Please join us in standing up for a free press on #FreePressFriday.

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is joining the national organization in highlighting the importance of a free and independent press in a healthy democracy. Learn more about the #FreePressFriday effort here.

Use the hashtag #FreePressFriday on social media to show your support for a free press. Everyone should also feel free to use the graphics below in promoting a free press on social media.






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From Campus to the Capitol and Beyond: The Future of Free Speech and the First Amendment

MADISON — Shutting down hate speech. Revamping libel laws. Expanding intellectual diversity on campus. The First Amendment and the principle of free speech has emerged as a contentious topic of debate in recent months – in Wisconsin and across the country. The fatal violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a white nationalist rally has heightened attention on free speech.

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics invites students, campus employees and members of the public to a discussion of these important topics. It will take place 7:00-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at Union South in the Industry room on the third floor [Note: event location updated].

The discussion features Kathleen Culver, assistant professor, James E. Burgess chair in Journalism Ethics and director of the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics; Savion Castro, UW-Madison student and One Wisconsin Now research assistant; and James Friedman, an attorney with Godfrey & Kahn representing the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

The event is free and open to the public, who will have an opportunity to hear from representatives from both sides of this issue, and ask questions. All area journalists are especially encouraged to attend, and membership in SPJ is not necessary.

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 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.

Founded in 1905, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication strongly supports the First Amendment and believes in the principles of a free and responsible press. Its curriculum is anchored in the truthful, fair and ethical practice of communication, which can contribute to a healthy and vibrant democracy.

The Center for Journalism Ethics, founded in 2008, encourages the highest standards in journalism ethics worldwide. It seeks to foster vigorous debate about ethical practices in journalism and provide resources for producers, consumers and students of journalism. More information and resources are available at ethics.journalism.wisc.edu or via @UWJournEthics on Twitter.

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

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Tasting Beer, Talking Beer at Vintage Brewing Company

MADISON — Like beer? Like beer writing?

Join Vintage Brewing Company brewmaster Scott Manning and Wisconsin State Journal beer writer Chris Drosner (aka Beer Baron) on Wednesday, July 26, for an exclusive beer tasting and discussion to benefit the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The event at Vintage Brewing Company, 674 S. Whitney Way in Madison, includes a social hour at 6 p.m., with the program at 7 p.m.

Tickets cost $30 and include five 4-ounce Vintage beers for tasting on site, a 32-ounce Vintage Crowler to-go, palate-cleansing snacks, and an opportunity to talk to Scott and Chris about beer making and writing about beer. SPJ members will also receive a special beer tasting glass.

Registration is limited to the first 50 people and is expected to sell out. Tickets are required. This event is being promoted exclusively to journalists and SPJ Madison supporters until July 10.

For more information about the event and to register, visit this EventBrite page.

For more information about Vintage Brewing Company, visit its website.

To read the Beer Baron’s columns, visit this page.

For more information about Madison SPJ, visit its website or its Facebook page.

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Local science writing experts share experiences, offer advice for science reporting

Consider how news science-based stories are framed for the reader. Ask scientists about why a natural or human-caused occurrence happens. Take advantage of Madison-based science resources.


Training event attendees included students, journalists, science communicators, and freelance writers.

Those are some of the suggestions offered at “Secrets for Success in Science Journalism,” the spring 2017 training session presented this month by the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The training was generously sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and the Wisconsin State Journal. The UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication generously provided classroom space for the training.


During the “How I Learned to Love Science” session, Rebecca Wallace reminded attended that journalists and scientists are a lot alike.

Trainer Ron Seely, a freelance science and environment writer and senior lecturer in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication said science, and evolutionary science, is found in every day reporting. Reporters, he said, need to listen to people in their communities, explore the natural world, and ask questions, particularly “Why?”

