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Report on 2010 SPJ Annual Convention

Next year’s conference: On September 25 - 28, 2011, the Radio Television Digital News Association (formerly RTNDA), the largest association of electronic journalists, joins forces with the Society of Professional Journalists creating Excellence in Journalism: 2011.
Our convention in New Orleans will be more than a partnership; it will be a gathering of professional journalists with shared interest.
Our goal is to create the largest, most important national journalism convention of the year, every year.

At the Region 11 business meeting, participants were most interested in fundraising projects. The most successful fundraiser for the California chapters, apparently, are paid sessions for PR professionals on how best to interact with the media, how to write a press release, etc. Not so sure that would fly that well here, inasmuch as most of the PR folks here come from the media. The group was most interested in Gridiron and how successful it is raising money for interns. They didn’t seem that interested in my attempts to recount our successes lobbying the state Legislature, or the progress of our shield law.


The most controversial resolution – asking SPJ to define "Journalist" in anticipation of a federal shield law taking effect -- was withdrawn by the sponsor, Northern California Pro chapter, prior to a vote. It was obvious SPJ delegates were uncomfortable with this role.

A last-minute special resolution, asking the Obama administration to take steps to eliminate the PIO-as-gatekeeper and allow the free flow of information from administration staffers, and set up a model for states to follow, passed unanimously.

Another last-minute special resolution, urging SPJ to expand its membership and chapters internationally, also passed unanimously. As the Hawaii delegate, belonging to the chapter "that is about as international as you can get without leaving the United States," I took the opportunity to make the motion on this resolution. It was seconded by the New York City chapter, which also has an interest in an international SPJ.

Other resolutions that passed, in addition to a series of thank-you resolutions, were: Support of the free speech and free press rights of college journalists and their advisers, FERPA reform to open records of colleges and universities, Opposing checkbook journalism.(examples -- ABC paying for exclusive rights of a murder suspect for home videos and photos, NBC furnishing private jet to a source for exclusive interview, etc.), Support for federal shield law

Membership: Outgoing SPJ President Kevin Smith described the problems with membership. In a normal month, he said the chapter loses about 300 members and gains about 300 members for a relatively flat membership year. National SPJ earlier this year hit a two-decade low of 7,500 members, but it is slowly climbing again and is now higher than a year ago, he said.


Re-Imaging News and How to Grow Audiences Organically: Rob Curley, head of online arm of Las Vegas Sun, a newspaper that’s inserted into Stephens Media flagship, Las Vegas Review Journal, discussed how his company produces a 4-page daily print product and a hyper-local online product with a staff of "only" 30. His message was local, local, local plus utility, utility, utility, with a wealth of interactive useful features on the website. One interesting commonality between Curley’s session and that of Richard Gringras, CEO of, was the way they handled anonymous posters on their sites. Both had a public area where posters had to have a verified account to leave comments. But both allowed anonymous posters to be diverted into a sort of "sandbox" where a staffer could verify them if they presented compelling arguments or seemed legit. The sandbox was viewable by the public, but comments were purged there often. Both Curley and Gringras recommended Facebook links as a valid way to verify posters.

Training: I attended a half-day workshop on Census data put on by IRE/NICAR. If anyone wants the PowerPoint and table we used in the workshop, (5mg file) shoot me an email and I will forward it. Basically, the 10-year data starts being available Christmas week, with the 50-state totals. Redistricting data will be parceled out by state from early February to late March. I am available to lead a training session on using Census data with some lead-time. I also attended a "It was the Best of Sentences, it was the Worst of Sentences," training session that turned out to be pretty basic grammar and sentence structure training.

Respectfully submitted by SPJ-Hawaii Vice President Nancy Cook Lauer, who thanks all involved for the opportunity to attend this worthwhile conference.


Thank you to the judges

Many thanks to the judges of the Region 10 contest (Pacific Northwest), magazines and newspapers. Without you, we couldn't conduct our own contest.

PacificBasin Communications --Steve Petranik, Kathryn Wagner, coordinators

Lennie Omalza

John Heckathorn

Joanne Romero

A. Kam Napier

Michael Keany

Tiffany Hill

Kathryn Wagner

Hawaii Medical Service Association—Craig DeSilva, coordinator

Chance Gusukuma

Marlene Nakamoto

Jonathan Tanji

The Honolulu Advertiser—Christine Strobel, coordinator

Curtis Murayama

Stan Lee

Christine Strobel

Star-Bulletin—Stirling Morita, coordinator

Helen Altonn

Richard Borreca

Susan Essoyan

George F. Lee

Seth Markow

Stirling Morita

Charlene Robinson

Rob Shikina

Lucy Young Oda

West Hawaii Today

Nancy Cook Lauer

Associated Press

Audrey McAvoy

Dave Briscoe

Honolulu Weekly

Adrienne LaFrance


P.O. Box 3141

Honolulu, HI 96802

Sept. 25, 2009

From David Briscoe, president


Society of Professional Journalists condemns Honolulu TV merger

The Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists strongly opposes the planned consolidation of TV stations KGMB, KHNL and KFVE. This so-called "shared services agreement" not only violates federal regulations but will eliminate an important source of news and information for the people of Hawaii.

