SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Resolutions to be considered during Tuesday’s closing business session

By Billy O'Keefe

The following resolutions are to be considered during today’s closing business session, which begins at 4:45 p.m. in Ballroom 5:

Resolution No. 1:

Submitted by SPJ Resolutions Committee
Thanks to President Kevin Smith
Whereas, Kevin Smith reflected throughout his tenure as president of SPJ the tenets established by the founders of SPJ 101 years ago: truth, talent and energy, and
Whereas, Smith has stoutly defended the value of journalism in the face of increasing challenges to it and defended the press freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and
Whereas, Smith worked to assure the Society of Professional Journalists remained the pre-eminent national journalism organization and worked to expand its reach and influence internationally, and
Whereas, Smith — a jack of all trades and a master of many — helped strongly position the SPJ to successfully move forward during challenging economic times in the face of constant change in the world of professional communications, and never allowed the shining light of SPJ to dim in order to find a fair way to meet the needs of its members and SPJ, and
Whereas, Smith gave selflessly of his time and talents for the benefit of the Society and its members, and
Whereas, Smith — despite the common signature of his name — was uncommonly successful as president and now is part of the “Trilogy of SPJ Presidents Named ‘Smith,’” joining Willard R. Smith (1943-45) and Mason Rossiter Smith (1955-1956), and
Whereas, Smith should strongly consider marrying someone named “Wesson” because people who knew him would get a bang out of it,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism commends President Kevin Smith for his dedication, hard work and sacrifice, and expresses its gratitude for a job well done.
Resolution No. 2

Submitted by the SPJ Resolutions Committee
Thanks to SPJ Headquarters staff
Whereas, the Society of Professional Journalists’ headquarters staff has devoted countless hours to planning and staging of this annual convention and conference, and
Whereas, managing a convention such as this involves long hours, little sleep and few rewards, and
Whereas, this year’s preparations reflect the difficult but deftly handled tasks performed seamlessly following the death of SPJ’s dearly missed Executive Director Terry Harper, and
Whereas, staff members produced a convention program that attracted a larger number of attendees during a challenging economic climate for the news media and journalists, and
Whereas, staff has carried out its duties with great skill, good cheer and selfless dedication, and
Whereas, staff has looked “Mah-va-lous” (insert the voice of Ricardo Montalban) in its headquarters-issued team ensembles
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism expresses its sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the work of the SPJ headquarters staff.
Resolution No. 3
Submitted by the SPJ Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter
Thanks to David Cuillier, Penultimate Toolbox Toter
Whereas David Cuillier has faithfully and diligently served as chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ national Freedom of Information Committee, and
Whereas Cuillier has served as an SPJ newsroom trainer in Freedom of Information since 2005 and is a frequent writer of FOI Toolbox columns in Quill, and
Whereas Cuillier, a former journalist, gathered public records as a government reporter and city editor for a dozen years at daily newspapers in the Pacific Northwest, and
Whereas Cuillier is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, teaching public affairs reporting and access to information, as well as conducting his research in FOI, and
Whereas Cuillier recently completed a national FOI training tour called “Access Across America” from April 27 through June 11, 2010, and was sponsored by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, and
Whereas Cuillier has earned national honors for his access teaching exercises and research in freedom of information, including the 2007 Nafziger-White Dissertation Award by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication for the top dissertation in the field, and
Whereas Cuillier, with this national tour, provided training for chapters, newsrooms and open government coalitions through 55 programs held in 33 states, covering 14,135 miles and serving 1,009 people, and
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ commends David Cuillier for his hard work and sacrifice, and expresses its gratitude for all he has done on behalf of the organization, as well as his commitment to the cause of Freedom of Information and his dedication to educating all about the importance of access.
Resolution No. 4

Submitted by campus representatives on the SPJ Board
A Resolution in Support of the Free Speech and Free Press Rights of College Journalists and Their Advisers
Whereas, a free and vibrant press is critical to providing members of the American public with information they need to make decisions important in their lives, and
Whereas, press freedom in America is guaranteed through the free speech and free press provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and
Whereas the press in America includes all students who work as journalists at colleges and universities throughout the country, and
Whereas institutions of higher education have a vital role in promoting civil discourse and should encourage rather than stifle the free flow of information and ideas, and
Whereas institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to cultivate critical thought, robust public debate and an informed citizenry, and
Whereas, some student journalists continue to face threats of censorship from administrators, government officials and others, and
Whereas, some advisers to student news media organizations at colleges and universities have been threatened, fired, suspended or otherwise punished for supporting the First Amendment rights of their students, and
Whereas the Academy should encourage diversity of thought rather than deter it,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism urges administrators at institutions of higher education, public and private alike, to: refrain from censoring student journalists; to actively defend the First Amendment rights of students journalists; and to support advisers who fight for student journalists’ freedoms.
Resolution No. 5

