The final word from EIJ15

SPJ’s long weekend in tropical Orlando – EIJ15 – came to a close on Sept. 21 with the meeting of the new officers and board of directors.

Here are some of the highlights and action items from that meeting:

Committee Chairs. In keeping with the tradition started by Dana Neuts in 2014, I voluntarily submitted my slate of committee chairs for board approval and they were accepted unanimously:

Awards & Honors Committee

Chair: Andy Schotz

By-Laws Committee

Chair: Bob Becker

Diversity Committee

Chair: April Bethea

Ethics Committee

Chair: Andrew Seaman

Freedom of Information

Chair: Jonathan Anderson

Journalism Education

Chair: Butler Cain

Legal Defense Fund

Chair: Hagit Limor

Membership Committee

Chair: Robyn Sekula


Chair: Dana Neuts


Chair: Sonny Albarado

Executive Committee. Bill McCloskey and Joe Radske were the directors elected to the executive committee.

SDX Board. Seven people were appointed and ratified as SPJ’s reps to the Sigma Delta Chi foundation board of directors: Paul Fletcher, Lynn Walsh, Rebecca Baker, Dana Neuts, Sue Kopen-Katcef, Bill McCloskey and Patti Newberry.

SDX Officers. The board ratified the election of new SDX foundation board officers to one-year terms: Irwin Gratz, vice president; Hagit Limor, secretary; and Howard Dubin, treasurer. SDX board president Robert Leger is in the middle of a two-year term.

Finance Committee. Bill McCloskey and Eddye Gallagher will continue to serve on the SPJ Finance Committee.

A New Community. The Community Journalists Community was approved and becomes SPJ’s sixth community. Al Cross will lead the new group.

Gaming Awards Proposal. Michael Koretzky proposed that SPJ provide, on a one-year, experimental basis, a series of gaming journalism awards. Michael will work with and through the Awards committee, chaired by Andy Schotz, in developing his proposal.

Wells Key Selection. The officers voluntarily adopted the Wells Key selection process that was to begin in 2016, with the full Executive Committee making the pick instead of only the officers. Sue Porter was this year’s honoree.

Convention Improvements. In a post mortem of EIJ15 and looking ahead to EIJ16 in New Orleans, the board touched on the following topics:

  • Governance meetings. A motion to provide notice of governance meetings, such as board meetings, both in print and convention signage passed unanimously.
  • A request to put resolutions likely to spark discussion and debate will be heard first next year, ahead of congratulatory resolutions and others likely to pass in a block.
  • President-elect Lynn Walsh will serve as SPJ’s point person in development of EIJ16 programming and will coordinate with Scott Leadingham and the team deciding programs for next year.

ACEJMC. Steve Geimann served for many years as SPJ’s rep on the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The 2015 convention passed a resolution directing the board to continue to support an SPJ rep on ACEJMC by paying his/her dues and expenses to attend two meetings. Sonny Albarado has agreed to serve as our rep.

Director Elections. With Rebecca Baker’s election to Secretary-Treasurer, the Region 1 director seat is now open. SPJ HQ will begin publicizing the opening and solicit candidates; we will hold a board call in October to name an RD for that region. We will be following the same procedure for Region 7 after the turn of the year; Rob McLean has moved to New York and will serve until February.

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Memorial Funds for WDBJ’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward

As we work through the tragedy that faced Alison Parker and Adam Ward earlier this week, many have asked about making donations in their honor. Here is a list of some funds that have been set up. Though SPJ is not directly these involved with these, we want to share the information. If you have questions, please go directly to the fund organizers. They’ll be able to assist you.

Thank you,

Dana Neuts
SPJ President

RTDNA, NAB and NATAS — Alison and Adam Memorial Fund

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has joined forces with two partner broadcast organizations to launch a memorial fund to support the families of the victims in Wednesday’s shooting of a Virginia news crew. RTDNA, along with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) will contribute to and accept donations from broadcasters for the fund on behalf of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Donations will be accepted through Nov. 1, and $40,000 has already been pledged.

Parker and Ward were shot to death by a former co-worker Wednesday morning while they were doing a live remote broadcast on WDBJ-TV, Roanoke, a CBS affiliate owned by Schurz Communications. Contributions will be distributed to family members of Parker and Ward. An additional contribution will go to Vicki Gardner, Executive Director, Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed during the shooting. Gardner suffered gunshot wounds and is currently hospitalized.

