SPJ statement on press access at campaign events


Oct. 1, 2014

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was distressed to learn that press minders sought to prevent reporters from interviewing people who attended a Mary Burke campaign event in Milwaukee on Monday, Sept. 29, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama.

The good news is that the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Burke and the White House have a chance to get it right. Obama is returning to Wisconsin for a Burke campaign event in Madison on Tuesday, Oct. 7. We call on the White House and the Burke campaign to allow reporters to speak to event attendees at any time – before, during or after the event. A Burke campaign spokesman told us today there would be no restrictions at the Madison event.

According to reporters, aides to both the Burke campaign and the White House sought to prevent reporters covering the Milwaukee event from speaking with event attendees until the event ended. Here’s how Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Meg Kissinger described it on Facebook:

“To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”

One press minder even told the chairman of the state Democratic Party to stop talking to a reporter because he was inside the press pen. The Burke spokesman told us he intervened and allowed the interview to proceed.

These are not the only restrictions that have been imposed by campaigns on the media in recent years. Wisconsin-based reporters have noted increasing attempts to prevent them from doing their jobs, including holding pens, limits on who can be interviewed, and more.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, for example, the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan hand-picked event attendees to be interviewed, one reporter told SPJ. That year campaigns for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates roped off media from people attending Election Night parties in an effort to prevent interviews. At the Republican state convention this year, party officials told some reporters not to interview delegates in the audience.

As we near Nov. 4 and campaign season accelerates, we urge the political parties and individual campaigns to grant the press open access to candidates, supporters and event attendees.

Contact: Mark Pitsch, Madison SPJ president, 608-252-6145

This statement has been updated from an earlier version to correct a description of reporter’s events involving an interview with the state Democratic Party chairman.

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SPJ to host digital and social media training


How can you keep pace with the accelerating pace of innovation in newsrooms? And how do you get started if you’ve fallen behind? Join us for the Madison pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 Fall Training to learn the skills, strategy and tools you need to compete in the world of digital native news.

“Digital-First Skills for Journalists” will take place Friday, October 17, in room 2195 of Vilas Hall on the UW-Madison campus, 821 University Avenue, Madison. It will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 3:30 p.m., with registration starting at 9:30 a.m. It is free for SPJ members and high school and college students; there is a charge of $30 for non-members. A catered lunch and snacks are included.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin State Journal are generously sponsoring the event.

The training session schedule is as follows:

9:30-10:00: Registration

10:00-11:00: Going digital-first in the newsroom

Steve Buttry, Lamar Visiting Scholar at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, and Joel Christopher, Digital Editor with Gannett Wisconsin Media will set the stage with a conversation about how their news operations have made the shift to digital-first and what you need to know to do the same.

11:15-12:15: Social media

Nick Heynen, social media coordinator for Capital Newspapers, Jessica Arp, news reporter for WISC-TV, Jessie Opoien, political reporter for The Capital Times and Jeff Bollier, reporter for the Oshkosh Northwestern on social media strategy and the practical tools needed to effectively use social media not only to promote your work, but also to report and engage with your audience.

12:15-1: Lunch and networking

1-2: Mobile newsgathering

Steve Buttry, Lamar Visiting Scholar at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, Nick Penzenstadler, reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent and Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team will cover the tools and skills you need to turn your mobile device into an all-in-one reporting kit.

2:15-3:15: Content presentation on the web

Joel Christopher, Digital Editor for Gannett Wisconsin Media, David Hyland, Director of Online Content at Wisconsin Public Radio, and Kate Golden, Multimedia Director and Reporter for Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism will discuss the benefits and challenges of publishing your content on the web, including how to optimize your content, experiment with new forms of storytelling, and build the best web experience for your audience.

3:15-3:30: Wrap-up and evaluation

(Panelists may change.)

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spj-madison-digital-and-social-media-training-tickets-13314631421

Direct questions to Lauren Fuhrmann, SPJ Madison vice president, at lfuhrmann@wisconsinwatch.org.


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Journalism Education Has a Future

SPJ/SSFP Journalism Education Forum at Edgewood College

The field of journalism education is changing, just as the field of journalism is changing but the need for people who can communicate continues because the hunger for information continues. The hunger remains even as the vehicles for information distribution continue to change and expand in number. Continue reading

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The Future of Journalism Education



Sept. 11, 2014


The Next Generation: The Future of Journalism Education

MADISON – Journalism is changing, and so is the way educators train the next generation of reporters, photographers, videographers and graphics specialists. Join leading college and high school educators and students for a wide-ranging discussion about the future of journalism education – and what mid-career journalists need to know to stay current.

The discussion takes place at Edgewood College’s Anderson Auditorium in the Predolin Hall from 7-9 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 24. It features Hemant Shah, director, UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Kim Hixson, chairman, UW-Whitewater Communications Department; Linda Friend, adjunct faculty, Edgewood College English Department, and former senior news producer, Wisconsin Public Television; Jon Netzler, journalism teacher and The Norse Star adviser, Stoughton High School; and Deirdre Green, managing editor, Simpson Street Free Press.

