Colorado journalists will receive two 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Awards for excellence in journalism at the SDX Awards Banquet on June 26 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Westword editor Patricia Calhoun won the general column writing award in the nondaily circulation 1-100,000 category for a collection of columns that appeared in the Denver alternative weekly from June through December 2014.  Calhoun won the 2010 SDX feature reporting award for “Spreading Her Wings” in the same circulation category.

Alan Prendergast of Westword won the feature reporting award last year for “The Lifers Book Club.”

KUNC won its second consecutive SDX honor. The Greeley public radio station won the feature reporting award in the 101+market for a Nov. 11, 2014, story titled “Finding Soldierstone: The public has discovered a hidden war memorial. Does that change its meaning?” Reporter Grace Hood, editor Brian Larson and digital editor Jim Hill produced the winning entry.

Last year, KUNC won the breaking news award in its market category for its coverage of the September 2013 floods in Colorado.

The complete list of 2014 winners is here.

In SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter news, seven students were selected to receive scholarships totaling $7,000. Students submitted applications to scholarship chair Leticia Steffen of Colorado State University-Pueblo and a three-person selection committee recommended the seven students to the SPJ Colorado Pro board. The seven and their schools are:

Helen Verba Scholarship for aspiring print journalists:
Stehanie Mason, Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Allison Moses, Chapman University (Orange, Calif.)
Melanie Rice, Metropolitan State University at Denver
Katie Schmidt, Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Jordyn Seimens, CU-Boulder

Sheldon Peterson Scholarship for aspiring television journalists:
Joy Barber, CU-Boulder
Brynn Carman, Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Denver Post reporter Jennifer Brown received the 2015 Palmer Hoyt Journalist of the Year award on May 15 from the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The award was one of four special honors announced at the chapter’s annual Region 9 Top of the Rockies awards ceremony at the Denver Press Club. The 422 first-, second- and third-place TOR contest awards went to journalists in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. This year’s contest received 784 entries, which were judged by the SPJ Connecticut Pro Chapter.

The winners list: TORwinners.

KUSA 9News anchor Adele Arakawa with her 2015 SPJ Keeper of the Flame Award and Bob Burdick.

KUSA 9News anchor Adele Arakawa with her 2015 SPJ Keeper of the Flame Award and Bob Burdick.

The special award recipients were selected by the SPJ Colorado Pro board. In addition to the Journalist of the Year Award, Leadville Herald Democrat editor Marcia Martinek received the First Amendment Award, KUSA 9News anchor Adele Arakawa received the Keeper of the Flame Award, and Kenn Bisio of Metropolitan State University-Denver received the Journalism Educator of the Year Award.

Sandra Fish, president-elect of Journalism & Women Symposium and a data journalist for New Mexico In Depth, introduced Brown.

“At The Post, Jen covered higher ed, the legislature and health before joining the special projects team. As a projects reporter, she has investigated the state child welfare system, the parole system, mental health care and child homelessness. She has won Best of the West and National Headliner awards while at The Post.

“With Michael Booth, she co-authored the book “Eating Dangerously: Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe and How You Can” a work prompted by the 2013 listeria outbreak caused by Colorado cantaloupes.

“Her work on problems with the state’s foster care system prompted lawmakers to ask Gov. John Hickenlooper to replace the leadership of the state’s human services agency. She’s collaborated with others at The Post to produce compelling multimedia work about homeless students, the mental health system and more, using statistics, but, more importantly, the tales of real people to illustrate how we’re failing those who need our help the most.”

Leadville Herald Democrat editor Marcia Martinek, right, with her 2015 SPJ First Amendment Award and Ashley Kissinger.

Leadville Herald Democrat editor Marcia Martinek, right, with her 2015 SPJ First Amendment Award and Ashley Kissinger.

Ashley Kissinger, whose Denver law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz represented the Herald Democrat in its open government lawsuit, introduced Martinek.

“Marcia is receiving this First Amendment Award because of her tenacious pursuit of audiotapes of an illegal secret meeting held by Leadville’s Board of County Commissioners back in 2013. The board had learned that the head of the county’s building and land use department was selling prescription narcotics out of his county office. So the board held a two-day long executive session closed to the public and told the employee in the meeting he would be fired if he didn’t resign, which he did.

