2019 SPJ San Diego Area Journalism Competition

CALLING ALL WINNERS! SAN DIEGO SPJ IS NOW ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR OUR 2019 CONTEST.

The 2019 SPJ San Diego Area Journalism Competition will recognize outstanding work by San Diego-area student and professional journalists published or broadcast during the calendar year 2018. Contest entries will be accepted through Monday, April 8. Those submitted by 9 p.m. PST on Monday, April 1 will get $5 off their entry fees in every category but our top and special awards. Student rates do not change.

This year’s Distinguished Coverage Award will honor stories about migrations and movements. People engage in movement(s) for many reasons: to escape harm, to seek opportunities, to improve their communities, and to bring attention to issues. Did your outlet cover it best? Each outlet should submit their best story, series, or show, along with a 500-word essay on why the coverage merits recognition. This award is open to all outlets and the fee to enter is $100.

We are also accepting applications for five $1,000 San Diego SPJ scholarships and one $1,000 Agnes Diggs scholarship from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation we look forward to handing out to eligible local journalism students.

Winners will be announced in mid-to-late-May or early June.

Submit your entries using the BetterBNC Media Awards Platform. If you have entered other contests on this platform before, either for last year’s contest or for the SD Press Club, you are already in their system and you just have to ask to enter the 2019 SPJ awards contest.

Below are directions for preparing and submitting entries. If you have questions, please contact Terry Williams at 619-743-3669 or spj.sandiego@cox.net.

All contest entries must be submitted online (except for entries in the College Media Best Newspaper category, which must be mailed and postmarked by the contest deadline to SPJ to P.O. Box 880482, San Diego, CA 92168-0482). All entries must be entered by or on behalf of the individuals who produced the work and must identify those individuals.

To register or enter the contest online now, open a new browser window or tab to http://www.betterbnc.com. Keep this window open to refer to as you submit your awards.

1. HOW TO ENTER

2. CONTEST GUIDELINES AND CATEGORIES 2019

3. FAQS 2019

4. SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION

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AB 700 Will Undermine the Public’s Right to Know

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is disappointed that another piece of legislation has been introduced that would weaken the California Public Records Act.

AB 700 would amend the CPRA to exempt from disclosure certain records relating to state university researchers, including researchers’ correspondence. The bill would apply to researchers at California community colleges, the California State University system, the University of California system, and any medical facility or laboratory affiliated with those institutions.

AB 700’s proponents say these exemptions are needed to curb alleged abuse of the CPRA by people trying to discredit researchers and/or obtain information for personal gain. But the solution isn’t to take away the public’s right to information. Countless examples, including professors’ undisclosed financial relationships and medical studies that were compromising patients’ health have shown that journalists’ ability to obtain records relating to research is necessary to hold public universities accountable.

Disclosure: University-employed board members were recused from crafting this statement.

Join us as we ‘Grade the Media’

The San Diego Society of Professional Journalists is proud to host its annual Grade the Media event at Point Loma Nazarene University on Wednesday, April 17. These panelists were involved in big news stories this past year, and now’s their chance to talk about what it was like to be under the spotlight. The panel is moderated by Andrew Bowen of KPBS. Guests include:

Ammar Campa-Najjar – The Democratic congressional candidate who lost a hard-fought race against Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter.

Tasha Willamson – A community activist who has advocated for families that have lost loved ones to police violence.

Judith Castro-Rangel – The special education aide who shot viral video of a woman being taken away from her children by Border Patrol agents in National City.

Ron Roberts – A longtime San Diego County supervisor whose term expired last year.


Where: Fermanian Conference Center on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego

When: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 Social hour at 6:30 p.m., panel at 7 p.m.

Admission: Free; light refreshments provided.

San Diego SPJ asks Sen. Ben Hueso, City Attorney Mara Elliott to rethink proposed changes to state records act

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is deeply troubled by proposed state legislation that would make it more difficult for journalists and the public to understand how government works and hold officials accountable.

Senate Bill 615 — introduced by state Sen. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat — sets an extremely high bar for anyone who successfully sues for the release of public records to recover attorney’s fees and costs. Currently, the California Public Records Act includes a provision that allows requesters to recover fees if a court rules an agency has improperly withheld records.

This provision is of critical importance. Media outlets and ordinary citizens can’t afford to go to court to force the disclosure of records unless they’re able to recoup attorney’s fees. The threat of lawsuits — and the requirement that government agencies pay successful requesters’ attorney’s fees — helps keep agencies honest and encourages them to voluntarily disclose records.

SB 615 seeks to remove the teeth from the California Public Records Act by permitting requesters to recoup attorney’s fees only in narrowly defined circumstances, including when records “clearly” subject to disclosure are withheld or when an agency “knowingly, willfully, and without substantial justification failed to respond to a request.” The California Newspaper Publishers Association’s general counsel says this is “a standard that’s nearly impossible to meet.”

This change would eviscerate the California Public Records Act by making it financially impossible for requesters to sue uncooperative agencies, and it would remove the only incentive for government agencies to follow the law. Under SB 615, agencies could withhold public records with impunity, knowing that if they were challenged, they wouldn’t face any consequences other than having to disclose the records they should have provided in the first place.

Hueso and the bill’s chief sponsor — San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott — say public agencies throughout the state have been overwhelmed by records requests — though Hueso cites only three examples, including the city of San Diego, which says it fielded 4,824 requests in 2018, up from 749 in 2012. Hueso’s office says “budget constraints, limited resources and the ever-increasing amount of requests can hamper the effectiveness of government and unnecessarily exhaust taxpayer dollars.”

The solution to an increase in public records requests is not to remove the only tool the media and the public have to enforce state law. There are many other ways to address an influx of  requests, including more staffing, better staff training and publicly posting data and information that’s frequently requested. Any additional cost to taxpayers would be a small price to ensure journalists, public interest groups, community groups, advocacy organizations and taxpayers can obtain documents that illuminate how government operates.

The bill would also require requesters to “meet-and-confer” with an agency before bringing a lawsuit. In public discussions of the bill, Hueso and Elliott have focused on this less controversial provision, distracting attention from the bill’s attorney’s fees provision. Given the exchanges that already occur between requesters and agencies prior to lawsuits, the meet-and-confer requirement strikes us as superfluous.

We are disappointed in Sen. Hueso and City Attorney Elliott’s attack on government transparency and the public’s right to know. Obtaining records is often extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive. SB 615, if approved, would seriously undermine California’s public records law and give officials free rein to conduct the people’s business outside of public view.