August 2008

Dear Chicago Headline Club Members:


I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer. As your newly elected Chicago Headline Club President, I would to thank you for being a member and personally encourage you to contact me at any time.


As you may know, the Chicago Headline Club began on November 21, 1921 and is the largest chapter of Society of Professional Journalists in the country with more than 400 members. Our mission is to provide professional development programs and discuss freedom of information, ethical, and diversity issues.

It is the mission of the Society of Professional Journalists:

– To promote this flow of information.
– To maintain constant vigilance in protection of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.
– To stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism.
– To foster excellence among journalists.
– To inspire successive generations of talented individuals to become dedicated journalists.
– To encourage diversity in journalism.
– To be the pre-eminent, broad-based membership organization for journalists.
– To encourage a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely.

Please keep up to date on events at or call 312.553.0393


The Chicago Headline Club board is in the process of planning out programs for the coming year. We would love to hear any suggestions and ideas. Feel free to contact me, Dawn Reiss, at 312.590.1921 or (I’m a Chicago-based freelancer and a former St. Petersburg Times and Dallas Morning News staff writer who work has appeared in 30+ outlets including: Travel + Leisure, American Way, Chicago magazine,,, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. I’m best known for my quirky off-beat features about everything from eating crickets and scaling temples in Cambodia or dog sledding in Alaska to cross-dressing Italian deli owners and 70+-year-old blind salsa dancing couples. I’m also the former co-chair and co-founder of the National SPJ Freelance Committee.)






Vice President of Programs and President-Elect is Beth Konrad, a professional in residence at University of Loyola. Please contact her at or (312) 915-6534.


Beth’s career in communication spans more than two decades covering a wide variety of positions in media, corporate, academic and civic affairs. She has been a reporter, anchor, news director, editorialist, business owner, corporate executive and an advocate for social causes and community development. She is the recipient of three Emmys, the National Headliner Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Distinguished Service Award, numerous AP and UPI awards and several community leadership citations. She is the faculty advisor for Loyola’s SPJ campus chapter and a trained volunteer counselor for SPJ’s national Ethics AdviceLine.




If you are interested or have questions about your membership, please contact the newly elected Vice President of Membership, Laura Putre, at or (312) 505-0201. Laura is a freelance journalist who has written for O Magazine, the Chicago Reader, Indianapolis Monthly, and the Advocate, among many other publications.






If you are interested in Freedom of Information or have questions, feel free to contact Sue Stevens at or (312) 733-1936.



Struggling with an ethical dilemma on deadline or just want to talk about a tough call you’ve had to make? Call the free ethics line: 866-DILEMMA (866-345-3662)





The Legal Record Corporation has 10 small weekly newspapers around Illinois. We are looking to hire freelance writers to cover soft news and community events, board meetings, festivals, exhibits, business spotlights and some entertainment news for Kane County. Pay starts at tiny_mce_marker.15 a word, usually around 500 words a story. We will need these writers starting in early August. Assignments could be weekly. The writer would be contacted on Mondays or Tuesdays with Sunday night deadlines.


If you have any questions, please let me know. Writers interested can email resumes and samples to Brandon Bressner at


Mark your calendars and please join us:



Kick Off the Annual Les Brownlee Series!

Join us for the Les Brownlee Kick-off media mixer from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. Aug. 24 at the home of Priscilla Ruth MacDougall, the widow of Les Brownlee, at 537 Judson in Evanston.


Mix and mingle with other journalists. Food and drinks will be provided.


Les was a Chicago Headline Club president and SPJ’s first African-American member. His widow, Priscilla Ruth MacDougall, is a former journalist and a long-time attorney for the Wisconsin Education Association. She is best known for fighting for women’s rights and challenging the Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in Forbush v Wallace that mandated married women must use their husbands’ surnames on their driver’s licenses.


This event is open to the public and other non-Headline Club members. No RSVP necessary.


A donation of $10 is suggested, which will go to the Chicago Headline Club Foundation. Copies of “Les Brownlee: The Autobiography of a Pioneering African-American Journalist” will be available.





The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) National Conference will be held in Chicago August 6-9 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown at 540 North Michigan Avenue.



The Society of Professional Journalists National Convention will be held in Atlanta September 4-7.


