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Rearranging the Deck Chairs


Take that, News-Press: Nine journalists who quit the paper are being honored with an Ethics in Journalism Award.

SPJ honors Santa Barbara journalists with Ethics Awards

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is presenting an Ethics in Journalism Award to nine California journalists who resigned rather than accept and enforce a series of top-management decisions at the Santa Barbara News-Press that they believed violated provisions of the SPJ Code of Ethics.

When they left the News-Press in July, all nine journalists, including five top editors and a veteran columnist, cited improper ownership and management meddling in the editorial content of the privately owned newspaper. They pointed specifically to sections of the SPJ Code of Ethics that call upon journalists to “distinguish between advocacy and news reporting” and to be “accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.”

SPJ traditionally steers clear of management-employee disputes, and understands the prerogatives that come with newspaper ownership. It does not take a position either way on formal workplace grievances or union activity resulting from internal disputes.

Nevertheless, the Society has concluded that the tumultuous events that led to collective resignations at the Santa Barbara News-Press were precipitated by breaches in the newspaper’s foremost ethical obligation – to its readers – and is proud to support those who have put ethical convictions above professional security.

Selected for the national journalism organization’s highest ethics award are:

· Jerry Roberts, former executive editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

· George Foulsham, former managing editor.

· Don Murphy, former deputy managing editor.

· Gerry Spratt, former sports editor.

· Michael Todd, former business editor.

· Jane Hulse, former city editor.

· Colin Powers, former presentation editor.

· Former columnist Barney Brantingham, a fixture at the newspaper for 46 years.

· Scott Hadly, former reporter.

The Ethics in Journalism Award honors reporters, editors or news organizations that distinguish themselves by performing in an outstanding ethical manner as defined by the SPJ Code of Ethics. News organizations around the world have long regarded the Society’s Code of Ethics as the defining standard of ethical conduct among professional journalists.

“We pay tribute to the courage and principled sacrifice of these nine journalists, who opted to risk their livelihoods rather than remain in a position where they felt their journalistic ethics and professional credibility were being violated,” said David Carlson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Carlson said the Society decided to present the awards after initiating a comprehensive inquiry into the issue. The investigating team, which included several national board and committee members, solicited the views of many of the honorees as well as News-Press owner and Co-Publisher Wendy McCaw before deciding to recognize the nine journalists.

Roberts will accept the award on behalf of the nine Santa Barbara journalists on Saturday, Aug. 26, during the President’s Installation Banquet at the 2006 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Drive.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

Coincidence? Right after News-Press journalists petitioned the feds Thursday to hold an election on unionization of the newsroom, management staged a major shakeup, according to sources. Many of the same people who signed cards asking for an election found that their beats had been switched, in some cases far distant from their specialties and experience.

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