The event is sponsored by the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Simpson Street Free Press, and with the generous support of Edgewood College. All area journalists are invited to attend this free event, which is also open to the public. High school and college students interested in journalism are particularly encouraged to attend. Parking is free.

Launched in 1992, Simpson Street Free Press uses journalism to teach the most practical and transferable of academic skills. Literacy is the SSFP brand.

Students publish five separate youth newspapers. The organization grows its own after-school instructors. Newsrooms are staffed using a youth leadership model. Former SSFP students, now in college, serve as editors. These college-age newspaper editors know SSFP curriculum because they grew up doing it. SSFP is thus a pipeline for young people of color. Experienced volunteers, including professional journalists, provide robust forms of assistance.

Based in Indianapolis, SPJ is a national membership organization that promotes high professional and ethical standards, First Amendment principles and the belief that a free and vigorous press is vital in a representative democracy. The Madison professional chapter was formed around 1990. Membership costs $75 annually, and it is open to journalists who spend at least half of their professional life writing or editing work for publication.

Contact: Mark Pitsch, 608-252-6145; mpitsch@madison.com



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SPJ delegates approve revised Code of Ethics

Sept. 6, 2014

NASHVILLE — Delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists voted overwhelmingly Saturday to approve a revised Code of Ethics. The voice vote came at the Society’s business meeting at its annual convention.

A committee of the Society spent the past year studying the current code and proposing changes. It had not been updated in nearly two decades. The committee’s work underwent revisions in the days leading up to the vote, and several amendments were accepted in Nashville.

An informal online poll of SPJ members showed that three of every four members who voted approved of the changes.

Delegates on Saturday also rejected a proposal to change the organization’s name to the Society for Professional Journalism.

Delegates are chosen by local chapters and the number of delegates allotted each chapter is determined by the number of members in each chapter. The Madison chapter had one delegate.

Also, SPJ members elected Dana Neuts president, Paul Fletcher president-elect, and Lynn Walsh secretary-treasurer. RadskeNashvilleNeuts is a freelance writer in the Seattle area. Fletcher is publisher and editor-in-chief of Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Walsh is national digital producer for the Scripps network of news organizations.

On Friday the Madison chapter received a certificate for outstanding work by a small chapter in advancing relations with campuses. At left is Joe Radske, SPJ Madison executive committee member and SPJ national board member, with the certificate.

Mark Pitsch, chapter president, received the Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Member of the Year Award at the president’s installation banquet on Saturday.


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SPJ enters Madison chapter in “Circle of Excellence”


Aug. 28, 2014

Contact: Mark Pitsch, president, Madison pro chapter Society of Professional Journalists, 608-252-6145

MADISON – The Society of Professional Journalists this week named its Madison pro chapter to this year’s “Circle of Excellence” for helping revive SPJ’s UW-Madison campus chapter.

The Circle of Excellence is a collection of awards that recognizes outstanding work in five areas: First Amendment/freedom of information, professional development, chapter communications, diversity and campus relations.

SPJ Madison secretary Breann Schossow, weekend assignment editor at WKOW-27, worked closely with UW-Madison students and professor Lucas Graves to help revive the campus chapter.

“It was simply a delight to help the students re-start their chapter,” Schossow says. “They’re passionate and wanted their fellow journalism students to benefit from the opportunities that SPJ offers.

Earlier this year, SPJ named Madison chapter president Mark Pitsch its Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member of the Year in the small chapter category. Since 2011, the Madison chapter has twice been a finalist for small chapter of the year.

The Madison pro chapter serves to support journalism and journalists, promote First Amendment and ethical principals, and help the public understand what journalists do. SPJ membership is $75 annually.


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SPJ bestows honor on local chapter president


Contact: Lauren Fuhrmann, SPJ Madison Pro chapter vice president


MADISON, July 30, 2014 — SPJ Madison Pro chapter president Mark Pitsch has received the 2014 Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) for his outstanding contributions to the local chapter. Pitsch has served as chapter president since 2011. His programming skills and work in reactivating the Madison chapter contributed to his winning the award.

“Mark has been instrumental in bringing young and experienced journalists together in the Madison area. His leadership in training journalists has helped build the Madison Pro chapter into one of the finest in the country,” says Joe Radske, SPJ Region 6 director and a member of the SPJ Madison Pro chapter.

Each year, the Howard Dubin Award is awarded to no more than two members — one from a chapter of 75 or more members and one from less than 75 members. The award is in honor of longtime SPJ member of the Chicago Headline Club Howard Dubin, who not only contributes time and money to the society but also remains dedicated to service at the chapter level.

Pitsch and J. Alex Tarquinio of the New York Deadline Club — winner of the award from a chapter of 75 or more members — will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Sept. 4-6.

Based in Indianapolis, SPJ is a national membership organization that promotes high professional and ethical standards among journalists, First Amendment principles, and the belief that a free and vigorous press is vital in a representative democracy. The SPJ Madison Pro chapter was formed around 1990. Membership costs $75 annually, and it is open to journalists who spend at least half of their professional life writing or editing work for publication.

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