Any remaining funds will be directed to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based organization dedicated to press freedom and protecting the rights of reporters to work without fear of reprisal.

Donations may be sent to:

NAB Alison and Adam Memorial Fund
1771 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

NAB is also developing an easy online method of contributing to the fund. It will be available on NAB’s website in the very near future.

Patrick Henry Community College and the PHCC Foundation — Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship

Patrick Henry Community College and the PHCC Foundation have established a scholarship in memory of PHCC alumna and 2015 Distinguished Alumni award winner Alison Bailey Parker. She was a 2009 graduate of PHCC with an associate of arts and sciences degree through the Piedmont Governor’s School for Math, Science and Technology.

The Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis to a PHCC student who enters the Media Design and Production program.

Donations for the Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship can be made online or by cash or check to:

Patrick Henry Community College Foundation
645 Patriot Ave.
Martinsville, VA 24112

For additional information, call (276) 656-0250.

James Madison University – Alison B. Parker Memorial Fund

James Madison University, where Parker graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in media arts and design, has also set up a fund in her name.

The university established the Alison B. Parker Memorial Fund in the School of Media Arts & Design in her honor.

Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association Adam Ward Memorial Scholarship

The Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association announced that a scholarship has been established in memory of Adam Ward, a 2007 graduate of Salem High School who was loved and treasured by the Salem community, his peers at WDBJ, his family and friends.

This endowment, which was established at the request of Adam’s family, will honor his memory by benefiting a graduate of Salem High School, who is headed to Virginia Tech to pursue a career in journalism or photojournalism.

Adam began as a sports department intern at WDBJ and later served as a reporter, videographer and production assistant. Adam is the youngest child of Mary and Buddy Ward. His recently retired father was a lifelong educator at Glenvar and Salem where he served as a coach, teacher and guidance counselor for thousands of students.

The Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association was founded in 1983 by the late Dr. Richard Fisher. It has an endowment of $3.2 million and this June handed out 98 scholarships to Salem High School graduates valued at $132,000.

Virginia Tech – Adam Ward memorial contributions

Those who wish to make memorial contributions to Virginia Tech in Adam Ward’s memory may make checks out to the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc., and be sure to write “In memory of Adam Ward” in the memo section. Checks should be mailed to:

Office of Gift Accounting (0336)
University Gateway Center
Virgina Tech
902 Prices Fork Road
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Those who wish to give online should be sure to use the “enter your own” designation option to write “In memory of Adam Ward.”


*Image from WDBJ

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Executive Committee Meeting Highlights

This week SPJ’s Executive Committee met in Washington, D.C. for its semiannual meeting on Sat., June 27. Here are highlights:

  • The Executive Committee approved minutes from its January 31 meeting in Orlando.
  • I gave updates to the president’s report. Board member Mike Reilley has agreed to lead a group of volunteers to provide staff with guidance for delegate training materials. I am working with the International Community to help with the leadership transition. Also, I met with Sonya Ross of the Associated Press on Friday. We discussed a number of possible partnerships on additional diversity initiatives.
  • SDX President Robert Leger provided us with an update on foundation business.
  • The Executive Committee approved the investment policy for the advocacy fund.
  • President-elect Paul Fletcher gave an update on the non-affiliated member representation task force. The group has had several calls. The next step is to send a survey to SPJ members who are not affiliated with a chapter.
  • Secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh gave an update on a supporting membership program which would give non-members an opportunity to support SPJ’s mission. She has created a work group who has met by phone once already. She asked us to submit questions on what we’d want to know about such a program if we decide to create this support tier.
  • The Executive Committee approved a policy regarding the hiring and firing of the executive director. The policy will help protect SDX’s interests because the executive director will oversee more of the SDX operations with the shift in education and programming responsibilities from SPJ to SDX.
  • Membership strategist Tara Puckey provided a technology update. She and Billy O’Keefe went to Chicago last week for training. The behind-the-scenes work is still taking place, so changes won’t be outwardly noticeable for a while.
  • Executive Director Joe Skeel gave us an update on strategic partnership updates and how these partnerships impact staff. He gets regular inquiries and requests for proposals on SPJ’s administrative and “back office” support services. Joe also provided us with an update on EIJ18 and possible conference sites. One possible site in Baltimore is already booked for the time period we are considering, but it has offered us a proposal for EIJ19.
  • The Executive Committee entered executive session to select this year’s award winners in the following categories: D. L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Adviser, Distinguished Teaching, Ethics, Historic Site, Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Members, Julie Galvan Outstanding Graduate, Regional Director of the Year, Sunshine Awards, and the Wells Memorial Key.

