Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brewer, SPJ's 'secret weapon,' honored with President's Award

INDIANAPOLIS -- Clint Brewer, a former president of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter and former national president of SPJ, was honored at the SPJ national convention tonight with a president's award for his work on behalf of a federal shield law.

"This guy could change minds," SPJ President Dave Aeikens said in giving the award to Brewer, who, as chairman of the national committee on government affairs, was tasked with visiting members of Congress and trying to win them over to supporting SPJ's position. Aeikens said members of SPJ's law firm, Baker and Hostetler, called Brewer "the secret weapon."

Congratulations to Clint, to the family of the late Robert Churchwell, and to all the honorees at tonight's banquet. :)

Harnisch matches gifts to Terry Harper Memorial Fund

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nashville newswoman-turned-philanthropist Ruth Ann Leach Harnisch is matching the $13,000 raised for the Terry Harper Memorial Fund, created in honor of SPJ's executive director who died of brain cancer earlier this year.

Some $8,000 was raised Thursday night at silent and live auctions held during the opening night reception at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and Terry's family also contributed $5,000.

Harnisch, a friend to many members of Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter, is matching that pool of money, SPJ officials announced tonight. Given that it started with $9,000, that brings the total amount of the fund to about $35,000.

Harper was also honored Saturday night by being posthumously given the Wells Memorial Key, the Society's highest honor. (Previous Wells Key winners include two journalists with Nashville ties, Frank Gibson and Reginald Stuart.) The award was presented to Terry's widow tonight at the presidential installation banquet on the last night of SPJ's national convention.

Banner writer Robert Churchwell honored with SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement

INDIANAPOLIS -- The late Robert Churchwell, the first African-American member of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of SPJ and a pioneer who broke the color barrier for black staffers at major Southern newspapers, was posthumously awarded SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement tonight.

The presentation was made at the presidential installation banquet on the final night of the 2009 SPJ National Convention in Indianapolis, where the Society celebrated its centennial year.

Churchwell's widow, Mary, and one of their five children accepted the honor on behalf of the late Nashville Banner reporter, who died earlier this year at age 91. The crowd gave them a standing ovation as the award was presented by outgoing SPJ national president David Aeikens.

Mary Churchwell thanked the assembled crowd and joked that, while she knew her husband loved her, she suspected writing might have been his first love. She recalled their children bringing him pieces they had written for school, and his perpetual first reaction: "Hand me a pencil."

Policinski among speakers at SPJ national convention

INDIANAPOLIS -- Our chapter board member Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt University campus, was among the speakers at tonight's president's installation banquet at the SPJ National Convention.

"Without a free press, without journalists, who will hold government accountable?" Policinski asked attendees gathered to celebrate SPJ's 100th birthday over dinner and slices of birthday cake. He introduced a short film clip on the history of the news and its importance in American history and culture.

We jailed Gibson -- and raised $200 for the LDF

Thanks largely to our Middle Tennessee Pro chapter members and former Tennessean colleagues, we had our dear friend (and chapter treasurer) Frank Gibson "jailed" today as part of the "Jail-and-Bail" fundraiser for the SPJ Legal Defense Fund. We raised $100 in filing fees for 20 charges, ranging from "impersonating a University of Tennessee graduate" to "being a nuisance to politicians," and Gibson had to raise $100 in bail to regain his freedom.

Indiana: The Old West. Who knew?

I was pleasantly surprised at Thursday night's opening reception for the SPJ National Convention to learn that the venue -- a museum I'd never heard of, called the Eiteljorg Museum -- is for Western and Native American art. I didn't expect to find such in Indianapolis. The museum looks really cool, and if I get to come back to Indianapolis sometime, I'm going to put it on my to-do list with (finally) seeing the speedway. (This is my fourth trip to Indy, and the third trip this year alone, and I still haven't seen the speedway.)

While walking up the steps to the museum I was impressed by this huge statue right outside the front door, towering over me. I took a picture of it, and a man walking up behind me stopped and asked me if he could tell me anything about it. "Who is it?" I asked. He said it's a Blackfoot man, and it's called "The Greeting," because the man is apparently greeting someone, and he told me all kinds of intricate details about it and the artist, George Carlson. Turns out, the man talking to me was the curator of the museum. You always meet cool people at SPJ convention events.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Former Scene man Tobia among those backgrounded by contractor for DoD

Former Nashville Scene reporter P.J. Tobia, now working in Kabul, Afghanistan, is among the reporters who got checked-up-on by Pentagon contractor Rendon Group. In a first-person piece (via, he called the review "creepy," and shared the contractors' findings about him, including this nugget:

Based on his previous embed and past reporting, it is unlikely that he will miss an opportunity to report on US military missteps. However, if following previous trends, he will remain sympathetic to US troops and may acknowledge a learning curve in Afghanistan.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The scene from the national convention

INDIANAPOLIS -- I'm in Indianapolis for the national convention marking SPJ's 100th birthday! I hope to be blogging some here and also Tweeting (follow me at @jpeebles; I may also Tweet some about SPJ at @texaswatchdog. Meanwhile, follow all convention-related Tweets by searching for the "hashtag" of #SPJ/100).

Tonight kicked off with the opening reception at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art just a couple of blocks from the convention hotel. The highlight of the reception was a live auction, for which SPJ had a real, live auctioneer, to raise money for a memorial fund in honor of late SPJ Executive Director Terry Harper, whose widow attended tonight's event.

Among the items sold at the live auction was a director's chair from the Watergate Hotel -- last year's SPJ convention was in DC -- autographed by Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

There was also a silent auction that included an honest-to-Goodness Associated Press teletype machine used in the 1950s in Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scene, Nfocus sold to SouthComm

As reported by Nashville Post (another SouthComm pub), some words from Chris Ferrell:

“We essentially are unbundling the daily. The City Paper is our brand for news and sports, the Nashville Post and BusinessTN are our business news brands and the Scene gives us the strongest brand in the market for coverage of arts and culture. With this acquisition, we’ve built out our Nashville model. Over time, we will look to replicate our work here in other cities.”

SPJ signs on to letter to stop off-the-record briefings

From E&P's Joe Strupp:

NEW YORK -- A joint letter from a group of news outlets and journalism organizations -- ranging from The New York Times to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press -- is being sent today to some 600 press secretaries urging them to stop the practice of off-the-record briefings.

An announcement from the Sunshine in Government Initiative, which is coordinating the protest, states that the letter is an effort to stop the anonymous briefings that often limit how reporters can attribute information.