Excellence in Journalism starts today!

Greetings from San Antonio! The joint conference of the Society of Professional Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and RTDNA begins in earnest today (there were some workshops on Wednesday, but the conference truly begins today).

If you’re interested in today’s discussions, you can follow the Twitter hashtag #EIJ19, and/or follow along my experiences at @edonaldmedia.

Now for your part! Yes, you, even if you aren’t here in San Antonio. If you are a dues-paying member of the Society of Professional Journalists, you will receive a ballot by the end of the day that gives you the opportunity to vote on SPJ leadership.

But Madam President, I don’t know anything about SPJ’s issues! you cry. Never fear. The SPJ national board is meeting this morning, which is being recorded and livestreamed here. The opening business session will take place later today as well, and likewise will be recorded and livestreamed at the link.

It’s been a tumultuous year for the organization, with the unexpected departure of the executive director after less than a year, controversy among the leadership, and an ongoing disagreement between SPJ and NAHJ on accepting Fox News as a co-sponsor of the conference. There will be votes at the final business session on Saturday that reflect some of these controversies, and I will be voting on your behalf as your delegate. Somehow we are supposed to advise how we want SPJ to move forward, and I want to properly represent your thoughts and concerns. So please feel free to contact me directly via social media or elizabethdonald@aol.com, and offer your opinions.

And please, vote in the election. But wait, didn’t you say you’ll be voting as our delegate? Indeed. At SPJ, the resolutions and decisions are voted by the delegates… but SPJ leadership is determined by general vote of the membership. You pick the president and board of directors; we vote on the rest.

The candidates will give their stump speeches at today’s opening session, so click this link to hear them speak. By 6:30 p.m. you should receive an email with a link to your specific ballot. The winners will be announced on Saturday. Questions? Problems? Here is Election Central, and there is a hotline for problems.

Warning! If you are a member of St. Louis Pro, but you live and/or work on the Illinois side, you may receive the wrong ballot. Illinois is in Region 5; Missouri is in Region 7, but we are grandfathered in to St. Louis Pro because it doesn’t make sense to be members of the Chicago Headline Club if you live in the metro-east. If you receive a Region 5 ballot, you need to contact the hotline right away to get it corrected in time to vote appropriately.

Historically, turnout has been utterly abysmal. Let’s show them that St. Louis Pro cares! Watch this space and Twitter for more updates as the conference continues. And thanks for being part of SPJ!

— St. Louis Pro president Elizabeth Donald

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You have until midnight Monday to join SPJ for as little as $25!

If you aren’t signed up for our newsletter, you missed a bunch of news! Here, catch up.

The big one, of course, is our upcoming Student Boot Camp on Sept. 21. Students get the chance to learn about various aspects of their journalism careers from working professionals currently on the job – and it’s free! (There’s a $10 registration fee that is refunded upon arrival unless you choose to donate it)

Also: you have until 11:59 p.m. ET Aug. 19 to take advantage of the SPJ super sale, and join for as little as $25! That’s as cheap as it’s ever been, so go for it! We’re sure you’ll find the resources absolutely worth your money.

Happy hour is Aug. 27 at iTap! This is a social event, and open to all journos and their partners, not just SPJ members. We try to do these at least once a quarter, and it’s always fun.

There are upcoming events and seminars, job listings, details on our programming, and soon there will be updates on Excellence in Journalism 2019, which takes place next month in San Antonio. Chapter president Elizabeth Donald will attend and serve as delegate for the St. Louis Pro chapter, so be sure to communicate with us if you have thoughts or concerns to communicate to SPJ.

Don’t miss out – sign up for our newsletter today!

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St. Louis SPJ condemns political operative’s choice to pose as journalist

The St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists denounces the actions of a political operative in Illinois who apparently posed as a student journalist in order to lob attacks at a Congressional candidate.

On July 17, Nick Klitzing posed as “Jim Sherman,” self-identified as a student reporter for The Alestle at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in order to gain access to a press conference call, according to multiple news reports. There is no Jim Sherman working at The Alestle now or in the past 11 years, nor is any such person enrolled at SIUE, according to university officials.

