My favorite part of belonging to the Society of Professional Journalists is advocating in support of free speech and a free press. This has been true throughout my experience as a chapter president, a member of the Legal Defense Fund committee and a national board member.
In January 2012, when I took up the reins of The Deadline Club, SPJ’s New York City chapter, the city was gripped by the Occupy Wall Street protests. One of my first actions was to lead a delegation of board members who met with New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to discuss the arrests of journalists covering these protests. We partnered with the National Press Photographers Association to advocate on behalf of photojournalists who were arrested or interfered with by police. I created an advocacy section of the chapter website, where we published statements about protecting press access to police incidents, keeping cameras in state courtrooms, and protesting a new state law that made it harder for citizens to view gun ownership records.
Since joining SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund committee last year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much of the work involves the careful reading of amicus briefs. Yes, SPJ stands ready to support journalists financially, especially freelancers who don’t have the legal support of the media outlets where their work was published or broadcast. But the power of our reputation as the largest and most broad-based journalism organization also frequently gives credibility to legal arguments in defense of our First Amendment freedoms.
As your national president, I will work to put advocacy front and center — wherever free speech is threatened.