SD-SPJ concerned about SPJ national conference sponsor selection process

San Diego SPJ has sent a letter to SPJ National board president Alex Tarquinio and other national board members to share its concerns about what seems to be a lack of transparency and rigor in the process for selecting sponsors for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference.

Here is the text of that letter:

Dear Ms. Tarquinio and members of the SPJ national board,

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is concerned by the apparent lack of transparency and rigor in the system for selecting sponsors for the Excellence in Journalism conference. While we are sympathetic to NAHJ’s decision to rescind its 2019 EIJ sponsorship invitation to Fox News and return a portion of the sponsorship funds contributed by Fox News, the purpose of this letter is to share our more general concerns with the process for choosing conference sponsors, especially those whose actions may conflict with core SPJ values.

Last year, we were one of many chapters that expressed concern over the Charles Koch Institute sponsoring a conference panel. We praised SPJ’s decision to form a task force that created a new policy for vetting sponsors. We’ve been told that the SPJ board followed this policy when choosing the 2019 conference sponsors.

Yet, that vetting process remains vague. The only details shared publicly are that the EIJ Planning Committee vets proposals submitted by media and non-media entities.

We’d like to see the sponsorship task force reconvene and develop more specific sponsorship guidelines. Any group that provides SPJ with financial assistance should demonstrate a commitment to SPJ’s Code of Ethics. Guidelines should specify what would preclude sponsorship — for example: clear affiliation with a political party, a history of uncivil discourse or a pattern of deliberately spreading misinformation. The absence of such standards will only increase the likelihood that controversy will again overshadow what should be a celebratory event.

Sincerely,

San Diego SPJ

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Congratulations 2019 Award Winners

Thanks to everyone who made it to our awards banquet last night! It was a splendid evening with great attendance. If you didn’t make it, here is the final list of who won what and comments from the judges.

Our Journalist of the Year, KPBS border and immigration reporter Jean Guerrero, gave a rousing speech that you can view here.

If you were not able to attend and would like to snatch your 1st place plaque or 2nd or 3rd place certificates, please send us an email at spjsandiego@gmail.com. Congrats to all the winners!

Without Changes, AB 5 Will Harm Freelance Journalists

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SD-SPJ) would like to update its members on a piece of legislation that could impact the careers of freelance journalists in the state.

For the last few months, SD-SPJ has been keeping an eye on AB 5, legislation authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego. AB 5 seeks to codify into law a recent state Supreme Court ruling about how workers are classified. 

The ruling created a three-pronged “test” for differentiating between independent contractors and employees for purposes of certain California wage laws. The second prong, which has raised concern among freelance journalists, columnists, photojournalists, and other content creators states that a worker will be considered an employee if he or she performs work that is within the usual course of the hiring entity’s business. The Supreme Court ruling essentially made it impossible for a newspaper to use freelancers to produce content and, as a result, some media companies have severed ties with California freelancers.

While we agree that employers need clarity on how to classify their workers, SD-SPJ and other media organizations have asked Gonzalez to consider adding exemptions to the bill that will allow California-based freelancers to continue to work and media companies to continue to hire them. As introduced, the bill would have required newsrooms to make freelance writers part-time employees — something editors will tell you is easier said than done for reasons that have nothing to do with the worker exploitation this bill seeks to address.

Gonzalez has said she’s open to amending the bill and has been taking input from a number of organizations. But the latest amendment by the Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee is, in our opinion, not workable. The provision, added Wednesday, would limit to 25 the number of “submissions” a freelancer can produce annually for a client. This cap raises a number of concerns for us including how “submission” is defined. What about a photographer who shoots dozens of photos for one assignment? What about freelancers who write a weekly column? Additionally, even if ambiguities in the term “submission” could be resolved, we believe that 25 submissions per year per client is too low.

The California Newspaper Association came up with a sensible proposal that we thought fairly addressed concerns on both sides. You can read the proposal here.

Freelancers play a vital role in adding diverse voices, experiences, and viewpoints to published platforms of all sorts. We appreciate Gonzalez’s concern that workers not be exploited, but we fear that newsrooms and other outlets will simply cut freelancers rather than hire them as part-time employees or deal with cumbersome, vague rules. We hope that as AB 5 moves towards a final Senate vote, Gonzalez and other state lawmakers will sit down with journalists and come up with a solution.

Congrats to our board election winners!

Thank you to all of our members who cast ballots in our most recent board election. Please join us in congratulating incoming board members Arthur Santana and Lauren J. Mapp, and returning board members Bianca BrunoMatthew Halgren,  Lisa Halverstadt  and Elizabeth Marie Himchak. You can read a bit more about Lauren and Arthur below.

And don’t forget our banquet in three weeks!

SPJ San Diego is having its annual banquet on July 17Tickets are still available for purchase here. Join us in celebrating our journalist of the year, Jean Guerrero, and all of our award winners!

Lauren J. Mapp


Lauren J. Mapp is a recent graduate from the San Diego State University School of Journalism and Media Studies. She is currently an intern at inewsource, a contributing editor at Times of San Diego and a freelance reporter for North Coast Current. Over the years, Mapp has covered a variety of topics from public transportation and education to sustainability and the local food scene in San Diego. She previously wrote for The Daily Aztec at SDSU and was the editor in chief of The Mesa Press. Mapp was also a staff writer at Indian Time and The People’s Voice on the Akwesasne Kanien’kehá ka Mohawk Reservation before moving to San Diego in 2005. During her time as an SPJ San Diego board member, Mapp aims to increase newsroom diversity and work to help increase equitable coverage of underrepresented communities.

Arthur Santana


Arthur Santana is an associate professor of journalism at San Diego State University. Prior to joining SDSU in 2015, he was a journalism professor at the University of Houston. For the past 11 years, he has taught and researched journalism. His published research focuses on participatory media, user-generated content and the intersection of journalism, politics and social media. Prior to joining academia, Arthur was a reporter and editor for 14 years, including at the San Antonio Express-News, The Seattle Times and The Washington Post. He’s been the recipient of journalism awards from the Washington, D.C. Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. At the Post, he was part of a team of reporters who were nominated for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. In 1993, Arthur earned a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He received an M.S. in 1996 from Columbia University, and in 2012, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. In the fall, Arthur will begin this third year as SPJ advisor to the SDSU SPJ chapter.