The conference call that Klitzing gate-crashed was with Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, the Democratic candidate running opposite U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). According to WCIA, Klitzing freely admitted he lied about his identity and representation to get on the call, where he apparently lobbed a series of accusations against Londrigan regarding political action committee funding.

Klitzing is not a new or low-level political operative. He is the former executive director of the Illinois Republican Party and former deputy campaign manager for former Gov. Bruce Rauner. As of this writing, the Davis campaign has not publicly stated whether Klitzing was acting with the congressman’s knowledge, according to multiple news reports.

This is not an issue for partisan politics. It is not about Democrats vs. Republicans. When political operatives of any party misrepresent themselves as journalists, they make our complex job of maintaining public trust in news coverage much more difficult. Journalists already have enough problems gaining access to public officials, and student journalists have a much harder time gaining access than those working for traditional news organizations.

This is an issue that has actually been adjudicated. The Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press has sued the FBI over agents pretending to be journalists in their investigations, and in court, the U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed that such actions have a chilling effect that makes it more difficult for real journalists to gain the trust of their sources.

These kinds of tactics will inevitably lead to fewer journalists being granted access to candidates and officials with more roadblocks placed in their way, and the value and depth of election news coverage will undoubtedly suffer. We are all heading into what will undoubtedly become a political circus of an election season, and we call upon all the campaigns to instruct their operatives not to conduct themselves in this manner.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics advises us to avoid surreptitious or deceptive practices in newsgathering, and indeed, Klitzing’s behavior would probably have gotten him fired from most reputable news organizations. We should expect no less of a standard from our elected officials.

 

Disclosure: St. Louis SPJ chapter president Elizabeth Donald and vice president Tammy Merrett both are affiliated with The Alestle at SIUE, in addition to their volunteer work with SPJ. This statement has been approved by a majority of the St. Louis SPJ board. Quotes may be attributed to Elizabeth Donald, who can be reached at elizabethdonald@aol.com.

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MOE finalists at Lindenwood

Lindenwood University students were named as finalists for two national Mark of Excellence awards this year.

The editorial board of Lindenlink, the university’s student news website, was named as a finalist for best online opinion and commentary. The board’s submission was about the school’s termination of a student news magazine, Legacy, which spurred a statement from St. Louis SPJ.

Also, Lindenlink Design Chief Kat Owens was a national finalist in the small school division of the photo illustration category. Her illustration accompanied a story in Legacy magazine that focused on religious trends among Millennials.

The two national finalists were among the five Lindenwood entries that were named as winners of the Region 7 Mark of Excellence contest. The other regional winners from Lindenwood were the staff of Legacy magazine for best student magazine, Kat Owens for editorial cartooning, and Madeline Raineri for online news reporting. Lindenwood students were named regional finalists in seven other categories.

The regional awards were presented at the Region 7 Conference on April 6 at the University of Central Missouri. The winners and finalists of the national Mark of Excellence awards will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism Conference scheduled for Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio, Texas.

Also honored at Region 7’s MOE Awards were:

  • The staff of the Webster Journal at Webster University for “Made in translation,” in-depth reporting at a small school, first place; for best affiliated website for the St. Louis Gun Project, finalist; and for best all-around non-daily student newspaper, first place;
  • Christine Tannous of Webster University for “Reporter Todd Smith’s scars will never heal after Kirkwood shooting,” feature writing at a small school, first place; and for feature photography of the Kirkwood City Hall shooting memorial, first place, and for general news photography of a Black Lives Matter Protest, finalist. It should be noted that Smith is a former board member of St. Louis SPJ;
  • Andrew McMunn of Webster University for “Former Webster University student detained by ICE,” in-depth reporting at a small school, finalist;
  • Hanna Holthaus of Webster University for general column writing at a small school, finalist.

Congratulations to the finalists and winners! Also offered with apologies, because this was supposed to go out a good long time ago, but we hope our students know how proud we are of the amazing work they are doing. Good luck at Excellence in Journalism!

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