If you have any questions about the meeting, please let me know. For copies of reports, meeting materials and a replay of the meeting’s live stream, click here.


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June Board Call: Reg. 3 Conf. Sessions Discussed

Last Friday members of the SPJ board met via Skype to discuss sessions at the Region 3 SPJ conference scheduled for August in Orlando. Earlier in the week, Region 3 director and national SPJ board member Michael Koretzky asked the board to reconsider SPJ’s previous position on use of the national SPJ logo to promote AirPlay, a session at the conference dedicated to addressing concerns of ethics in gaming journalism. Previously, Koretzky had been asked to remove the national logo from the AirPlay site by SPJ’s executive director because this was not an event the national organization was endorsing.

The issue first came about in April during Ethics Week when we learned that a group of gamers, known as GamerGate, began using the #SPJEthicsWeek hashtag. SPJ leadership, including members of the Ethics Committee, and staff agreed to drop the hashtag and proceed with the week’s events. The week continued without incident, but we agreed to not further engage the gaming community and focus on other priorities instead.

Though national SPJ opted not to get involved, Koretzky felt it was important to address concerns of the gaming community by hosting a session called AirPlay at the summer conference where journalism ethics specifically related to gaming journalism could be addressed. As independent entities, SPJ chapters and regions operate autonomously from the national organization, and are free to put on their own events and programming. While SPJ did not want its national logo used in conjunction with the AirPlay session, it allowed the use of the national logo on the Region 3 conference site.

The purpose of last Friday’s call was to vote on use of the national logo on the AirPlay website. Following an overview of previous events, Koretzky explained his position and members of the board asked questions and held a discussion. At the beginning of the call, we had a quorum – enough board members to vote on the issue. However, during the call, a board member dropped off, leaving us without a quorum so we were only able to take an informal call. During the poll, only one board member endorsed use of the national logo on the AirPlay website. All others, including Koretzky, voted against it. Despite the poll results, the board commended Koretzky for taking a risk and being willing to address a potentially controversial issue.

In addition to discussing the AirPlay session, we discussed a drone journalism session also to be held during the summer conference. The program will mirror similar programs held by other chapters and regions.

After a 50-minute call, the SPJ board adjourned.


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Interim RD12 selected, Gen J approved as a community

On Monday, the SPJ Board conducted a Skype conference call meeting to appoint a Region 12 director to serve in the interim until national elections in September. The current director Tony Hernandez left Region 12 in December of last year to take a position in Region 10. Per the SPJ bylaws, he could remain RD for up to six months following his move. Replacements are made via a board vote.

Amanda Womac

Amanda Womac

The position will be filled by Amanda Womac, who is a member of the East Tennessee Professional Chapter and most recently served as the Region 12 treasurer. Four people showed interest in the position, which goes to show we have amazing people in SPJ willing and capable of taking leadership roles. We are excited at all of the candidates’ interest in serving SPJ, and are eager to have them get more involved!

The position will be filled permanently through the online election process during EIJ15. Any member of SPJ who is located in Region 12 can still run for the position. If interested, please contact staff member Tara Puckey via email for more details.

In the spirit of transparency, we would normally post roll call votes in the minutes, but we have been asked to share that information now. Here are the votes from Monday’s Skype meeting regarding the Region 12 position:

Roll call vote for Amanda Womac (13 yes, 1 no, 2 abstain):

Dana Neuts: Abstain

Fletcher: Yes

David Cuillier: Yes

Lynn Walsh: Yes

Bill McCloskey: Yes

Alex Tarquinio: Yes

Jordan Gass-Pooré: Yes

Andy Schotz: No

Michael Koretzky: Yes

Joe Radske: Yes

Rob McLean: Yes

Eddye Gallagher: Yes

Tom Johnson: Yes

Pia Hallenberg: Yes

Matt Hall: Yes

Tony Hernandez: Abstain

Board members not listed above were not available to participate in the call.

Also during the meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the Generation J Community, which is transitioning from a committee to a community structure. Although it may seem like semantics, the differences between a community and committee are vast.

A committee is a small group of people that serves at the pleasure of the president. A committee manages projects and may provide resources for others. By its nature, a committee is usually made up of about 10-15 people, and it focuses on work at the president’s direction.