Here is a list of a few programs that will be offered at the national SPJ convention:


10 NEW Tech Things to Try Today: Become More Skilled and Efficient on the Web
Description: Having a tough time keeping up with all the technology changes around you? Worried that there’s some new tech tip or cool site that all your friends and family already know about but you don’t? Then this fast-paced seminar aimed at writers and other media professionals is for you. You will learn about some terrific new ideas that will make you more efficient, help you with your work, and improve your online life. You will leave with more than 10 ideas, a useful handout and a whole new outlook on technology. After this YOU will be the one showing off to your friends and family.

Speaker: Sree Sreenivasan, professor and dean of students, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, co-founder, South Asian Journalists Association and technology reporter, WNBC-TV



Pursuing the Lead: A Study of Persistence and Payoff on the Bigger Story
Description: An interest in looking into an area of state government and education not routinely covered leads to tips and evidence of broader corruption in Alabama’s two-year colleges. This is a case study of how larger, more significant news stories can be found in an area previously considered not interesting enough to have a beat reporter devoted to it. There are investigative stories on all beats and subjects, and ways to get to them when others don’t want you to have the information. Getting around the obstacles, why it’s important to stick with it and a reminder why every government institution that receives taxpayer money needs a watchdog, will be discussed.
Speaker: Brett Blackledge, general assignment and special projects reporter, Birmingham (Ala.) News, 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism


Photojournalism for Reporters
Description: Newsrooms are changing rapidly. Still Photographers are shooting video, newspaper reporters are taking still photos for blogs and radio reporters are taking still photos for Websites. David Handschuh has been a staff photographer at the New York Daily News for 20 years and is a self professed newsroom dinosaur. But together, we’ll learn to survive the ice age, improve our photography and traverse the megapixels. Bring your work on a CD for critique.
Speaker: David Handschuh, photojournalist, New York Daily News

Wow! That Tape Looks Good
Description: What goes into a killer audition tape and what should you make sure NOT to put on it. How long should it be? How can I make my packages more compelling? What about my “look?”

—————————————————————————————————-From The Weather Channel: Do’s & Don’ts Covering Severe Weather
Description: The Weather Channel has become a pre-eminent source for news and information when severe weather is about to happen, when it hits, and what happens afterward. Learn the “do’s and don’ts” of safely covering dangerous weather situations.
Speakers: Keith Westerlage, vice president of On-Camera Meteorology, The Weather Channel; Jeff Morrow, on-camera meteorologist, The Weather Channel; Mike Seidel, on-camera meteorologist, The Weather Channel

Crunching the Crime Numbers
Description: The annual FBI crime stats will be out in late September/October. The data is rich in great, local enterprise stories, but you have to know how to find them. Participants will walk out of this workshop ready to do at least five compelling crime stories that will work in print, broadcast or online. You’ll also get a preview of the new Investigative Reporters Handbook: Understanding Crime Statistics.
Moderator: Deborah Wenger, second vice president, Criminal Justice Journalists
Speaker: Steve Beatty, reporter, Atlanta Journal Constitution; Dr. Robert Friedman, criminologist, Georgia State University; Jeremy Kohler, reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists

Hi, I’ll Be Suing You Today
Description: If you libel or slander someone on a major story, L. Lin Wood could be the man who’ll sue you. Once called “the lawyer for the damned,” he has represented Richard Jewell, the family of JonBenet Ramsey, Gary Condit, and Beth Holloway (mother of Natalee). In 2007, he signed on to represent Howard K. Stern, executor of Anna Nicole Smith’s estate. He’ll discuss defamation concerns and what NOT to do during a “media frenzy.”
Speakers: L. Lin Wood, partner, Powell Goldstein LLP

Exposing Bad Politicians through Public Records
Description: This session will outline useful public documents and online sources for exposing bad politicians and corrupt candidates. Learn how to use document cross-checking techniques to spot conflicts of interest, shady votes, business dealings and illegal spending practices.