“Because this was a personnel matter, the board did have the right to discuss it privately under the Open Meeting Law. But that law requires that the public be notified that the discussion is taking place, and know as much about the purpose of the meeting as possible without compromising the reason for holding it privately in the first place. None of that happened here. The board didn’t notify the public that it planned to hold this meeting. The commissioners just gathered in a room, said to nobody, since nobody was there, that they were meeting to discuss a personnel matter and to speak with their attorney, didn’t give any other information, and then locked their door and held their meeting. And then afterwards the board dragged its feet before telling the public that it had held this meeting, publishing minutes of it only after Marcia and her team at the Herald Democrat received a tip and began asking questions.

“”Marcia gave the board many chances to do the right thing, but after they and their counsel ducked and weaved around the law in letter after letter, she made the difficult decision to sue – a decision not lightly made by the editor of a weekly newspaper in a small community. The board defended the suit on numerous legal grounds and a half-day trial was held before the district judge in Leadville, with four witnesses testifying. The judge ruled in favor of Marcia and the paper, writing a detailed opinion and awarding $64,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to Marcia and the paper.

“The board appealed the decision and the Colorado Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on April 29.

“No matter what the ultimate resolution of this lawsuit is in the courts, Marcia deserves a load of thanks for taking on this fight. Litigation is never fun. And I imagine that when you stick your neck out as the editor of a small community newspaper, and slap your good name and that of your newspaper on a lawsuit that forces the county government to expend resources to fight that lawsuit, you can worry yourself sick over whether you are doing the right thing. And convincing your publisher to go for it must add an additional layer of stress. So I commend SPJ for choosing Marcia Martinek for its First Amendment award this year. You could not have made a better choice.”

Denver Post reporter Jennifer Brown, right, with her 2015 SPJ Journalist of the Year Award and Sandra Fish.

Denver Post reporter Jennifer Brown, right, with her 2015 SPJ Journalist of the Year Award and Sandra Fish.

Former Rocky Mountain News editor and Colorado Springs Gazette publisher Bob Burdick introduced Arakawa.

“I have the distinct honor of speaking about SPJ Colorado Pro’s Keeper of the Flame Award. This honors a person for distinguished service to journalism. That’s the technical description. But what it really honors is a distinguished journalist for service to his or her community.

“You know her, we know here and most of Colorado would recognize her on the street. That’s because she has been a rock steady figure helping our friends and neighbors cope with the tragedy of Columbine, the mindless bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the terrifying Four-Mile Canyon wildfire and so much more. Through it, she has won seven regional Emmys, including Best Anchor. Further, in 2013, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Heartland Chapter of Regional Emmy Awards.

“She also has been honored by the Asian American Journalists Association. She is a member of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Service Committee, as well as the AAJA.”

MSU-Denver profession Kenn Bisio, right, with his 2015 SPJ Journalism Educator of the Year Award and Doug Bell.

MSU-Denver profession Kenn Bisio, right, with his 2015 SPJ Journalism Educator of the Year Award and Doug Bell.

Doug Bell, editor of the Evergreen Newspapers, introduced Bisio. Bell is an adjunct journalism instructor at MSU-Denver, and he and Bisio shared an office on the Metro campus in the 1990s.

“It’s difficult to introduce my friend Kenn Bisio without succumbing to the tendency to make lists. Usually I start with the well-known publications where his photos have appeared, from Newsweek to Sports Illustrated to National Geographic. Then I move on to the list of photojournalism awards he has won, everything from photographer of the year to NPPA awards too numerous to mention. Then there are the former students of Kenn who have won Pulitzer Prizes; two, with three Pulitzers between them.

“All of his former students understand that no assignment is routine or lacks significance, and that no subject is unimportant or unworthy of respect.

“Good journalism teachers give students the knowledge and experiences required to pursue the profession. Great journalism teachers produce professionals who carry forward an unserving commitment to excellence, a humble heart, and a mission to illuminate the human condition. Kenn, and countless students he has touched, share that rare combination of qualities. That’s why we’ve named him Journalism Educator of the Year.”

By Ed Otte

Ignoring the top sports story of the day – release of the NFL Deflategate report – longtime sports writer Doug Looney discussed life lessons on May 6 at the Denver Press Club.

