From the President
Now, more than ever, every journalist should have a “Plan B.” Journalism is not dead or dying, and there are amazing opportunities out there; but clearly the industry is a little more fluid today than it used to be. It’s crucial to develop a network to spring to a new opportunity if the need comes up.
I remember vividly a conversation I had about 10 years ago with Patrick Lee Plaisance, a former journalist and current media ethics scholar at Colorado State University. I asked him why he chose to focus his teaching and research — his life’s work — on ethics.
When I talk about freedom of information laws to students, pros or civic groups, I always ask if they can guess the first country to create a public records law. Most say England, Canada or the United States. They are usually surprised when they hear the answer: China.
The time is right for us to take a hard look at who we want to be and adapt to the changing journalism environment. We’ve done it before, which is why we remain the largest journalism organization in the United States.
These are exciting times for journalism, and a bit unnerving. But journalism is NOT dead or dying; it’s evolving. Journalism matters. I’m glad SPJ can play a role, and during this next year I will need your help. During my speech at EIJ13 in Anaheim, Calif.,
Note: This is the final column by 2012-13 SPJ President Sonny Albarado, whose term ended in late August. The president’s column for 2013-14 President Dave Cuiller will begin with the September/October issue. I almost quit SPJ about 18 years ago. I had noticed with disappointment that few journalists in the Society were with big news organizations, had names recognizable from bylines in major newspapers or on network television, or were in higher management positions.
Other than approving Legal Defense Fund grants for three free-press freedom fighters, the most important thing the SPJ board did at its April 20 spring meeting was adopt a new Openness and Accountability Best Practices Guide. You’d be forgiven for wondering why the directors of a journalism organization found it necessary, even important, to craft a set of guidelines for itself and its local chapters.
On March 13, a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s press office staff demanded that a student journalist delete photos he had taken during a university-sponsored event featuring Biden. “It’s clear from the circumstance that the journalist did nothing wrong,” Philip Merrill College of Journalism Dean Lucy Dalglish is quoted in a Capital News Service story about the incident.
“Journalists and newsrooms should seek truth and report it.” That’s the first sentence from “Guidance for Journalists on Expressing Personal Opinions,” a set of recommendations for staff members at Digital First Media. A group of Digital First Media journalists has been working on guidelines for opinion journalism within the company, and this essay, posted in mid-December, is the second in a series of best-practices reports the committee has produced.
The end of a printed Newsweek does not herald the imminent end of print journalism. That seems obvious to me, but you’d never guess that from all the handwringing in mid-October when the magazine’s editor, Tina Brown, announced that Newsweek would cease publication at the end of 2012 and become digital-only as Newsweek Global.
Note: Sonny Albarado is the 2012-13 national SPJ president. He took office on Sept. 22 during the Excellence in Journalism conference. Looking on the past year as president-elect, I see two glasses — one half-empty, the other half-full. The half-empty glass shows that I failed to achieve some of the pledges I made to convention delegates when I sought their votes in New Orleans a year ago.
I’ve been a journalist for 34 years, and the learning curve in the past five years has been just as steep as it was for the first five. I’ve learned to tweet, blog and use social media to advance my writing and reporting.
We live in difficult times. Not a month goes by without fresh news of colleagues who have either lost their jobs or are left to deal with the harsh reality of a smaller newsroom operating on diminished resources. It’s distressing to read about copy editors being laid off.
A journalist friend who also is commissioner in a fantasy baseball league to which I belong recently sent an email to all the team owners who also are journalists. Does playing in a league that features modest fees and prize money constitute a form of sports betting?
Our SPJ colleagues in Colorado have produced a video that I’d like to bring to your attention. It’s a 60-second valentine to the power of journalism called “This I Know.” The video was born out of the frustration many of us felt after coming so tantalizing close to passage of a national shield law for journalists in late 2010.
The unsung heroes of our Society are the volunteers who log countless hours working on various national committees. As your new president, I’ve been blessed to inherit a very strong set of committees. I’ve added people and created some new ad-hoc committees, but for the most part, a fair number of folks agreed to continue on this year.
