Access, The Medill Loss, and Congrats!

Here’s what’s up this month


Access! – Saturday is a big day for journalists and the public our motto is “Protecting the Public’s Right to Know.” We need you Saturday 9:30 a.m. at Loyola University’s Water Tower Campus, 820 N. Michigan Ave., Lewis Towers, 16th floor Regents Ballroom. We will have representatives from city, county and state government on hand. You are the experts who we are asking to teach these governments what we and the public need to know. And you will be able to ask them tough questions. This is a follow-up to our survey, in which journalists reported dismal access to information. Here is your big opportunity to improve the situation. The session will run to around noon. Free and includes a complimentary continental breakfast. Put this on your calendar. Now. It is extremely important. RSVP now.

Medill Loses – The Chicago Headline Club takes issue with a judge’s ruling that Northwestern University journalism students are not covered by the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act in their investigation of a murder conviction. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Cannon ruled Sept. 7 that Northwestern must turn over to the State’s Attorney’s office about 500 e-mails that Medill School of Journalism students exchanged with former Innocence Project director David Protess. Cannon said the state law covers student journalists, but not those acting as investigators in a criminal case. The Headline Club strongly disagrees. Northwestern got 10 days to decide whether to appeal. No decision yet. For more, see the Chicago Sun-Timesand Chicago Tribune.

Amicus brief – The Society of Professional Journalists has signed on as a supporter of the Chicago Tribune Co. in its challenge of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees’ attempt to conceal records involving preferential treatment of well-connected applicants to the state university system. The brief was filed Aug. 19 after the U of I board appealed a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois requiring disclosure of the material. The U of I maintains that the records are protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which was established to shield student academic records from public view for privacy reasons. However, since it was enacted, the law has been widely abused to shield information about everything from disciplinary proceedings for serious crimes to parking tickets. Read our full release here

Congratulations to our SDX winners – The foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists has announced its Sigma Delta Chi Awards winners for 2010, and Chicagoans did well. Our winners: 

WBEZ Chicago Public Media staff for public service in radio journalism.

Neil McLaughlin, Modern Healthcare, for editorial writing in a non-daily publication.

Matt Marton & Larry Ruehl, Southtown Star, for feature photography in newspaper circulation up to 50,000.

Read all about them here.

More congrats … DePaul University has been named SPJ’s national Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year. The chapter was also named the most outstanding student organization at DePaul for 2010-11. In its first year, the DePaul chapter presented cutting-edge programming, a successful membership recruiting campaign and strong communications within the chapter and beyond. Programming included the creation and monitoring of the Twitter hashtag #SPJchat, used by students to discuss issues in journalism, filming a Project Watchdog video, offering social media training for high school students, and coordinating speakers and panels for SPJ DePaul members. The chapter also recruited more than 50 members. 

And more – Northwestern University students did well in this national competition. North by Northwestern has the best independent online student publication, and its Edwin Rios was a finalist in feature writing. Lizzie Schiffman was a finalist in radio features. Read more here.

See you in New Orleans? – Let us know if you are going to the SPJ convention. So far, we know these people are going: CHC President Stephen Franklin, Vice Presidents Alden Loury and Rummana Hussain, past presidents Howard Dubin (also past treasurer), Casey Bukro (Ethics AdviceLine founder) Beth Konrad and Susan S. Stevens. But there always are others who decide to attend and we’d love to get together with you. Here or there. Give us a heads-up. Please and thanks.

Remembering Les – Thanks to all who came and donated! More than 50 gathered Aug. 21 in memory of Les Brownlee, former CHC president and first black member of SPJ. The annual event was again hosted by Les’s wife, Priscilla Ruth MacDougall. We raised about $1,500, which will go into the CHC Foundation fund for the Les Brownlee Scholarship. This year, we had barbecue contributed by Hecky’s (who was a boyhood friend). You can still contribute to this scholarship and our two internships, named for the late Kathy McClelland and Mary McAndrew. Donate online through our website

We’re proud of Randi – CHC board member Randi Belisomo, whose late husband Carlos Hernandez Gomez was previously a board member, continues to honor him. First, a scholarship at his alma mater, DePaul University. Now, a well in Haiti. Details about her trip to Haiti and her reaction to what she saw are at her WGN-TV blog.

Members – You know all we have to offer including Watchdog grants, legal defense funds, Lisagor, and an upcoming list of programs we plan. Keep your membership current. Urge your colleagues to join. And keep in touch at And check FacebookTwitterand SecondCityNewsies!

— Susan S. Stevens

— President ex-officio