Among other steps, SPJ-Hawaii will assist Media Council Hawaii in its legal challenge of the merger.
"SPJ-Hawaii is dedicated to fostering and protecting a free press and diversity of voices, which are essential to preserving liberty and democracy in our islands," says chapter president David Briscoe. "We find it especially outrageous when media organizations themselves hinder the public's access to news and information.

"While we recognize the financial pressures media owners face, this merger is the wrong solution. It reduces the number of local journalists covering the news, reduces the diversity of media voices, and is bad for democracy and bad for Hawaii."

The merger is not only morally wrong, it is a clear attempt to circumvent Federal Communications Commission rules that prohibit such joint ownership in TV markets like Honolulu.

TV stations are granted the privilege of using public airwaves, which obligates them to serve the public with news and information. They should not be allowed to violate this public trust.


Hawaii SPJ needs you

These are interesting and challenging times for journalism. The future of news is unclear, but you can have an important local role in shaping that future by joining the board of directors of the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The chapter is accepting nominations for the board until Monday, Nov. 16. Anyone who is a current member of Hawaii SPJ is eligible; you can join now and be eligible for the board immediately. Go to to join; your national membership includes membership in the Hawaii chapter.

Nominate yourself or a friend by sending an e-mail to Steve Petranik, Hawaii chapter treasurer, at (Of course, make sure your friend is willing to serve before you nominate them.)

The board consists of four officers – president, vice president, treasurer and secretary – a Neighbor Island director, and four at-large directors. The board meets eight to 12 times a year, usually on Thursday evenings. Hawaii SPJ’s major issues have been media ethics, local media ownership and coverage, training and mentoring young journalists, preserving and enhancing the quality of local news coverage, media access, shield laws and related issues.

Hawaii SPJ organizes the annual Gridiron show and the proceeds pay for summer journalism internships for students. The chapter also sponsors annual awards that recognize the best of Hawaii journalism, and organizes training workshops, seminars, discussions and other events. It also helps with legal and other challenges over media issues.

Please post this invitation in your newsroom


Tough Times, Tougher Choices

Ethics and Excellence in the Newsroom

A Workshop Series


Jon Ebinger

Radio-Television News

Directors Foundation

Former Producer

ABC’s Nightline

& ESPN’s Outside

the Lines

Saturday, October 10, 2009

9 am – noon Campus Center 307

Presented by the Carol Burnett Fund

for Responsible Journalism Ethics Programs

& Society of Professional Journalists Student Chapter

University of Hawai‘i at MaŻnoa

Jon Ebinger is an experienced Washington

based news producer and editor who for nine

years worked for ABC News Nightline as a

researcher and producer. While with ESPN

he launched the weekly investigative program

Outside the Lines and led the show’s

production team. Since 2001 Ebinger has

also been part of production teams for the

BBC, CNBC, PBS, and The National

Geographic Channel. He has worked on

extended projects as an editor for National

Public Radio, as well as for the special events

unit for ABC News.

For the past five years he has administered

media projects for the Radio and Television

News Directors Foundation, including an

ongoing journalist exchange program for

American and German journalists, and

presents workshops across the United States

on how communities and journalists can

respond in the event of a terror crisis.

Ebinger has been honored with 8 Emmy

Awards, including 6 national news Emmys

with "Nightline" (ABC News), one national

news Emmy for "Inside Base Camp" (National

Geographic Channel), and one local Emmy

for "World Talk" (WETA-PBS). He also

received a Dupont-Columbia Award for

"Nightline" Special Programs (1995-1996).


Hawaii Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists

Video Journalism on the Web

When: Saturday, May 23, 2009
Where: University of Hawai’i-Manoa, Crawford Hall

• 8:30-9:30 a.m. - Interactive panel chat on the future of video and online journalism (free and open to public)
• 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Hands-on workshop covering basic shooting/editing video for the Web (registration limited; workshop cost: $5 for SPJ members; $10 for non-members. Includes lunch. Registered participants must bring their own digital video camera with standard firewire cable and be familiar with its operation.)
Workshop registration deadline:
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
For information and registration,
e-mail: or
call: (808) 525-8063

Parking $3 in lower campus parking structure off Dole Street


Thanks to contest judges

Greater Oregon Pro Chapter 2008 Nondaily Contest

Region 11
2008 Northwest Excellence in Journalism Awards


Robert Scheer FOI Day talk

Robert Scheer says he’s optimistic about the future of the news media.
"People need information they can trust," Scheer said, noting the many are going to Web pages of mainstream media.
"The real challenge for us is to get people interested," Scheer said.

