Sunshine, Window and Wall Award Winners Announced

On Wednesday, March 14, please join the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at 57 Degrees as we celebrate Sunshine Week and continue our annual tradition of recognizing the most (and least) transparent public agencies. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. This year, we’re adding a fun twist to the event and inviting PIOs from city, county and state agencies for a casual meet-and-greet mixer with SPJ members and journalists from other media orgs. We’re hoping it’ll be an opportunity to put names to faces and get to know each other a little better in a relaxed, fun environment.

What: Annual Window, Wall and Sunshine Awards

When: Wednesday, March 14, 6:30 p.m.

Where: 57 Degrees, 1735 Hancock St., Middletown

RSVP here

Sunshine Award

This year’s Sunshine Award winner is Guylyn Cummins, a communications attorney with Sheppard Mullin who’s spent more than three decades fighting on behalf of reporters, media organizations and the public to hold government accountable and defend First Amendment rights. Honoring Cummins is long overdue — for years, she’s been San Diego media organizations’ go-to lawyer when public agencies and elected officials refuse to release critical information. At the end of 2017, she announced she was going into semi-retirement, and one of her last cases was particularly meaningful for San Diego SPJ: Cummins was part of the legal team that successfully challenged, pro bono, the county’s attempt to force local journalist, and SPJ board member, Kelly Davis, to testify and turn over material relating to her reporting on jail deaths. The case highlighted the critical need for a federal reporter shield law, an issue that Cummins has long championed and one that we’re certain she’ll continue to fight for.

Wall and Window Awards

Our Window Award goes to a public official or agency that prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know. The Wall Award goes to a public official or agency that ignored media requests or otherwise compromised the public’s right to know.

Window Award

Kendal Bortisser, a retired public information officer and fire captain for Cal Fire San Diego, is the recipient of our 2018 Window Award. For more than three years, Bortisser provided assistance to journalists across San Diego County outside of and during fire emergencies. That work continued even after Bortisser’s December 2016 retirement. He returned to work during the Lilac Fire to help media personnel get into evacuation zones and provided minute-by-minute updates to the public on the fire’s progression. When he wasn’t responding to media calls during emergencies, Bortisser made a point to stop by each newsroom to provide fire safety seminars that covered journalists’ rights to information and access in emergency zones. Bortisser has always performed his duties in a transparent manner, helping journalists deliver the facts quickly and accurately to viewers and readers.

Wall Award

San Diego County government is the recipient of our 2018 Wall Award. During an unprecedented hepatitis A outbreak last year that killed 20 people, left hundreds of others ill and made countless more residents and tourists fear for their health, county officials lagged on declaring a public health emergency. While officials ultimately offered regular updates on some elements of the emergency and on the county’s response, their replies to formal record and data requests fell well short of full or timely disclosure. County officials refused to release ZIP-code-level data on hepatitis A cases for weeks and only did so after a demand from a lawyer for Voice of San Diego. The county also refused to release the names of the dead, where they lived or where they died—information that multiple news organizations requested on behalf of the public and which would have gone a long way toward easing public health concerns. As The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board wrote, “their lives merited more than statistics and their deaths make details crucial to members of the public.” More recently, county officials targeted freelance journalist and local SPJ board member Kelly Davis in court after she exposed the deaths of dozens of people in its jails. The county’s expensive legal attempt to subpoena notes, require testimony and reveal confidential sources, rejected by a judge, represented an unconscionable failure of transparency and a misguided attack on a journalist instead of an attack on the very real and important problems she uncovered.

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The Walls & Windows of San Diego Journalism

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will continue its annual tradition of recognizing the most helpful and least helpful sources from public agencies in 2017.

The Window Award will go to the public official or agency that most prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know in 2017.

The Wall Award will go to the public official or agency that made it hardest for journalists to do their jobs in 2017, ignoring requests or otherwise compromising the public’s right to know.

Your nominations are key to our selection process. Give us your nominations here.

We’ll give out both awards in March, along with our prestigious annual Sunshine Award, which recognizes individuals and groups for making important contributions in the area of open government. Stay tuned for event details. And thanks for taking part in this invaluable exercise to protect the public’s essential access to information.

