September 16, 2020
“The advice I always give to younger journalists is: You can only control one thing in your life when it comes to your career and the way people receive you or what they will try to allow you to do, and that's your own excellence. You can't control anything outside of yourself, but you can control your own work ethic and the excellence of what you produce. In the end, that's gonna be the best card you're gonna have to play.” 
  Nikole Hannah-Jones, SPJ Fellow of the Society
and reporter for The New York Times Magazine
Los Angeles NPR station KPCC reporter Josie Huang was forced to the ground and arrested Saturday while covering the ambush shooting of two sheriff’s deputies. A video of the skirmish shows five deputies throwing Huang to the ground and handcuffing her as she repeatedly screamed “KPCC.” Her press credentials dangled from her neck as they moved her to the patrol car. The SPJ Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter issued a statement Monday regarding Huang’s arrest while she covered a protest in the City of Lynwood.

The Defense Department is rescinding its order to shut down the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, in the wake of a tweet by President Donald Trump vowing to continue funding the paper. This vow occurred after USA Today revealed Sept. 4 that the Pentagon ordered the Stars and Stripes to shut down. Before the Defense Department’s announcement, SPJ released a statement strongly condemning the closing of the newspaper and called for its funding to be restored.

While many American voters don’t expect to know who wins on election night, news organizations are getting advice on how to avoid an election-night disaster with their coverage. Journalists are also being advised to expect an increase in voting by mail, which will pose challenges for how election officials and journalists report the results and how voters absorb them. To help, ProPublica worked with U.S. journalists to cover the voting process and offers tips for local reporters to tackle coverage of voting by mail.

Reporters and photojournalists struggle to get access to some of the raging wildfires spreading across the Western United States as rules about media access vary by state and government agency. As natural disasters happen, and arguably continue to get worse, many people attribute the cause to climate change. However, news stories often don’t contain any climate-related information. Emily Atkin, author and founder of HEATED, a daily newsletter about climate change, says, “The repeated and prolonged failure of mainstream news outlets to include basic climate science facts in extreme weather coverage is an abdication of their core responsibility: to give citizens the information they need to make informed decisions about how to solve society’s biggest problems.”
SPJ2020 was a huge success! A special thanks to all who helped make it possible, including our more than 800 attendees. We hope everyone had a beneficial and educational experience. If you attended the conference, help us improve our virtual programs and shape our offerings in the future by evaluating your experience while it is still fresh in your mind. Your feedback is critical in helping SPJ design future educational programs.

Congratulations to Matthew T. Hall, who became the 104th president of SPJ during the Closing Ceremony of SPJ2020. “We will champion excellent, ethical work, fight for the First Amendment and move toward a more sustainable, inclusive, innovative future for journalism, society and all of our members,” he said.

The results are in! Congratulations to SPJ’s newly elected 2020-21 Board of Directors and Regional Coordinators. The winners were sworn in at the SPJ2020 Closing Ceremony, along with the new SPJ National President.

John Ensslin was posthumously named the recipient of the Wells Memorial Key, SPJ’s highest honor. Denise Ensslin, John’s wife of 35 years, accepted this award on his behalf. “From wherever John is watching today, I know he is a bit befuddled, mildly amused and deeply honored to receive the Wells Memorial Key,” said Denise Ensslin. “… John was driven by a desire stronger than telling good stories. He was deeply committed to his belief in a community of good journalists; People who come together because they believe in truth, equity and justice.”

Thanks to everyone who helped us raise more than $3,500 for the Legal Defense Fund during SPJ2020! You can add to that total by making your donation today. SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund provides vital legal and direct financial assistance to help journalists access the information we need and have a right to know.

The winners of the 2020 Pro Chapters of the Year are the Florida Pro Chapter and Cincinnati Pro Chapter, which stood out for creativity in programming and advocacy efforts. Congratulations to these outstanding chapters and thank you for your hard work!

Each year, SPJ delegates vote on resolutions submitted by members on topics of importance to the Society. View the resolutions that were approved during SPJ2020.

Want to work for SPJ? We’re hiring a staff accountant to oversee the financial management of SPJ, SPJ Foundation and several smaller journalism nonprofits. This position handles all human resources functions and is the person who staff goes to for all personnel related questions. Deadline to apply is Friday.

ICYMI: Read Immediate Past President Patricia Gallagher Newberry’s final Freedom of the Prez blog post of her tenure.

Journalist on Call Rod Hicks discussed his recent webinar series for college students during a guest appearance Sept. 9 on the podcast "Hot Media" with Bob Mann. Hicks organized and moderated five webinars in July and August on topics related to the public’s distrust of the news media. Just before the podcast, Hicks was a guest lecturer for an Advanced Newswriting class at George Washington University.

The SPJ Freelance Community will hold a virtual annual meeting at 4:30 p.m. EDT Thursday. Join the community for a recap of its accomplishments this year and to learn about new initiatives underway, as well as how you can avail yourself of its resources and contribute to this flourishing, supportive group. Register here. 

SPJ mourns the loss of longtime member and journalism educator Ralph Izard, who died Sept. 3. Izard was a dedicated SPJer, who was honored with the Wells Memorial Key and Distinguished Teaching Award. We share our condolences with his friends and family.

Just because we had a conference over the weekend doesn’t mean we’re skipping the News Biz Quiz for this week. But, first, let’s take a moment to congratulate SPJ2020 Pub Trivia winner Kelly Kissel who triumphed against a very tough field in 10 rounds of questions.

