not the exception, for Lynn Walsh over the year.

Walsh was inaugurated Tuesday as the new President of the Society of Professional Journalists, (SPJ) capping the organization’s convention in New Orleans.

“Journalism has changed and I want SPJ to change with it,” she said.

Goals for the upcoming year will focus on freedom of information legislation, ethics, diversity, fairness and accountability.

“We need to protect the right of the public to get information,” Walsh added.

The outcome of the presidential election will go a long way toward determining whether that will happen and Walsh said she is concerned about the possible impact.

“The result will most likely be chaos,” she said.

However, that will present opportunities for SPJ to step in in its role of protecting the first amendment.

“We need to be proactive, not reactive,” she said.  “We need to act before someone ends up in prison or in a courtroom.  Too many fights end up in court and that’s unacceptable.

Walsh assumed the SPJ presidency from Paul Fletcher, who served in the position during 2015-2016. - Story and photo by Tom McKee