“Be lucky” is one of the lessons the former Sports Illustrated senior writer listed at the Fireside Chat sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Doug Looney, former Sports Illustrated writer

Doug Looney, former Sports Illustrated writer

“One time I brought home a report card that wasn’t very good,” Looney said. His mother, Vera, “looked at it a long time. A long time. Finally, she said: ‘It’s a good thing you’re lucky because you’re not very smart.'”

The “solid 2.2 student” while attending CU-Boulder admitted, however, that “a lot goes into being lucky. Have an open mind about your career. Think big. Don’t let your career happen to you. Don’t let yourself be stuck in your career. Do anything. If you fail – and we all do, spectacularly – consider it an opportunity to improve. Consider taking a ridiculous leap of faith. Are you willing to work that hard? Big breaks come in unlikely situations.”

Have an open mind. When the Boulder native was cut from his basketball team at age 16, “I was so depressed. My mother said: ‘Why don’t you write about the team for the high school newspaper?’ It was pivotal.”

Journalism had a family appeal. His father, Robert, worked at the Daily Camera for more than 40 years, as a reporter and in various editor positions including managing editor.

Think big. “I was only going to write in New York or Washington.  That guided everything I did. When I was a student, I could have a job writing sports for a Boulder newspaper for 50 cents an hour or be a cook at a CU dorm for $1 an hour. I chose the local paper job rather than flipping eggs in the morning for more money.”

Don’t let your career happen to you. “You have to be proactive. When I grew up in Boulder there was civil rights unrest. But I knew nothing about blacks or Hispanics. I knew about white protestants. I knew I should know about the South and civil rights. I decided I had to live in the South to learn about race relations. I took a job with the Nashville Banner. I went there as the third man in a three-person police bureau. Covering the race riots, I got tear gas in my eyes hiding behind tanks leaking oil.”

Don’t get stuck in your career and take a ridiculous leap of faith. “I was comfortable in Nashville but I wanted to move on. The Omaha World Herald tried to get me to be city editor but I wanted Washington. Better Homes and Gardens offered a lot of money to be special assignments editor – that showed they didn’t know what to do with me – and I was miserable. Worst job I ever had. Only job I ever hated. But it turned out to be the best job I ever had because it led to other jobs.”

With the muted Chicago Bulls-Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff game on the flat screen TV, Looney, 73, admitted his early reporting goal wasn’t sports.

“I wrote to the National Observer, I told them I wanted to write politics. Richard Nixon was president and it was a good time to cover Washington. But they asked me to write sports. I took the job and it was a truly wonderful experience.”

Do anything because big breaks come in unlikely situations. “I had an unusual definition of sports and I covered the National Hollerin’ Contest in North Carolina, world marble shooting championships in New Jersey, world chess match in Iceland, hot pepper eating championships in Louisiana. And I met other writers at those events, including an SI guy, and they called (in 1975) and offered me a job.”

Are you willing to work that hard? “When I was at SI, there were a lot writers better than me. I was 28th on a list of 30 writers. But I would go anywhere. Others wouldn’t do that. Some people are perfectly content to show up at the office at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. I don’t understand that. You have to work a lot of weekends, a lot of Saturday and Sunday mornings and holidays. I remember a call Christmas morning asking me to go cover an event and I did it. One time I was told to cover harness racing in upstate New York. I went to the SI library and asked: ‘What the hell is harness racing?’ They laughed at me.”

“Another time an SI editor told me I was going to Paris to cover the world figure skating championships. When I told my wife, she laughed. I knew nothing about skating. I called (Olympic and world champion) Dick Button and told him, and he laughed. But he said come over and look at tapes. I became an expert on the double-axle – which I knew nothing about before.”

If you fail. “One time, I wrote a story at SI that nobody liked. I knew I was in trouble. I got a call to go to Akron, Ohio, to cover the world bowling championships. I knew I was being punished. But I poured myself into it and SI loved it.”

After the 1963 CU graduate retired from Sports Illustrated in 1997, he was an adjunct journalism instructor at the university and served as chair of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication advisory board. During his 22 years at the magazine, Looney covered college game fixing scandals, colorful coaches and unpopular sports issues  He co-authored “Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed Its Ideals for Football Glory.” The book, published in 1993, sparked controversy in the NCAA and angry criticism of the authors.

Being a public figure, even a sports writer, can produce serious life-lesson lessons.