A community, on the other hand, is a large group of people interested in a particular topic. They are self-governing and the community grows organically based on the needs and desires of its members. If you have an interest in issues facing young journalists or journalists in career transition, consider joining the Generation J Community. SPJ also has communities for members interested in freelance, international, digital and student journalism.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help!

Thank you,

Dana E. Neuts
SPJ President


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NLGJA: Reporting on Transgender Issues

Tomorrow night ABC’s Diane Sawyer will interview Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. Many media outlets are speculating that Jenner will discuss being transgender. To help the media understand how to fairly and accurately report on transgender issues, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) has issued a statement including guidelines and a link to their style guide and resources. I am sharing that information below, but before I do, I want to share my own thoughts on the subject.

An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans are transgender. I think it is because of this small number that so few people understand what it means to be transgender or what issues they face including discrimination, ridicule and bullying. In TV and movies, transgender men and women are often unfairly portrayed, drawing undue attention to their differences rather than treating them like human beings. Fortunately, these attitudes are starting to change, but not quickly enough.

I don’t know what news Jenner will share tomorrow evening, nor do I feel it is any of my business, but it is news and millions of Americans will be talking about it. I encourage everyone – especially those who report the story – to be compassionate and to remember that Jenner is a human being with feelings and a family. Jenner is dealing with something most of us can’t begin to imagine.

Thank you,

Dana Neuts
SPJ President





From the NLGJA:

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) is made up of working journalists and media professionals. We are not an advocacy group. Our mission is to ensure fair and accurate coverage of issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

This week, ABC News will air an interview With Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star Bruce Jenner. It is widely believed that Jenner will talk about being transgender. For many transgender people this will be a historic moment. Many newsrooms have questions about how to cover people who are or may be transgender. NLGJA is here to help you ensure your coverage is not only fair, but accurate.

Here are a few tips, as well as some information from our stylebook on how to handle things such as pronouns and terminology. There’s even more on our website,

  1. Since Jenner has not publicly announced a gender identity, the best practice is to refer to Bruce Jenner by name rather than using pronouns.
    Example: “Olympic Champion Bruce Jenner is set to sit down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer amid reports that Jenner is transgender.”
  2. Transgender people should be referred to by the name and gender with which they identify. Some transgender people choose to take hormones or have medical procedures, but that’s not what determines the right name and pronoun to use. It is stating one’s gender identity that is what should guide word use. If and when Jenner expresses a different gender pronoun or name, that’s the one to use.
  3. One of the things that makes this story unique is the amount of attention and speculation prior to Jenner speaking publicly about gender. While it may be impossible to write about Jenner without addressing the current rumors, in general best practice is to allow individuals to address their gender or sexuality when they are ready.

Many news organizations are covering this story well. We’ve included an example of fair and accurate coverage below.

Words matter when telling a story. Research has shown that LGBT teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of all suicide attempts. Depression and drug use among LGBT people have both been shown to increase significantly after new laws that discriminate are passed. Bullying of LGBT youth has been shown to be a contributing factor in many suicides, even if not all of the attacks have been specifically aimed at someone based on sexual orientation or gender bias. Transgender people are twice as likely to be unemployed — and four times as likely if they’re a trans woman of color. Lesbians and gays outnumber trans people six to one, yet transgender people are 50 percent more likely to be murdered.

NLGJA is happy to be a professional resource for you. We offer a stylebook on common word choice and tipsheets on issues that affect our communities. You can find both at NLGJA also has professional development available through our Newsroom Outreach Program. The project was designed to help newsrooms better understand the complexities of covering our diverse communities, while remaining unbiased. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of assistance. We have members in local, national and international newsrooms who are experienced covering these types of issues.

Thank you for your time and attention.


