Notes from the 2013 SPJ national convention

Board member Phil Rudell represented the chapter at the SPJ national convention in Anaheim, Calif., last month. Here’s the report he filed with the board at its Sept. 9 meeting:

Discussions relating directly to the Central Ohio Chapter

I met with the Cleveland Chapter President Rodney Bengston and Cincinnati Pro Chapter President Tom McKee and hope those two leaders will be at the Oct. 5 awards breakfast. I reconnected with Ginny Frizzi, who is trying to revive the Pittsburgh Chapter, which is on life support. Region 4 has six active pro chapters: three in Ohio; Detroit: mid-Michigan; and Pittsburgh. Regional Director Patti Newberry is tasked with ensuring that number doesn’t drop. National SPJ has 7,500 members, down from 13,000 in the late 1990s.

Most of the regional meeting’s discussion concerned the April regional conference, so I offered broad outlines of what we are planning. Our plans in late August, when the Anaheim convention was held, weren’t as far along as they are now. Holly Edgell of Cincinnati offered to help with breakout sessions and I’m sure Kevin Smith will also assist.

Newberry singled out student chapters at OU and OSU for praise, awarding the Region 4 Student Chapter of the Year to the OU group. Their adviser, Nerissa Young, was at the national convention. I asked her to join our chapter, but she declined, noting she lives in Huntington.

In other business:

There was only one contested race in the election of national officers: SPJ voters elected Michael Periatt and Lindsay Cook as student representatives. There were four candidates. About 9% of eligible voters participated, which I think is appallingly low. It’s a reflection of the lack of competition. It was the second time that national officers were elected by membership instead of by delegates at the convention. I used Central Ohio’s two votes to weigh in on a variety of resolutions.

The defeated resolutions:

  • A poorly worded proposal to change the name of the organization to the Society for Professional Journalism. This came from Region 3 Director (and all-around gadfly) Michael Koretzky, which undoubtedly contributed to its defeat.
  • A measure defying restrictions on news coverage by government’s public-affairs officers. Director at Large Bill McCloskey pointed out that the public-affairs officers often have been able to help get stories published in tough circumstances and shouldn’t be the target of anti-censorship efforts.

Approved were resolutions:

  • Condemning censorship of high-school publications that print unfavorable information about schools.
  • Rejecting the federal government’s “national security interests” justification of the NSA’s snooping on Americans.
  • Opposing a restrictive definition of “journalists” in the deliberations by Congress on a national shield law.
  • Calling on national leadership to revisit the Code of Ethics for necessary updates or revisions. The current code was adopted in 1996.