“When I was in Nashville, I covered a Jimmy Hoffa jury tampering trial in the late 1960s,” Looney said. “One day, Hoffa asked if I wanted to go to lunch with him. I asked why. He said: ‘You’re the only one who doesn’t seem to be bothered being seen with me.’ He told me about phone calls he was getting from people saying they were going to kill him. He said those people didn’t worry him. He worried about the ones who don’t call.”

The former Teamsters union leader with links to organized crime vanished in 1975.

The Utah Headliners SPJ Chapter requests our help.

It needs volunteers to judge the daily and non-daily newspaper divisions in its annual contest. The entries are judged online with a May 17 deadline. Here are the 10 categories:

Best reporter
Government reporting
Medical/science reporting
Military reporting
Personality profile
Sports deadline
Sports non-deadline
Opinion column
Humor/Lifestyle column

If you have time during the next week to help our colleagues in Utah – and learn how other journalists report on topics you may cover – we urge to volunteer. Please email SPJ Colorado Pro president Ed Otte at eotte47@gmail.com and list the category or categories you wish to judge. Thank you.

One hundred and thirty people from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming attended the Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 “Scaling New(s) Heights” Conference April 24-25 on the Auraria campus in Denver.

Most of the attendees were college journalism students and faculty. The April 25 Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon recognized the outstanding work by students in newspapers, magazines, online, radio and television. The list of winners is at http://www.spj.org.

The SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter thanks the following people who volunteered their time to serve on session panels:

Freedom of Information and Your Right to Know panel: Tom Johnson, managing director of the Institute for Analytic Journalism in Santa Fe, NM, is the SPJ Region 9 director; Jeff Roberts, formerly of The Denver Post, is executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition; Peg Perl, who is adjunct faculty at the University of Denver, is senior counsel at Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonprofit organization promoting ethics and accountability in government.

Ethics in Newsgathering and Reporting panel: Fred Brown, former Denver Post capitol bureau chief and former SPJ national president, is co-vice chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee; John Ensslin, former SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter and SPJ national president, is a reporter at The (Bergen, NJ) Record; Gabrielle Porter is a reporter at the Evergreen Newspapers.

Diversity in the Newsroom and in News Coverage panel: Tak Landrock, a member of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter board, is a reporter at Denver Fox31; Gil Asakawa, a former SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter board member, is student media manager at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Multimedia Journalism – The Present and the Future panel: Phil Tenser, a member of the Rocky Mountain Online News Association, is digital executive producer at Denver 7News; Nicki Jhabvala is The Denver Post sports digital editor; Sandra Fish, secretary of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter, is a data journalist with New Mexico In Depth.

Non-profit News Has a Growing Audience panel: Brian Calvert is associate editor of High Country News, an environmental news organization in Paonia; Neil Best is president and CEO of KUNC public radio in Greeley; Cara DeGette, former SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter president, is editor of the Greater Park Hill News.

Investigative Journalism – Story Ideas and Resources panel: Natasha Gardner, senior editor at 5280 Magazine; Bob Burdick, SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter treasurer, is the former editor of the Rocky Mountain News and publisher of the Colorado Springs Gazette; Burt Hubbard, a former Rocky Mountain News reporter, is editorial director at Rocky Mountain PBS I-News.

What is the Future of the News Industry? panel: Lauren Gustus is executive editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan; Jim Anderson is news editior of The Associated Press Colorado bureau; Neil Best.

Challenges Facing Collegiate Journalism panel: Steve Musal and Steve Haigh of Metropolitan State University of Denver; Kate Winkle and Neill Woelk of Colorado State University-Fort Collins; Jordyn Siemens and Gil Asakawa of University of Colorado-Boulder; Aaron Graff of Community College of Denver.

How to Get an Internship and an Entry-level Job panel: Doug Bell, a member of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter board, is editor of the Evergreen Newspapers; Kara Mason, a member of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter board, is a student at Colorado State University-Pueblo; Noelle Leavitt Riley, former president of the SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter, is editor of the Craig Daily Press.