Editor’s Note: Hagit Limor’s term ended Sept. 27, 2011, during the Excellence in Journalism conference. This is her last column written as SPJ president. My father sits long hours in his living room chair these days, approaching his 81st birthday, pondering a patchwork of memories captured on the front pages of history.
The phone started ringing just after noon on a busy Tuesday in June. The axe was falling again. Friends at Gannett who had suffered through multiple rounds of cutbacks, furloughs and layoffs had just gotten word that 700 more of their friends were about to get the call no one supporting a family, trying to pay off a car or struggling with a student loan wants to hear.
I was sitting at a karaoke bar in Tokyo on my birthday, my first breath of relaxation after a tumultuous week covering the March 11 earthquake, when my BlackBerry buzzed with news that would shake me to the core. Dick Goehler was gone.
NOTE: This column is adapted from a blog post Hagit Limor wrote on March 17 for the SPJ “Freedom of the Prez” blog. I went to Japan on a journalists’ exchange and ran into that nation’s emotional equivalent of our 9/11.
I imagine the general public doesn’t get the inside joke of naming the newest potential assault on what journalists can publish the “SHIELD Act.” Those of us who’ve been fighting for a federal “shield law” get the message loud and clear.
The first call came 12 hours after I raised my hand and swore to uphold the traditions and values of the Society of Professional Journalists as president. Students at Marshall University complained that their school’s police department had two sets of blotters detailing crime on campus, one the police released to their student paper, the Parthenon, a second that reflected true crime reports as mandated by the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges to report campus crime in a log accessible to the public.
Last year I was attending a Future of Journalism conference at Yale University when a panel of academicians took that stage touting their views of the future of journalism education. The way they saw it, the wave of the future was citizen journalists.
The voice on the other end of the phone was barely discernable. The broken English coupled with the static made it almost too difficult to do the interview properly. The reporter was from an Iraqi magazine. He had called me months earlier to talk about a U.S.
About a month before I took office as president, outgoing leader Dave Aeikens suggested I subscribe to Google Alerts and use “SPJ” and “Society of Professional Journalists” as my link words. This way I could be up on the latest information being circulated about the organization.
“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — American scholar John M. Richardson Jr. Nothing comes closer to the truth when applying this quote to the future of journalism.
November 11th, 2003 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Solutions for journalism, Society require action
A few weeks back, I took in an awards luncheon that recognized minority entrepreneurs in the Tampa Bay area. Part of the program involved a 30-minute session delivered by a “motivational speaker.” I admire people that get paid a decent buck to come up with zippy one-liners and plays on words that drive some people to reassess their state in life.
Early this year, rumors started flowing from the south China city of Guangzhou of a new form of avian flu that was killing hundreds of people. But the government-controlled Chinese press said not a word. On Feb. 9, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.,
April 29th, 2003 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President:Truth isn’t only valuable in stories
FBI Special Agent Joseph K. Stuart has plenty of experience getting people who don’t want to talk to spill their guts, and he’s happy to share his tips for getting information. Build empathy, he told journalists at the Region 11 conference in Phoenix.
March 27th, 2003 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: The First Amendment is for everyone
The Lewiston, Maine, police were understandably nervous. The World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group with a history of violence, was coming to town. It planned a rally in support of the mayor, who had urged Somali immigrants to stop moving into his town.
February 18th, 2003 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: Active chapters make a mark in their communities
Les Brownlee’s friends and well-wishers made it difficult for the veteran journalist to sit down. They constantly approached him in the banquet room of the Chicago Athletic Club to congratulate him on the new series of programs that was beginning that night – the Les Brownlee Journalism Series.
December 23rd, 2002 • Quill Archives, From the President
From the President: New Congress threatens public records
I sat down to write this column the weekend after the November elections. What, I was going to ask and attempt to answer, would become of freedom of information after the Republicans take control of both houses in January? You’re not reading that column, because the GOP isn’t waiting for January.