Scheer was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Hawaii Media Justice Conference at the Unversity of Hawaii Campus Center on March 14. He is editor of TruthDig, a nationally syndicated columnist and the "left voice" on National Public Radio’s "Left, Right and Center."

Scheer said people appear to be very interested.

"The American public is questioning right now," he said.

The public is taking a hard look at foreign policy, such as the Iraq War, and the economic meltdown.

There are many good Web sites out there, and truth seeking is being done – better than ever, he said.

Jon Stewart showed the contradictory statements of the Bush administration about the Iraq War by showing video clips side by side.

Imperialism and truth don’t live well side by side, Scheer said.

Although there is a lot of money problems happening to the media lately, some type of media will emerge to carry on the responsibilities under the First Amendment, Scheer said.

Other comments from the conference:


The Newspaper Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Newspaper journalism faces an almost Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde scenario these days due to a promising future online but unsettling present in print, Sacramento Bee Editor Melanie Sill said.

The Dr. Henry Jekyll part is: The Internet holds so much promise for newspapers and other journalists to reach readers. But the Mr. Edward Hyde counterpart is: The economy and advertising declines cast a pall over the newspaper industry.

But still there are things newspapers can do to communicate with the communities they serve, she told about 45 SPJ members and others at a reception at the Plaza Club downtown on Jan. 23.

Newspaper are feeling the economic effects of an advertising downturn, but still serve a large audience, Sill said.

"The issue is how will it affect the quality of reporting and how we will fund it," she said.

Her newspaper underwent "a significant staff cut, but "we worked on making coverage better," Sill said.

One way to offset the declines, Sill said, is to find subjects that newspapers do well and then do them even better.

She opened "lines of communication with the community. "Our future rests with the future of the community; we really are in it together," she said. "Try to be cognizant of what the community needs," she said. "We have to be as good at listening as we are at telling."

Newspapers should be aware that "we can’t do everything," she added.

Even with a smaller staff, a newspaper "still can do a good job," she said. Her paper had "to make some tough choices."

It did away with a regional weekly sections because it didn’t have staffing to "sustain them," Sill said.

But because Sacramento is the state capital of California, the Bee has done well in government reporting. It started a column and blog on state employees that have proved popular.

The Bee has done database reporting, posting information such as notices of layoffs or plant closures from companies so people can find out details for themselves.

Still, people expect investigative reporting from their papers, and she said it needs to be done even in times of staff cuts. It all comes down to holding government officials accountable for their actions and why they did things the way they did, she said.

And newspapers haven’t done a good job of telling their own story. She noted that she has yet to see a newspaper report about advertising revenues include comments from a local advertiser about what advertising has done for him or her.

The Bee runs house ads about how effective its advertising is.

Melanie Sill is a Waipahu native and once was editor of Waipahu High’s Cane Tassel paper. She led an investigative team for the Raleigh News & Observer that won a Pulitzer Prize.


Thank you for joining us for the 2007 annual SPJ Hawaii chapter Awards Dinner.

This is our first year in the Dole Cannery ballroom. So I hope you will be pleased with tonite's dinner.

Tonite, we recognize the best in Hawaii journalism in the areas of print, broadcast, and internet.

The awards dinner is one of the many programs sponsored by your SPJ Hawaii chapter.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation's most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

The Hawaii chapter is here to support local journalists and foster excellence in our profession for the benefit of our communities and its people.

I'd like to take a moment to recap some of the many programs and initiatives SPJ's Hawaii chapter has been working on for you throughout the year.

* During this year's legislative session, we worked on crafting a shield law to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources. Hawaii is now one of 36 states in the nation with a shield law. SPJ will be sponsoring a discussion on the shield law with attorney Jeff Portnoy Aug. 21 at noon at the Honolulu Advertiser building. You're all invited to attend. I believe Jeff is here tonite if you want to meet with him.

* We continue to be involved in open government issues. This year, we questioned why crime logs at the University of Hawaii weren't made available, and why the city wanted to keep a mass transit technology panel from meeting in public.

* We also foster the next generation of journalists. Every year, we provide professional opportunities for college students by placing them in paid summer internships in print, broadcast and public relations. We'll be introducing this year's lucky interns to you later this evening.

* We provide opportunities for you to meet and hear the nation's top journalists. We co-sponsored a talk by Sheila Coronel, an award-winning Filipino journalist at Columbia University's investigative journalism program. Also, local boy Byron Acohido, a USA Today reporter, was here to talk about his Pulitzer-prize winning investigative stories.