The SPJ Colorado Pro Chapter thanks the following for their conference sponsorships:

Richard G. Ballantine, chair of the Ballantine Family Foundation and former Durango Herald publisher
Colorado Press Association
Fox31 Denver/Colorado’s Own The CW2
Society of Professional Journalists
Colorado Mesa University
Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Community College of Denver
Metropolitan State University of Denver
SPJ Rio Grande Pro Chapter
SPJ Utah Headliners Chapter

SPJ Colorado Pro also thanks the SPJ Auraria Chapter officers and advisers for their work on the conference:

Aaron D. Graff, president
Alex Olsen, vice president
Brian Erickson, treasurer
Yolanda Valencia, program director
Melanie Rice, secretary
Kristi Stother, CCD adviser
Shaun Schafer, MSU-Denver adviser

SPJ Utah Headliners Chapter president McKenzie Romero, right, reviews the resume of Michaela Funtanilla of Weber State University April 25 during the Region 9 Conference in Denver.

SPJ Utah Headliners Chapter president McKenzie Romero, right, reviews the resume of Michaela Funtanilla of Weber State University April 25
during the Region 9 Conference in Denver.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins SPJ chapter adviser Kris Kodrich in the buffet line April 25 prior to the Region 9 Conference Mark of Excellence awards program.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins SPJ chapter adviser Kris Kodrich in the buffet line April 25 prior to the Region 9 Conference Mark of Excellence awards program.

SPJ Region 9 director Tom Johnson presented the Mark of Excellence awards program April 25 on the final day of the conference in Denver.

SPJ Region 9 director Tom Johnson presents the Mark of Excellence awards program April 25 on the final day of the conference in Denver.

SPJ Auraria Chapter officer Yolanda Valencia conducts a podcast interview with Denver Fox31 reporter Tak Landrock, left, and CU-Boulder student media manager Gil Asakawa April 24 during the Region 9 Conference in Denver. Landrock and Asakawa led the conference diversity session discussion.

SPJ Auraria Chapter officer Yolanda Valencia conducts a podcast interview with Denver Fox31 reporter Tak Landrock, left, and CU-Boulder student media manager Gil Asakawa April 24 during the Region 9 Conference in Denver. Landrock and Asakawa led the conference diversity session discussion.

SPJ Colorado Pro board secretary Sandra Fish and SPJ Auraria Chapter president Aaron Graff man the registration table April 24 at the Region 9 Conference on the Auraria campus in Denver.

SPJ Colorado Pro board secretary Sandra Fish and SPJ Auraria Chapter president Aaron Graff man the registration table April 24 at the Region 9 Conference on the Auraria campus in Denver.

By Vicky Gits

“For all the advances police and prosecutors have made in their ability to solve crimes, they still struggle with the basic step of making sure that the people they arrest show up to answer the charges.”

–Brad Heath, USA Today, “Fugitives Next Door” http://www.fugitves.usatoday.com

A newspaper story about a fugitive from justice who escaped one arrest and detention and went on to kill a cop in New York City, sparked USA Today investigative reporter Brad Heath’s curiosity.

That curiosity grew into a massive two-year investigation of how thousands of criminals are escaping the consequences by simply moving across county lines. The investigation turned into a series of stories, “Fugitives Next Door,” that relied in large part on Heath’s talent for computer assisted reporting.

University of Colorado College of Media, Communication and Information Dean Chris Braider (left), USA Today reporter Brad Heath and John Ensslin during April 23 SPJ Colorado Pro program at the Denver Press Club.

University of Colorado College of Media, Communication and Information Dean Chris Braider (left), USA Today reporter Brad Heath and John Ensslin during April 23 SPJ Colorado Pro program at the Denver Press Club.

The stories documented how arrest warrants “pile up by the thousands,” for minor offenses as well as crimes such as assault, rape and murder, and that “authorities are not searching for them beyond the county line.”

“In three states alone, confidential law enforcement databases list nearly a million fugitives who need not fear being arrested if they’re found beyond the next county, let alone the next state,” the report said. Certain databases, but not all, actually stipulate how far police are willing to travel to pick up individuals with outstanding warrants, even if they have been identified in connection with other offenses.

For these stories, the USA Today investigative reporter was named the winner of the 2015 Al Nakkula Award for police reporting. The Nakkula Award, named for the former Rocky Mountain News police reporter, is a $2,000 prize sponsored by the Denver Press Club and the University of Colorado College of Media, Communication and Information.

Heath is the first Nakkula award winner to make extensive use of computer-assisted reporting, said John Ensslin, county government and politics reporter at The Record, Woodland Park, N.J.