In order to understand Donald Trump, Brian Stelter argues in his new book, you have to understand Fox News. Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent and anchor of “Reliable Sources,” put that view between covers in “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth,” for which he interviewed 140 current Fox staffers and 180 former employees. Quill's Carlett Spike spoke with Stelter about the new book.
A new nonprofit organization is seeking volunteer news, feature and opinion writers. The organization’s website memorializes people who have passed away from COVID-19 and shares information about the disease and epidemic from multiple perspectives. All are welcome to apply, but the company is especially hoping to mentor journalism students and early-career writers. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and it hopes to have enough content for its soft launch in October. To apply or get more information, please email Ruth Nasrullah
The USA TODAY Network is hiring more than 20 journalists as part of Gannett's commitment to diversifying its workforce and expanding the number of journalists focused on deep coverage of issues related to race and identity, social justice and equality. New beats include housing and social services, economic opportunity, sports inequality and race in entertainment and pop culture.
KPTM/KXVO in Omaha, Nebraska, is seeking a news assignment editor to assign and track news crews and write and post content to the station website and social media sites. One or two years of assignment desk experience is required, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism is preferred.
The Los Angeles Times is looking for a reporter to write about Black life in Southern California. The goal of the beat is to dig deeper into the diverse array of Black communities around the region. Injustice, racism and discrimination would be key areas of interest. A minimum of five years of reporting experience and a bachelor’s degree are required.
One way SPJ supports journalism is by initiating and joining amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases through its Legal Defense Fund. Here are some of the most recent cases SPJ has signed onto: 

Under the Colorado Open Records Act, information about finalists for the presidency of the University of Colorado should be released, however the university's Board of Regents argued that the five individuals who were not chosen for the position were “nominees,” rather than finalists, even though they were interviewed by the Board in the final round of competition. In the case Prairie Mountain Publishing v. The Regents in the University, the amicus brief, which supports Prairie Mountain Publishing and argues that the public has a profound interest in knowing how state university presidents — often, one of a state’s most powerful executive positions — are hired. It also highlights several examples of cases nationwide where courts have interpreted their various public-records statutes in a manner that allows the public to observe how their state university presidents are selected.  
The appeal for the case Giuffre v. Maxwell concerns the sealing of judicial records in a defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, one of the victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein, against Ghislaine Maxwell. The defamation action settled in 2017, and reporters moved to unseal records in the case. The court ruled to unseal records on a rolling basis. Maxwell appealed the ruling. There is strong precedent in this country for the public’s right of access to judicial proceedings and records, even in civil cases. The amicus brief for this case addresses concerns from the previous appeal. It argues that uncritical news reporting on court records and proceedings is unusual and that more access to court records and proceedings is the antidote to any misunderstanding the public may have in those rare instances of news reports about unproven — or even false — allegations made by one party to a civil lawsuit. SPJ has joined two previous sealing-related amicus briefs in this case. 
The case of BH Media Group v. Clarke concerns the First Amendment right of access to the entirety of execution proceedings in Virginia. The trial court ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections, finding that the First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings applies only to certain pre-judgment adjudicatory proceedings and thus not executions. The media plaintiffs appealed. The amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs argues that the trial court erred in not applying the well-established “history and logic” test to determine whether the First Amendment right of access applies to full executions. It also argues that neither U.S. Supreme Court nor federal case law limits the constitutional right of access to pre-judgment adjudicatory proceedings in criminal cases.

View all of SPJ's most recent efforts to assist journalists and journalism in court and elsewhere on the LDF in Action page
SPJ2020 featured over 20 educational workshops and breakout sessions for journalists of all levels. For those of you who attended the event, the panels and discussions are archived and available on-demand so you can watch and rewatch your favorite parts. If you didn’t attend, you can still buy access to the valuable sessions, which will be viewable until early spring 2021.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition invites you to register and attend the 2020 NFOIC virtual FOI Summit, happening Sept. 24 – Oct 1. Hear from open government and public information experts about the latest developments impacting state and local government transparency. Registration is less than $25. Topics include police reforms, virtual public meetings, COVID-19 health data, accessing public records, funding economic development, creating a transparency culture in public institutions, Freedom of Information research paper presentations and an Investigative Reporters and Editors hands-on data training seminar. 
Bob Woodward's book was released recently and has sparked a major ethics debate. "Rage" announced that President Donald Trump knew as early as February how dangerous COVID-19 was, despite what he was telling the public. This means Woodward had information about how dangerous the virus could be at this time as well, but he didn't tell the rest of the country until he published his book. Woodward said he wanted to be sure the information Trump gave him during his interviews was accurate before he revealed it to the public but also said he had confirmation in May.
The question is, "Did Woodward have a journalistic imperative to make what he knew public as soon as possible, in a daily newspaper, rather than waiting until he could publish it in a book from which he would personally profit?" In this story for Vox Media, SPJ Ethics Committee Chair Lynn Walsh said accuracy should always come before speed, and a journalist should always do their due diligence in checking the facts. "Information is power. We should not withhold information that could help a member of the public make decisions in their lives, especially ones impacting their health or safety," she said.
How much do you love journalism? A latte!

Support journalism for just the cost of your favorite beverage. Become a monthly donor to SPJ or the SPJ Foundation!  For only $5 per month, you’ll be making a huge impact. Make your monthly pledge today!
Connect with us!