* And we can't end the year without poking fun at Hawaii's news events, politicians and other newsmakers at the Gridiron, scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at Diamond Head Theatre. Gridiron regulars know how much fun the show is. If you've never seen the Gridiron, I highly recommend it. All proceeds from the show go to fund our internship program. Due to the show's popularity, we'll be adding a Saturday matinee this year for the first time ever. Mahalo to KITV's Keoki Kerr and the Advertiser's Robbie Dingeman for again leading the show's production, and showing us that it's OK to laugh at each other and ourselves sometimes.

We hope to continue with programs that advocate for you and good journalism in Hawaii.

As we recognize the best of Hawaii journalism tonite, we'll also be saying goodbye to a woman who represents the very best in journalism. She laid the foundation for many journalists, many of whom are in this room tonite. She has also dedicated her career to advocating for more open government and accountability. Later this evening, we will recognize University of Hawaii professor Bev Keever, who will be retiring after 26 years of teaching.

The Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce its Annual Awards Dinner and Presentation and a tribute to retiring University of Hawaii Journalism Professor Beverly Deepe Keever Date: Friday, July 11, 2008 Time: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Place: Dole Ballrooms (Lanai room) Please join in celebrating our industry’s successes.

Thank you to the judges of the Region X (Pacific Northwest) Newspaper Contest

Helen Altonn
Laurie Au
Dave Briscoe
David Butts
Alex Da Silva
Susan Essoyan
James Gonser
Gerald Kato
Nancy Cook Lauer
Marsha McFadden
Stirling Morita
Sandra Oshiro
Gene Park
Robert Shikina


By Robert Shikina

Chapter Member

Around the world, the news media have never been freer than it is today, but there is a high price to pay for that freedom, said award-winning investigative journalist Sheila Coronel.

Hundreds of journalists have died or remain behind bars because of their work.

Meanwhile, in the United States investigative journalism faces a threat from a business pressures that favors entertainment over quality reporting, she said.

"Journalists are having a heyday in exposing crime, corruption. The bad news, of course, is we pay a price for such exposure," Coronel told dozens of people Monday afternoon at a Freedom of Information Day luncheon on the University of Hawai'i campus as part of Sunshine Week.

The Honolulu Community-Media Council, Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and several other organizations sponsored Coronel's speech as part of the Ah Jook Ku lecture series.

Coronel is director of Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism - Columbia University and the 2003 Ramon Magasaysay Awardee for developing investigative journalism in the Philippines. She helped found the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, which became the premier investigative reporting institution in the region.

"Investigative journalism has flourished … in many transition countries," Coronel said. In those countries, competing in crowded markets "has made journalists more aggressive in exposing wrongdoing and exposing corruption."

But along with grown of the press, more journalists -- usually local citizens -- have been killed around the world in the post-democratic era than in eras with more governmental control.

"They're being deliberately targeted for their work," she said. "They can make change possible. They become a danger to the powers."

At the end of 2007, 127 journalists worldwide were imprisoned, facing charges against a government or sometimes no charges at all, she said.

During her speech, "Endangered Watchdogs? Investigative Reporting in Troubled Times," Coronel said the news media have grown in developing countries because of so many new avenues for news and a hunger for information. The boom in media has been largely in Asia where China and India were ranked first and second respectively in newspaper circulation, compared with the rest of the world, she said.

In some cases, governments have fueled the media expansion after realizing the media can prevent corruption at the local level and educate businesses, leading to greater national profit.

In China, media market reforms have also led to media growth. When the Chinese government cut subsidies to newspapers, companies were forced to become aggressive in investigative reporting, despite the socialist system, she said.

"The need to survive in that market has forced newspapers to be more aggressive, more expose-oriented in their reporting," she said. The result is a "vibrant media environment in China."

Journalists have also gained press freedoms through freedom of information (FOI) laws around the world. In 1996, when the United States passed its first FOI law, only one other country had a FOI law. Today, 70 countries around the world have FOI laws, half of them having passed them within the last five years, she said.

But there's a downside to the new press freedoms.

"The rise of commercial media has also meant the rise of dumbed-down news and 'infotainment' throughout the world," she said.

In the United States, the problems of investigative reporting are different than in developing countries, Coronel said.

She said income from advertising and circulation is not sustaining newspapers, especially as more people get their news online. While advertisers have moved online, the profit is not enough to sustain news production, leading to a decline in investigative reporting, she said.

In addition, journalists in the United States have faced more pressure to reveal confidential sources, hindering investigative reporting.

However, she sees a possible solution – nonprofit groups, which can fund in depth reporting without commercial pressure, are stepping in to do investigative journalism, and citizen are making contributions as well.

"Citizens are filling the gap in watchdog reporting, providing needed information," she said. "Increasingly, the line between citizens and journalists is becoming blurred."