A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Letters to the editor: March

By Quill

SPJ’s help called into question

To the Editor:

David Carlson’s December 2005 Quill column titled “New president discusses controversial SPJ awards,” includes this statement: “From the beginning, SPJ offered to help Hosty with attorney’s fees, but she chose to represent herself.” Really? This is news to me. I am quite prepared to attest that the comment in Mr. Carlson’s article is utterly without foundation — call it a lie, a falsehood, fabrication, misinformation, whatever you will, but it does not alter the fact that said statement is untrue. The facts, as they truly are:

1) SPJ was not on board “from the beginning,” and did not mention any consideration of offering assistance until after I had initiated contact with the body in mid-2003, nearly 2-1/2 years subsequent to the litigation’s beginning; and

2) I did not choose between representing myself or permitting counsel to do so, and I have yet to receive one thin dime from the SPJ towards securing counsel.

The fact that the sentence of which I have written was singled out (in that it stands alone) suggests to me that this form had been intentionally utilized so as to minimize potential criticism of the SPJ; the problem I have with this tactic, of course, is that it then falsely shifts any assumed blame onto me, and makes false accusations against my character — not fair, accurate or honest conduct. I am hopeful that the SPJ will be professional and ethical enough to amend its report, and look forward to reading a requested retraction and apology.

Margaret L. Hosty

Student Plaintiff

Hosty v. Carter

Editor’s note: The Society of Professional Journalists, through its Legal Defense Fund and the Chicago Headline Club, has offered Margaret Hosty various forms of support and assistance since 2002. Chicago Headline Club minutes from fall 2002 reflect that the chapter’s directors asked Ms. Hosty to submit a request for financial support in writing. She did not do so until mid-2003. National SPJ officials worked to secure legal counsel for Ms. Hosty, but she rejected counsel’s help because she did not agree with the approach recommended by experienced attorneys. Ms. Hosty instead chose to pursue her own course of legal representation. At the appropriate phase of the litigation when SPJ, along with numerous journalism groups, was allowed to intervene as amici or friends of the court, it did so and urged the 7th Circuit to support press freedom on college campuses. SPJ has been and remains profoundly disappointed with the en banc ruling of the 7th Circuit. However, in the end, SPJ officials did not give Ms. Hosty financial support because they believed — and still do — that her very important case concerning college media should be litigated by skilled legal counsel, and are pleased that professional counsel authored her petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court.