Report on the April 2017 Region 11 Conference at San Diego

By Stirling Morita
Hawaii Chapter President

I wish I had met Mike Reilley earlier in my career. The SPJ/Google News Lab trainer would have made my life a lot easier.

He offers myriad ways of dealing with items online. Google's list and instructional programs can be seen here: (Trust me: Visit it. If you learn one thing from this site, it will be time well used.)

Reilley was among the presenters at the April 28-29 Region 11 SPJ conference at San Diego.

He showed how to verify whether a photograph is authentic and how to determine its usage rights. A Google tool might help.

Another useful tool was Google Trends. It can break down searches on a national, state or city basis. You can see what your readers are searching for. There also is Google Scholar, which can help you find research to add background to your stories.

Many of you probably know the problems with government documents in .pdfs. They are like photos and the information can't be sorted in spreadsheets, making data analysis impossible. Reilley showed how easy it was to work it out.

I wish I had known about Tabula, Tabula Technology. The program allows you to scrape or pull the data and put it into a spreadsheet, which you can sort. Where has this been all my life?


Kristina Davis, courts and criminal justice reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, offered tips you can use to detail a person's background on deadline. When she uses Google, she also uses email addresses, social media handles, cell phone numbers, home addresses. These can come up with Tweets or posts that show the background of the individual. She said Go Fund Me can be a good source when backgrounding dead people.

Author Caitlin Rother said she goes to the sources in bibliographies or on webpages, such as Wikipedia.

Joseph Travers, a private investigator/The People's Detective, uses a four-step process:

1. Google search (go all the way to the end)
2. Social media checks. Lay out the friends in a matrix
3. Database searches, such as Lexis-Nexis.
4. Take all the information gathered and run them through from Step 1. Include cellphones and addresses.

Fake News

SPJ President Lynn Walsh says the term fake news is overused.

Fake News has information that is not true, and may be used by someone with an agenda, but some use the term to bad-mouth the news media for publicizing information "just because they just don't like what the news organization is saying," Walsh said.

An official at her network has sent out notes advising to stop using the term fake news, said Walsh, an investigative executive producer at KNSD. "I know that as journalists, we think it is funny to joke about it and say: 'Oh, fake news' and maybe have fun with it or on social media have fun with it, but I agree that it just makes the problem worse if we are using the term in a joking manner."

When talking about the issue, journalists should make the distinction between inaccurate information, partially true stories and information that people don't agree with, she said.

Don't get caught up in the fake news issue. "But more importantly, we just need to do our jobs," she said. "Don't get caught up and try not to get frustrated, and I know it can be difficult especially when you dedicate your life and are so passionate about what we're doing and have someone tell you, 'You're fake news and you don't matter.' It's frustrating."

Now, it is important for journalists to be ethical, take that extra time to make sure about facts in a story and "be better than ever before," Walsh said.

"Now more than ever, the public is scrutinizing every tweet you do, every social media post you do, every update, every story that you do. We need to make sure that we are being better than we ever have been before," she said.

She advised reporters to be as transparent as possible, posting materials used in writing a story.

She also said reporters should not be afraid to talk with the readers so "they can see we are real people."

SPJ has been reaching out to the public more about issues, talking about journalism ethics, press freedoms and access to information, Walsh said.

SPJ has written a letter to the Trump administration urging that reporters get access to officials involved with issues and not get their information through spokespeople, she said.

SPJ also has written members of Congress offering to speak to their constituencies about what journalists do and about the importance of a free press, she said.

Differentiate between speaking out on issues and for a free press; journalists need to understand they can speak about the importance of a free press, Walsh said.

Also, the public doesn't understand what an anonymous source is. Some think it could be an anonymous tweet on an issue without the reporter knowing who made the comment. That made her think that journalists should talk to the public more about what journalists do and why they do it, she said.

Noting that the SPJ Code of Ethics urges reporters to use anonymous sources as little as possible, Walsh said that if news media use anonymous sources, "can we explain more to our viewers, to our users, to our listeners why we are doing this and what led to it."

When the public reads about an anonymous source, the public doesn't know the credibility of the source. "Don't we owe it to the public to be better and push back against some of that?" Walsh said.

With the public's trust of journalists at an all-time low, journalists "need to be better."

She said that some government spokespeople expect not to be named in stories, but she said she uses the spokesperson's name even if they object. The public is entitled to that information.

When access or information is blocked, journalists shouldn't say they couldn't get the information but stress what the detriment to the public is.

A poorly made video of Walsh's talk is available. For access, email Stirling Morita


A proposal to reduce the SPJ national board to 9 from 23 will be voted on at the September national convention in Anaheim, California.

Most of the reduction would be the removal of the 12 regional directors from the board.

Region 11 Director Matt Hall favors the proposal because it would give the regional directors more time to work with the chapters in the region even though they would be giving up seats on the board.

The regional directors would meet as a group to go over issues from the grassroots membership and provide the issues to the board. Right now the regional directors have a lot of work dealing with the local chapters and being a board member. The regional directors are fine with losing the power they have as board members and say it would not deter bringing up issues from the membership, Hall said.

National President Lynn Walsh, from San Diego, also likes the proposal, saying a smaller board would make it easier to issue statements or positions on issues or breaking developments. She said two of the nine board members would be appointed and the board would use these spots for diversity or getting involvement from students or faculty.

Hall said he is considering running for an at-large board position.

The issue will be voted on at the national convention at Anaheim.

In other news, the next regional will be in Los Angeles, and the 2019 conference is scheduled for Las Vegas.

Hawaii will host the 2020 regional.