The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association


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SPJ Board Meeting Recap

The SPJ spring board meeting was this past Sat., April 18 in Indianapolis. Each meeting is streamed live, but in case you missed it or don’t want to sit through the 6+ hour recording, here are the highlights:

  • The board approved the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. To executive director Joe Skeel’s credit, SPJ has a sizable surplus. We are operating in the black and expect to continue to do so with sufficient reserves set aside for a rainy day and to spend on worthy projects.
  • The slate of candidates for the next SPJ board cycle was announced. New candidates have until about a week before EIJ15 to announce their candidacy. So far, there are only two contested elections (secretary-treasurer and at-large director). Interested candidates should contact Sonny Albarado, past president of SPJ and this year’s nominations chair, or click here for more info.
  • We are seeking nominations to replace regional director Tony Hernandez (Region 12). He moved out of the region, and we are looking for a replacement, effective June 1. We also thanked Tony for his service to SPJ.
  • SDX President Robert Leger gave an update on the SDX Foundation, including the transition of moving programming responsibilities and funding from SPJ back to SDX.
  • The Ethics Committee, led by Andrew Seaman, is beginning the posting of additional materials to supplement the revised SPJ Code of Ethics that was approved by the delegates at EIJ14. In addition, the Code has been translated into five languages (French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Arabic). Those versions are being proofread and, once approved, they’ll be posted to
  • The board discussed how to handle the proposed Marriage & Conscience Act now in committee in Louisiana. The board will send a letter to the Louisiana legislature citing its concern about the bill which addresses religious and moral beliefs, unlike other religious freedom legislation being considered in other states. Our hope is that the bill will be defeated. If not, SPJ will have to reconsider hosting its 2016 spring board meeting, and SPJ and its partner RTDNA will have to discuss the implications for EIJ16, both scheduled for New Orleans next year. President-elect Paul Fletcher and secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh will work on the letter to the legislature and share it with the board for input by the end of this month. We will also share it with RTDNA, and they will vote on whether or not they wish to sign the letter as well.
  • The SPJ board gave staff the go-ahead to expand its criteria for the selection of convention cities.
  • I announced two new diversity initiatives: (1) Adding members of other journalism organizations (e.g., AAJA, NAJA, NLGJA, NABJ, NAHJ, etc.) to the Diversity Committee, led by April Bethea, as a pilot project. If this is successful, we hope to expand this to include members of these organizations on other committees to help expand the diversity within our organization. (2) Creating a partnership between the Diversity Committee and Membership Committee to develop diversity-related resources for our members. We’ll first create a list of programming ideas, gathering successful program information from SPJ chapters and regions. We’ll expand to include other resources such as how to identify local chapters of other organizations that we could partner with, and link to other diversity-related resources, such as the NLGJA style guide and the diversity style guide project that is supported by the SDX Foundation.
  • I announced the Membership Committee’s upcoming promotion, #spj4all, a one-day campaign to reiterate our organization’s acceptance of journalists from all backgrounds. The committee, led by Robyn Sekula, will share details soon.
  • Four new chapters were added to SPJ ranks.
  • Secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh announced SPJ’s new career center, a dramatically improved version of our job bank which includes links to additional resources.
  • At the request of FOI chair and immediate past president Dave Cuillier, the SPJ board approved a $30,000 transfer from our fiscal year end reserves to the Advocacy Fund. The board discussed how money would be spent and what the approval process might be.
  • Regional director Tom Johnson received the board’s endorsement of his “It’s the People’s Data” project.
  • At-large director Bill McCloskey presented a new SPJ Convention Voting Transparency Policy, developed by the By-laws Committee. The policy was approved.
  • Jennifer Royer, communications strategist, and I discussed the proposed guidelines for handling the deaths of prominent journalists and international matters. Each will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and will rely on good judgment.
  • In Becky Tallent’s absence, an update about the release of the Journalism Education Committee’s new book, “Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism,” was shared in the board packet and via email.
  • President-elect Paul Fletcher informed the board that 41% of our membership is not affiliated with a chapter, meaning they are not represented by delegates at convention. At my request, Paul has formed a task force to explore the ramifications of this problem and to make recommendations for correcting it.
  • The SPJ board accepted the Executive Committee’s recommendations for 9 of the 10 overall SPJ awards, as outlined in the board packet. Changes will be effective in 2016.
  • The SPJ board discussed the selection of future Wells Key winners. The Executive Committee recommended that the selection group be expanded from the SPJ officers to the full Executive Committee. This recommendation was approved with two amendments – providing the full board with a list of nominees for the current year and the previous nine years (info. to be kept confidential and not shared outside the board), and after the Wells Key is awarded, the Executive Committee will explain to the board why that candidate was selected. These changes will also be effective 2016.
  • We took a photo of the full board for historical purposes and to kick off the #spj4all campaign. #spjlove

The board meeting was packed full of agenda items, and we had good, thoughtful, respectful discussion and debate about these topics and others. In addition, I thanked the board, volunteers and staff for their hard work and continued commitment to SPJ. We’ve accomplished a lot in the seven months I’ve been president, but there is much more to do.