—————————————————————————————————-FOI Warriors: Learn All About the New FOIA Amendments
Description: Experts on the amendments Congress recently passed to the Freedom of Information Act will tell you all about the drama leading up to the new law, what the new law says, and what it means for journalists engaged in using FOIA. Learn which provisions are likely to end up in litigation, as well as which parts of the law will help journalists get better and quicker access to federal government information.
Speakers: Daniel J. Metcalfe, executive director, Collaboration on Government Secrecy; Lucy Dalglish, executive director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Laurie Babinski, associate, Baker Hostetler
It’s Not If It Happens, It’s When It Will Happen
Description: Whether it’s a natural disaster or terrorism, having a prepared newsroom will result in better coverage for your readers and better physical and emotional health for your staff. Having a pre-plan and being proactive in knowing what to do when something bad happens is an important part of any business. In the news business, it’s crucial. This panel discussion will bring managers and editorial staff that have worked through disasters and talk about what worked and what was learned by working through a disaster.
Speakers: Mike Walter, anchor, WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.; Lois Norder, managing editor, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Chris Cramer, former international desk chief, CNN; Ron Martz, president, Military Reporters and Editors

————————————————————————————————–Telling Historic Stories in a Multimedia World
Description: Who hasn’t been asked to report and write the “anniversary” story of a disaster or a death or a community/nation-changing event? It takes real digging to put together a package with depth and perspective. As more and more newspapers use their on-line outlets to capture and keep readers, these historic stories need the multimedia touch. The session will demonstrate how to plan, research, report and produce an historic story package (print stories, photos with audio, and graphics) for today’s audience.
Speakers: Gary Schwab, projects editor, Charlotte Observer, Bonnie Stewart, assistant professor, West Virginia University

It’s Not YourTube or YourSpace
Description: The internet offers an inexhaustible supply of photos, film clips and other juicy tidbits, deceptively free for the taking. Using material gathered from the internet raises tricky questions both of law (copyright, defamation) and of ethics (verification, attribution). This phenomenon is only growing more complex as news organizations augment their coverage with user-generated content and the work of “citizen journalists.” From “don’t Taze me bro” to “Client 9,” a look at the legal and ethical issues presented when relying on third-party content gathered on-line. The internet offers an inexhaustible supply of photos, film clips and other juicy tidbits, deceptively free for the taking. Using material gathered from the internet raises tricky questions both of law (copyright, defamation) and of ethics (verification, attribution). This phenomenon is only growing more complex as news organizations augment their coverage with user-generated content and the work of “citizen journalists.” From “don’t Taze me bro” to “Client 9,” a look at the legal and ethical issues presented when relying on third-party content gathered on-line.
Speaker: Frank D. LoMonte, Esq., executive director, Student Press Law Center


They’re Everywhere: Finding Great Stories Off the Beaten Path: 20 Tips Your Editor Won’t Tell You
Description: Whether you cover a beat, write features or general assignment, the first step for any reporter is coming up with story ideas. In this session, you’ll learn ways to unearth compelling tales from your community and your life. And you’ll hear tips about how to recast recurring stories. Guaranteed: You’ll walk away with something to write about.
Speaker: Lane DeGregory, features writer, St. Petersburg Times
Figuring out Blogs and Whatever’s Next
Description: Want to know more about the best blogs FOR and BY journalists and how you can join the blogging revolution as a consumer and/or creator of blogs – and how to make sense of all the other new technologies changing our business? Topics covered include blog basics, blogs that are changing America and the world, blogs that are over hyped and a waste of time, how to read blogs without drowning in too much info, how to create a blog and raise your Google rankings and why journalists should or should NOT be blogging. What’s next? Photoblogging, videoblogging, podcasting, wikis, RSS, XML. All levels of experience are welcome – blog skeptics to blog fanatics. You will go home with plenty of useful ideas and a printed handout that you will use often.
The Real World of Campaigns: Making Politics Matter
Description: Beyond the stories about who’s ahead in the polls, the latest political gaffe and the newest campaign strategy are the stories that go to the heart of politics: the stories that connect politics to governing. To cast an informed vote, citizens need to understand what the winning candidate will do about the economy, schools, health care, crime, suburban sprawl, tax rates environmental protections and, in the case of federal offices, war and peace – all the issues that affect our daily lives. If reporters are going to connect a politician’s campaign promises to the real world, they must take a difficult first step, a step that defies our instincts and our training: Take the candidates seriously. That means reporters have to make themselves familiar with the issues and figure out how to get factual information accurately and quickly. We’ll provide strategies and techniques to do just that, along with tricks, short cuts and specific sources of information.
Speaker: Jon Margolis, former chief political reporter, Chicago Tribune; Deborah Gump, director of print/online, Committee of Concerned Journalists

For more information on the convention please view: You can register online, by mail or by calling Linda Hall, 317/927-8000 ext. 203


Again, if you have any questions feel free to contact me at or 312.590.1921.


Dawn Reiss

Chicago Headline Club President 2008-09