Ensslin interviewed Heath on April 23 at the Denver Press Club when Heath was in Denver to receive the award at the annual Damon Runyan Award Banquet. Ensslin is a former president of the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and former SPJ national president.

The interview, sponsored by SPJ Colorado Pro, was videotaped and will be broadcast on Denver’s Channel 8 in May.

Ensslin is a former staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News who recalls working at the Rocky when Nakkula was still on the staff.

Nakkula was known for daring to expose a crime ring that existed inside the Denver Police department. In addition to that he was the “spark plug who woke up the entire newspaper,” Ensslin said. “The staff adored him.” After he died, his friends got together to memorialize him with the annual police reporting award.

Heath follows in Nakkula’s tradition but with a tech twist. He discovered that neglecting to follow up on arrest warrants was a fairly common practice. “All a criminal has to do is go away. The authorities decide we are just not going to get you,” Heath said.

The lack of police follow-up is common knowledge among the criminal population, Heath said. Departments just don’t have the resources to track down every lawbreaker and go through a legal extradition, even if identification is not an issue. Extradition can get very expensive if someone wants to fight it and the authorities are scared of it, Heath said.

Heath’s main challenge was extracting records from local sheriff’s departments and other authorities. In some cases, he had to use computer-coding skills to create “bots” that would go through databases electronically and produce reports.

He also called sheriff’s offices and submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI. He gave Florida high marks for transparency. “You get whatever you want and they are fast.”

Heath got satisfaction out of mining databases and “knowing things I’m not supposed to know.”

In some places the series is producing results. Shocked by the extent of the problem, the leader of the National District Attorneys Association has said prosecutors need to “go back and audit all of their outstanding warrants.” (March 14, 2015)

Heath has been at USA Today as an investigative reporter for nine years, covering mostly law and criminal justice. Known for aspiring to explore “the big picture,” USA Today has made a large commitment to investigations and has two teams of five reporters each, Heath said.

Heath started his journalism career at a newspaper in Binghamton, N.Y. He began exploring journalistic uses of computer programming as an intern in Utica, N.Y.

In general, access to information has improved over the years, Heath said. “There is more data available. It’s more accessible and available to more people.”

For more on the series, which has its own website, see www. fugitives.usatoday.com.

The following remarks were delivered April 24 at the opening of the Society of Professional Journalists Region 9 Conference on the Auraria campus in Denver.

By Bill McCloskey

SPJ National Director-At-Large

Strong as ever

SPJ is moving ahead as strong as ever. While membership still declines slightly in these post-recession years, down to about 7,500, we are still the largest organization of journalists in the United States and financially the organization is better than ever thanks to innovative partnerships with RTDNA, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, ACES, JAWS and others.

Bill McCloskey, at-large director, Society of Professional Journalists

Bill McCloskey, at-large director, Society of Professional Journalists

Fighting for Journalists

  • FOIA Improvement Act: SPJ advocated for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which fizzled out at the end of the 2014 legislative session. However, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 is alive and well and SPJ continues to monitor and advocate for this bill’s passage.
  • Federal Shield Law: SPJ continues to monitor and fight for a federal shield law, which would help protect journalists from the 800-some subpoenas issued against journalists annually by federal agencies.
  • Advocacy: SPJ has been a strong voice in fighting for open government (White House letter); Public Information Officer transparency (letters to EPA and others); transparency in death penalty cases (in Ohio and Virginia, specifically); reporters’ rights (including student reporters such as editor of Western Illinois University; reporters covering events in Ferguson, Mo., etc.) SPJ frequently signs on to letters and amicus briefs calling for transparency in various government and legal dealings. Most recently, SPJ signed on to amicus briefs in a West Virginia coal mine case and a Montana open records case.

Ethics Code Update

The revised Code of Ethics was adopted at EIJ14 in Nashville, Tenn., in September. Since then, the revised code has been promoted to members, media and the general public. Posters and bookmarks have been sent to newsrooms, journalism schools, journalism professors, student newsrooms, journalism conferences, Scripps and other SPJ-related events. Andrew Seaman, chair of the ethics committee, has been discussing the Code at various seminars and conferences he has attended and will be attending in the coming months.

This is the first revision since 1996. While the revision of the Code does not involve any major philosophical shift, the process included recognition of social media and other journalist developments since 1996. Led by then-ethics committee chair Kevin Smith, the nine-person committee and others divided the four sections of the Code (Seek Truth & Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently and Be Accountable) into subcommittees and worked on revisions throughout the year.

