And now, a word from our sponsor….

There’s a wry variation on Martin Niemoller’s famous poem circulating: “First they came for the journalists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a journalist. We don’t know what happened after that.”

It’s not a fair analogy, of course. But it underscores the point: the only reason anyone knows what really happened today is because someone covered it. Without acts of journalism, you have only to rely on government press releases to know what’s happening and why. That goes for big things like “going to war,” and little things like, “my water rates are going up.”

If you’re reading this, I hope I don’t have to convince you of the importance of journalism. If, however, you still have doubts, I hope you will look just at the list of Pulitzer finalists released earlier this week, and click the links through to see some of the amazing and powerful work being done by journalists today.

So today is the SPJ Day of Giving, and I have personally donated. Usually I direct my donation to the Terry Harper Scholarship Fund, which funded my attendance at the 2010 Excellence in Journalism Conference. By the end of that conference, I had been nominated to the national Ethics Committee, and I continue to serve today. It is one of the greatest privileges of my career to serve the committee and SPJ, and it would not have been possible without the Harper Fellowship.

Today, however, I directed my donation to be used for whatever the Society’s most crucial need might be. The folks working at national are coping with staggering issues in our profession, from vast changes in infrastructure and methods that continually create new challenges for working journalists, to mass layoffs that erode confidence among the survivors and a shrinking membership, to an increasingly hostile public that seems to believe we are its enemy. I can’t imagine which of its many missions is most in need of support right now, so I hope they use my meager donation for the best cause.

Things that make me #SPJProud:

  • The sheer number of scholarships, fellowships, internships and other financial support offered to students and members.
  • The Legal Defense Fund provides direct assistance to small news organizations, freelancers and others in their efforts to fight government encroachment on the First Amendment and for open records and transparency.
  • The training and webinars provide much-needed skills development and reinforcement for members who are increasingly being left without training by their newsrooms.
  • The support, practical and otherwise, for journalists who have been laid off and must now find work and/or retraining.
  • The advocacy in Washington and elsewhere to defend the profession against increasingly virulent threats, whether that is in discourse, in the courtroom, or in danger of physical harm.
  • The accountability for our own profession, for advocating diversity in the newsroom and combating sexual harassment and unethical behavior, even when pointing out those transgressions could damage the rest of us.

And so, so much more. SPJ has given me so many opportunities for my career, far beyond that which I could have achieved alone. I have met some of the finest journalists in the country through SPJ, and I am proud to call them colleagues. I am proud to serve as president of St. Louis Pro, and to help my local colleagues through all the crises they face covering our fine city and region. I am proud to be a journalist, and to stand up for what it represents: voice to the voiceless, a challenge to the powerful.

I hope that if you are a journalist, you will consider joining SPJ, if you have not already done so. Give us a year to figure out if our resources are of use to you, and tell us what we aren’t offering so we can address it.

And I hope that if you support the First Amendment and want to see independent news informing you of what’s happening in your community and the nation and the world, you will consider donating to SPJ, either for the defense fund or the SDX advocacy funds such as Legal Defense.

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You weren’t using those First Amendment rights, were you?

St. Louis SPJ was happy to co-sponsor the First Amendment Free* Food Festival at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Monday, in which students sign away their First Amendment rights for free pizza.

It’s usually not a hard sell.

Participants sign away their rights and receive a passport into the Kingdom of the Socialist States of the People’s Republic of Mass Communica, which is a cordoned patio where pizza and soda are served.

The grand high ruler of Mass Communica is portrayed by our own Tammy Merrett, vice president of St. Louis SPJ and advisor to the SIUE Alestle.

However, while they are eating, they are instructed what they can talk about, read and so on. It serves as a demonstration of life without the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and usually opens some eyes.

Don’t like where have to sit? What you’re allowed to read? Or wear? Or who you are instructed to associate with? TOUGH.

 

This year, Mass Communica had religious missionaries from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (otherwise known as Pastafarians) attempting to recruit from outside its borders, as well as subversive journalists attempting to sneak newspapers into Mass Communica.

Yes, that’s a pasta strainer on her head.

The FAFF is one of several special events taking place this week at SIUE for Mass Comm Week. All events are open to the public. Among them:

  • “Reporting in the Digital Age,” Dana Rieck of Missouri Lawyers Media, 9:30 a.m. Tuesday
  • “Practical Ethics,” St. Louis SPJ President Elizabeth Donald, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday
  • “If I Worried About Social Media, I’d Never Make a Movie,” filmmaker Trisha Ziff, noon Wednesday
  • “Who Wants to Know? Investigative Reporting in Small Markets,” Beth Hundsdorfer of St. Louis Public Radio, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
  • “Writing and Reporting Broadcast News,” Holly Edgell of St. Louis Public Radio, 3:30 Thursday
  • And many more! Click here for more information.

Approximately 94 students, faculty, staff and visitors signed away their rights at this year’s FAFF, and another 31 approached Mass Communica but decided not to give up the First Amendment for pizza.

Despite the best efforts of the Goon Squad, a few subversives snuck in.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Facebook training succeeds despite wintry forecast

A great crowd braved the scary forecast to hear from Ben Meyerson of the Chicago Tribune on the various ways we can use Facebook for reporting and disseminating our work.

Many thanks to our partner organizations for spreading the word, to St. Louis Public Radio for hosting our seminar, to the participants who came out in spite of threatened snowpocalypse, to the Society of Professional Journalists for approving us for the Facebook Journalism Project, and of course to Ben, for sharing his knowledge with us.

If you attended, please go to fb.me/postspjtraining and fill out the post-training survey. It is immensely helpful to SPJ and to us to better plan our programming. Thank you for your time!

Response to this program was so strong that we are seriously considering repeating it later in the year, if there is sufficient interest. If you did not get a chance to attend and would like to see it repeated, please contact us at stlouisspj@gmail.com and we will be sure that you get an invitation.

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