Better Journalism lineup announced

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is proud to announce its second yearlong series of “Better Journalism Workshops.” Learn from some of the best journalists in San Diego and across the country. We will demonstrate how to excel on multiple platforms, master the art of getting public records, improve your investigative reporting skills and how to interview people in trauma. You will leave with tips and strategies that will pay instant dividends at your job.

The sessions are free and open to anyone. We strongly encourage you to join or renew your SPJ membership to help make programs like this possible.

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Where: San Diego Central Library, Shiley Suite (9th floor), 330 Park Blvd., San Diego 92101

RSVP: http://bit.ly/2ELIF6U

 

Tuesday, Feb. 20

SUCCEEDING ON MULTIPLE PLATFORMS: Learn how to shoot eye-popping photographs and video and capture high-quality audio

Kris Arciaga, video journalist, KPBS

Kinsee Morlan, engagement editor, Voice of San Diego

Howard Lipin, photographer, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Tuesday, April 24 

MASTERING THE ART OF GETTING PUBLIC RECORDS: A conversation with Jason Leopold, senior investigative reporter, BuzzFeed News

With Felix Tinkov, partner, Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak

Tuesday, September 25 

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: A conversation with Amy Brittain, investigative reporter, The Washington Post

With Amy Julia Harris, reporter, Reveal.

Tuesday, Nov. 27 

INTERVIEWING PEOPLE UNDER TRAUMA: From wildfires to high-profile crimes and much more, finding people under difficult circumstances and interviewing with skill and care

Rory Devine, reporter, KNSD (NBC7 San Diego)

Lyndsay Winkley, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

TBD

Join us as we ‘Grade the Media’

Remember the man who stole a truck to drive victims of the Las Vegas shooting to the hospital? San Diegan Taylor Winston is among the panelists who will discuss how they’ve been treated by the media at this year’s Grade the Media event.

Sponsored by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, report cards will be handed out on the Point Loma Nazarene University campus on February 28. These panelists were the subject of big news stories this past year and this is their chance to talk about what it was like to be in the spotlight. Moderated by Claire Trageser of KPBS, the panel includes:

Taylor Winston – The Iraq war veteran from Ocean Beach who put his life on the line during the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Tony Manolatos – A PR consultant working for several high-profile clients, including the San Diego school system, the campaign against community choice aggregation and Councilman Chris Cate following his decision to share a confidential memo.

David Alvarez  This San Diego City Councilman spent 2017 wrestling with such issues as local governments’ hepatitis A response, homelessness, and vacation-rental regulations.

Dulce Garcia  A Dreamer and immigration attorney who has sued President Donald Trump.

Where: Colt Hall on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego

When: Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Mixer at 6 p.m., panel at 6:30 p.m. 

Admission: Free; light refreshments provided. Please RSVP here.

For related news before the event and live tweets during the discussion, follow @GradeTheMedia on Twitter. Join in the conversation that night using the hashtag #spjgtm. 

Writers symposium tickets available

The San Diego Pro Chapter of SPJ is helping bring author and columnist (and basketball legend) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to San Diego on Feb. 22 as part of the 23rd annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University. Since retiring from basketball, Abdul-Jabbar’s commentaries on social issues have appeared in Time magazine, the Washington Post and the New York Times. He released two books in 2017, “Becoming Kareem” (for young readers) and “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court.” He has written several books for young readers, including mysteries, science fiction and a collection of historical essays called Black Profiles in Courage.

Our local chapter has participated in bringing great writers to the Symposium for many years. The Symposium runs Feb. 19-23.

In addition to Abdul-Jabbar, Symposium speakers include novelist Jane Smiley, NPR podcaster Krista Tippett, mind/body expert Deepak Chopra, and filmmakers Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray. There is also a workshop for veterans, focusing on writing about conflict, with NPR’s Kelly McEvers.

Student discounts are available. Tickets are at  https://www.pointloma. edu/events/writers-symposium- sea.

For more information, contact Symposium assistant Randy Meza at randymeza@pointloma.edu or 619-849-2695.