If you have any questions about the meeting, or you’d like to volunteer, I welcome your comments and ideas. You can reach me via email at

Thank you,

Dana Neuts
SPJ President


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Why did SPJ take so long to speak out on Indiana’s RFRA legislation?

Last Thursday, while traveling to the region 5 SPJ conference in Louisville, I was contacted by SPJ member and secretary-treasurer candidate Jason Parsley about the legislation passed that day by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, essentially making it legal for Indiana businesses to discriminate against others based on their religious beliefs. Opponents of the law – myself included – interpreted the legislation as being anti-LGBTQ, and a public uproar ensued. Mr. Parsley asked me how this impacted SPJ, and he voiced his concerns as a candidate who might be attending future board meetings in the state. I indicated I was traveling and wanted to research the issue before answering him. I did, however, tell him I was personally appalled by the state’s actions.

After conferring with colleagues, several board members and SPJ’s legal counsel, I made the decision last Friday not to issue a statement for several reasons. I was responsible for that decision, and am not excusing it, but would like to explain my thinking. In no particular order

1) This is a freedom of religion issue, not directly related to journalism.Of those I consulted (approx. 8), only one was in favor of SPJ making a statement.

2) Other organizations, including several representing SPJ by virtue of our location (the local chamber of commerce of which SPJ is a member and the mayor of Indianapolis) spoke vehemently against the legislation, leading many of us to believe immediate action would be taken. In fact, the mayor of Indianapolis has mandated that discrimination not be allowed by law in the city. As it turns out, the issue has been discussed, addressed and morphed daily. In fact, by the time I post this, a resolution may have been found.

3) I did not feel that a stance of this magnitude was mine alone to make. With legislation not taking effect until July 1, and an April 18 national board meeting planned, I put it on the agenda for the April meeting, feeling that would give the board adequate time to discuss this issue in person.

4) As the organization’s elected leader, it is my responsibility to look at how this impacts the entire organization, now and in the future. I must be prudent, cautious and representative of our members. Until yesterday, not including those I reached out to, I had only heard from five of our 7,500 members, including Mr. Parsley. Normally, on big issues, the outpouring of concern is much more significant. That doesn’t mean the issue wasn’t important to others, but I only heard from a few.

That said, I serve the board and our membership. After hearing from many members of our board yesterday and today, as well as Mr. Parsley and his local chapter, I changed my stance. SDX president Robert Leger and I made a joint statement today. In the interim, my actions have been attacked. I could take it personally, and sometimes I do, but I respect the passion and concern that Mr. Parsley and other members have. I understand why they feel I moved too slowly, but I did what I felt was appropriate at the time. My intent was not to dismiss their concerns, and if I gave that impression, I apologize. With new input and new information, I made a different decision.

On a personal level, as a Hoosier born and bred, this legislation is very upsetting, and I am disappointed in my home state’s leaders for allowing it to get this far. Discrimination of any kind is wrong and should not be accepted under any circumstances. Quite frankly, it makes me glad I live in Washington now, a state where all are accepted regardless of how they are categorized. I have friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning, and I feel for the uphill battle they fight every day. This sort of short-sighted legislation makes it even worse, and I am sad that our culture and our government are not more evolved. We are all people, and we all have rights, and we need to fight for them every day. Sometimes that means stepping outside our scope or mission to stand up for what we believe in.

Thank you to Mr. Parsley, the Florida SPJ chapter, the national board and all those who have commented or expressed concern, regardless of your position or our differences. I am proud that we are working together and learning from each other to make SPJ – and our world – a better place.


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Paul Fletcher: Execution process shouldn’t be secret

SPJ president-elect Paul Fletcher speaks out on "execution secrecy" in Virginia.

SPJ president-elect Paul Fletcher

SPJ president-elect Paul Fletcher has been following the Virginia legislature as it debates the merits of making the execution process more secretive in that state. Senate Bill 1393 was passed by the Senate, and is now being considered by the House of Delegates. Fletcher offers this editorial, originally posted on Virginia Lawyers Weekly where he is the publisher and editor-in-chief:

The Virginia House of Delegates will have the chance to cure a mistake by the Senate: The House can and should reject a bill that would shroud the Virginia execution process in secrecy and darkness.

Senate Bill 1393, filed by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, allows the state Department of Corrections to contract with any “external entity” to compound the drugs used for execution by lethal injection.