You can print your own Code of Ethics bookmarks and posters from here: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp/ or shoot Communications Coordinator Taylor Carlier an email at tcarlier@spj.org to be added to the next mailing. Supplemental and explanatory links will be available online within the Code in the next few months.


SPJ is excited to now have five communities — Freelance, Digital, International, Gen J and Student. Digital and Freelance communities elected officers in January. They took office Feb. 1 and the initial term will extend through Sept. 20, the last day of EIJ15. Future terms will run from convention to convention. A community is like a thematic chapter that anyone can join to focus on a shared interest. If you have not checked them out yet, you should. Get involved and invite others to join!

Excellence in Journalism convention, #EIJ15
Be sure to attend the Excellence in Journalism 2015 conference Sept. 18-20, 2015, at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla. Check out all the details online at www.excellenceinjournalism.org/

Excellence in Journalism will again feature a mix of cutting-edge training and education for all journalists, media professionals and educators. It’s our fifth year of collaboration with the Radio Television Digital News Association and second year with National Association of Hispanic Journalists. You’ll get training on database reporting, web coding, narrative storytelling, job searching in a difficult market, and a lot of mainstays on ethics, open government, diversity and the like. It’s a big conference with a lot of training and panel discussions on industry trends — and a lot of fun. There will definitely be something for everyone — from students to long-time news managers to folks just wanting to spend time in Orlando – and Walt Disney World — with 1,000 of their closest journalism friends.

Sigma Delta Chi Foundation

The SDX Foundation, a supporting foundation to SPJ, has been busy helping improve journalism by continuing to fund important training programs, including the SPJ national convention, daylong SPJ training workshops, online video training and watchdog boot camps in coordination with Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). Also, the Foundation funds scholarships to the SPJ national convention and recognizes outstanding First Amendment work. Make your tax-deductible contribution every year to SDX Foundation to improve and protect journalism.

Get involved in SPJ!

SPJ wants you! SPJ is looking for volunteers who are passionate about journalism and SPJ to serve on national committees and the national board. If you are interested in sharing your expertise or participating at the national level, talk to anyone on the board, at SPJ HQ or contact past president Sonny Albarado, nominations chair, for details at salbarado@spj.org. For more information about elections, visit http://www.spj.org/elections.asp/

Here are open board seats:

  • President-elect (elected every year)
  • Secretary-Treasurer (elected every year)
  • Vice President of Campus Chapter Affairs (two-year position)
  • At-Large Director (two-year position)
  • Campus Adviser At-Large (two-year position)
  • Student Representative (two positions, elected every year)
  • Directors for Regions 2, 3, 6, 10, 11 and 12 (two-year positions)

We are also looking for nominations for Volunteer of the Month. If you have a Volunteer of the Month nominee, send it to Susan Stevens at susanstevens@aol.com. Nominations are due by the 5th of each month.

Revamped Job Bank/Career Center

Whether you are looking for a job or have an opening to share, the revamped SPJ job bank/career center is the place to be. Job seekers can browse new jobs, search listings, upload their resume and more. Employers can post jobs and search resumes. To register, visit http://www.spj.org/jobs.asp/

Professional opportunities and discounted services for SPJ members

Your SPJ membership comes with many benefits. Simply inform the following vendors that you are a member of SPJ and receive these special offers. For more details, visit http://www.spj.org/whyjoin4.asp/

  • Life insurance, accident insurance and identity theft protection through MetLife
  • Individual financial services benefits through Indianapolis-based financial services firm and consultants Harry W. Riley and David N. Brown. SPJ members are entitled to receive free quotes for coverage and access to the following products:
    • Life Insurance
    • Disability Income Coverage
    • Long Term Care Insurance
    • Retirement Solutions
    • Liability Coverage, also called Errors & Omissions (E&O) coverage
  • A 20 percent discount on an AP Stylebook Online subscription.
  • As an SPJ member you may be eligible for an 8 percent discount on Geico homeowner’s, renter’s, condo, motorcycle, boat, PWC, ATV and RV insurance.
  • Car rental discounts from Alamo, Avis and Hertz

Stay connected!

For all the latest SPJ news, follow our social media accounts:

Twitter: @spj_tweets

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