Submitted by SPJ FOI Committee
The need for FERPA reform
Whereas, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) was intended to protect students from embarrassment by having financial aid information or academic records released to the public, and
Whereas, educational institutions from local schools to universities have expanded the purview of FERPA beyond reason to make other types of records secret, including athletic budgets, parking tickets and school lunch menus, and
Whereas, the U.S. Department of Education interprets the law beyond its intent, thus allowing school officials to hide entire records, even with names redacted, if they suspect a journalist might identify someone named in the records, and
Whereas, a Columbus Dispatch 2009 investigation exposed the widespread confusion in applying FERPA and university officials’ use of FERPA to hide records involving school finance, travel and malfeasance, and
Whereas, former Sen. James L. Buckley, who crafted FERPA, stated in the Columbus Dispatch series that “That’s not what we intended. The law needs to be revamped. Institutions are putting their own meaning into the law,” and
Whereas, campus record audits from throughout the country, including a 2008 audit in Georgia, demonstrated that educational institutions illegally keep records secret, often claiming FERPA as justification, and
Whereas, the public needs access to school records that shed light on government operations, such as budgets, school safety and performance,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ urges Congress to clarify FERPA to exempt from disclosure only information that would explicitly link financial aid information, poor grades, non-criminal disciplinary records or other deficient academic performance with specific identifiable students, and
Be it further resolved that SPJ urges Congress to shift responsibility of the records portion of FERPA interpretation and implementation from the Department of Education to an agency more knowledgeable with records policies, such as the National Archives and Records Administration.
Resolution No. 6

Submitted by the Los Angeles SPJ Pro Chapter
Opposing checkbook journalism
Whereas, the Society of Professional Journalists is troubled by how widespread the practice of paying news sources has become and by the extravagant amounts of money changing hands in the process; and
Whereas, in recent years, major television networks have increasingly opened their checkbooks to pay in various ways for stories. For example:

  • ABC paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for “exclusive rights to an extensive library of photos and home videos,” ABC stated. Casey Anthony now faces charges for murdering her daughter.
  • NBC furnished a chartered jet for David Goldman of New Jersey and his son to fly home from Brazil after a custody battle. Then NBC got an exclusive interview with Goldman and video footage during that private jet ride.
  • CNN paid $10,000 for the rights to an image taken by Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch citizen who overpowered an alleged Christmas Day bomber on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, and CNN subsequently obtained an exclusive interview with Schuringa, and

Whereas, news organizations that pay sources inject themselves into those stories and acquire an “ownership” interest, and
Whereas, that leads the public to legitimately question a news organization’s independence and credibility and sows doubt about fairness and accurate; and
Whereas, the SPJ Code of Ethics advocates that journalists should “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news,”
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ urge news organizations stop this unethical and professionally corrosive practice.
Resolution No. 6

Submitted by the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee and the Fort Worth Pro Chapter
Support for Federal Shield Law
Whereas, the free flow of information and the protection of our democracy often depend on whistleblowers — people willing to expose wrongdoing and incompetence, sometimes at the peril of their own safety or financial security, and
Whereas, the First Amendment’s promise of an independent news media cannot be fulfilled unless journalists are able to protect the confidentiality of sources, without whose information democracy and justice would wither, and
Whereas, there are well-documented and numerous examples of prosecutors and civil litigators trying to force American journalists to reveal confidential sources, which can chill the willingness of whistleblowers and others to step forward with information of vital public interest, and
Whereas, journalists can become reluctant to tackle sensitive stories when they see colleagues jailed or fined for failing to disclose sources, which deprives the public of information necessary to protect public health and an open, democratic society, and
Whereas, a federal shield law would deprive prosecutors and civil litigators the ability to pressure journalists to expose the identity of whistleblowers, and
Whereas, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Free Flow of Information Act,” a federal shield law for journalists by an overwhelming margin in March 2009, and
Whereas, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of the Act in December 2009, and
Whereas, that bill has yet to come to the Senate floor for debate and a vote,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists, in convention assembled in Las Vegas, Nev., for its 101st celebration of journalism that SPJ urges the Senate to vote on and approve the “Free Flow of Information Act” before adjourning the 111th Congress, and
Be it further resolved that the House should provide final passage of the act, and that President Barack Obama should sign it into law.




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