But a provision of this bill exempts the contracting process, the identity of any providers and the drug components used for execution from the Freedom of Information Act.

Saslaw told the Senate Courts of Justice Committee last week that the bill was prompted by difficulty getting the lethal drugs from overseas manufacturers. Virginia and other states that execute by lethal injection have faced shortages of the compounds needed to complete the process.

And manufacturers, which have been the targets of protests and pressure from anti-death penalty groups, apparently want the black-out. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman told The Washington Post that the measure would give drug manufacturers “security” from “harassment, threats or danger.”

Seems like there are less extreme ways to protect companies from protests than turning out the lights on the whole process.

If there is any solace to be taken, Saslaw’s original bill was worse – the whole process would have been secret. A condemned person, or his or her family, could not find out the details about the state-imposed death.  But an amendment took out wording that would have exempted from FOIA all information relating to the execution process, including details of the buildings used during an execution and all records about the equipment used.

SB 1393 squeaked through Senate Courts by a 7-6 vote and passed the full Senate 23-14. After crossover day Feb. 11, it is in the hands of the House.

This isn’t the first attempt to take lethal injection execution out of public view: A similar measure was introduced in the Ohio legislature, and worked its way to passage in December, despite protests about the secrecy of the process. The new law now is being challenged in federal court in that state.

Although he is a Catholic opposed to the death penalty, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is backing SB 1393. Support has been bipartisan.

Richmond lawyer Craig Merritt testified at the Senate Courts meeting on behalf of the Virginia Press Association, and he has it right: “What this is doing, is placing it on very separate footing from pretty much anything else the Commonwealth or its subdivisions procure.”

Merritt added, “It puts a blanket over how we get this, what we spend for it, who is providing it. That is a serious concern when it comes to transparency.”

The state has no more grave or solemn duty than ending the life of someone for crimes so heinous that they warrant the death penalty. The execution process should not be fogged by secrecy.

We urge members of the House of the Delegates to reject this bill.


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A cautionary tale: Brian Williams “misremembers” enemy fire

Updated, Feb. 10, 2015, 7:15 p.m. Pacific time — Brian Williams has been suspended from NBC Nightly News for six months without pay. Lester Holt will fill the anchor desk in Williams’ absence.

Updated, Feb. 6, 2915, 12:45 pm Pacific time — Clarified Andrew Seaman’s title as Ethics Committee Chairman and added italics for emphasis to lines in the SPJ Code.

This week was a tough week for Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, who recanted and apologized for “misremembering” that he’d been on a helicopter that had been shot down by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq in 2003. Williams was on another helicopter that arrived on the scene 30 to 60 minutes later. Since the admission, Williams has been called out, ridiculed, and become the butt of an endless stream of jokes – making him a real life Forrest Gump. Williams has also been compared to Hillary Clinton who was accused of a similar claim in 2008.

The news anchor’s credibility and that of NBC News has been called into question. How could such a tall tale go on for more than a decade without discovery, and how could it have gotten so out of hand, growing more dramatic with each retelling? Though a difficult time for Williams, it has been even tougher for those who feel betrayed – the military, the public, and the journalism industry. If one of the industry’s most respected journalists could perpetuate such a falsehood, intentionally or otherwise, who can we believe?

Perhaps after so many years, Williams doesn’t know the truth any more. Maybe it was deliberate, but maybe there is an explanation for his actions, as SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman explains in this blog post. I’m not going to try to guess what really occurred or pass judgment on Williams, though I am personally disappointed in the entire affair. Instead, I’m going to look at this as an extreme example of what happens when we ignore ethical principles as outlined in the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Here are some reminders from the SPJ Code that could have helped Williams and NBC News avoid the situation and to guide them in their damage control:

Journalists should:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work.
  • Verify information before releasing it.
  • Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
  • Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
  • Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
  • Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
  • Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
  • Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the weeks to come and if Williams and NBC Nightly News can rebound from this huge hit to their credibility. Some say the incident will blow over; others expect career-ending backlash. I can’t predict what will happen to Williams or his employer, but I hope that all journalists and media organizations will take a moment to remind themselves how valuable our credibility is and that acting ethically with each and every story is the only way to preserve it.

The above post represents my opinion only and does not necessarily reflect that of the Society of Professional Journalists. At this time, SPJ has chosen not to make an official statement on behalf of the organization.

~ Dana Neuts, SPJ president





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