Rebecca Wallace, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory, and Mark Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel health and science reporter, discussed how their careers led to writing about science. Wallace said she and scientists at the forest lab needed to overcome mistrust when she was hired to write about their work. “One of the most effective questions I asked is what do people get wrong about your research?” Wallace said.  Johnson said he began as a general assignment reporter but learned to love science by researching and writing about a deceased whale and the scientific research undertaken of its carcass — which included potential implications on human health.

Kelly Tyrrell, UW-Madison science writer, and Adam Hinterthuer, director of programs at the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources and communications for the Center for Limnology at UW-Madison, reviewed a number of resources available to science journalists. They discussed top science writing handbooks and websites, national science writing fellowship opportunities, campus resources for story ideas and sources, and an extensive list of science resources unique to Wisconsin. SPJ Science Journalism Success AH+KAT

Dominique Broussard, chairwoman of Life Sciences Communication, said science reporting is often consumed by readers who have their own biases and perceptions. Often science is believed when it reinforces a preconceived notion. As a result, how stories are framed is important, as is who delivers the message, she said.

Gregory Nemet, UW-Madison associate professor of public affairs and environmental studies, suggested that it might be a good idea for journalists to let scientists review descriptions of their work to ensure accuracy – something he experienced in Germany.


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SPJ Madison elects officers

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists on Monday elected officers to a one-year term.

Officers re-elected are Mark Pitsch, assistant city editor for the Wisconsin State Journal, president; Lauren Fuhrmann, associate director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, vice president; and Breann Schossow, producer of The Joy Cardin Show, secretary. Furhmann was also elected treasurer, replacing Rebecca Wasieleski.

Other members of the SPJ Madison executive committee include former SPJ Madison presidents Gordon Govier and Terry Shelton and former reporter and college instructor Sam Martino.

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SPJ Madison hosts day-long training on ‘Secrets for Success in Science Journalism’

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) will host “Secrets for Success in Science Journalism,” designed to offer journalists, science communicators, and students tips for producing accessible, accurate, and intriguing science stories.

The full-day conference will be held Friday, April 21, 2017, on the UW-Madison campus, 2195 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., with seminar sessions starting at 10 a.m. and concluding at 3 p.m.

Journalists and science communicators from across a broad range of scientific disciplines and professional backgrounds will share their expertise in science reporting and seeking out science resources.


9:30 a.m. — Registration

10:00-11:00 a.m. — “An Overview of How Science Is Used in Everyday Reporting”
Ron Seely
, freelance science and environment writer covering stories throughout the Great Lakes Region and senior lecturer in UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communications
Steven Verburg, Wisconsin State Journal reporter

11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ­­— “How I Learned to Love Science”
Rebecca Wallace
, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
Mark Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel health and science reporter

12:00-1:00 p.m. — Lunch and networking

1:00-2:00 p.m. — “Science Resources in Wisconsin”
Kelly Tyrrell
, UW-Madison science writer
Adam Hinterthuer, director of programs at the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources and communications, Center for Limnology at UW-Madison

2:00-3:00 p.m. — “How Journalists Get Science Wrong and How to Improve”
Gregory Nemet
, UW-Madison associate professor of public affairs and environmental studies Dominique Brossard, chair of UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication

Register online through Eventbrite. A $30 registration fee for non-SPJ members includes lunch. Registration fee is waived for current SPJ members and students, but the lunch price is $10.

City of Madison parking is available in the State Street Campus Garage, with entrances at 400 N. Frances St. and 400 N. Lake St.

This event is sponsored by Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and Wisconsin State Journal.

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Celebrate Sunshine Week at Madison’s Newest Newsroom

Madison area journalists and journalism students are invited to the NBC15 studios  on Thursday, March 16, 2017, to celebrate Sunshine Week. March 16th is the 266th birthday of James Madison, fourth president and author of the First Amendment, which includes freedom of speech and freedom of the press provisions.

Sunshine Week is an annual event that champions open and transparent government at all levels, and is observed by a number of organizations that are committed to the principles of the First Amendment and the public’s right to know, including the Society of Professional Journalists. Continue reading

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