Making a statement

Potential problems can percolate up from anywhere – the board, HQ, committee chairs, members, and non-members. Once it does…

1. President conspires with HQ. Staff starts gathering all public info, considers all scenarios, plots out possible (and multiple) statement options.

2. President (or designee) emails the right regional director. Two questions: “What have you heard? What do you have in mind?” RDs certainly don’t have to cover the news, but if they do, they should tell the president. RDs might recruit a close-by chapter to help.

3. President notifies board and asks for inside dope. Sometimes, board members know people and things through weird connections that have nothing to do with geography. Light might be shed.

4. Social starts now. If a problem is potentially statement-worthy, it’s probably in the socialsphere. SPJ should curate that news – because that’s our job, and a statement later on will make more sense. Through social, we should seek engagement and opinions.

5. Release an “on the radar” statement. If a problem appears hefty enough, but there’s not enough data to decide, tell the world we’re watching. If we have boots on the ground, credit those sources. Remind the world that if we discover something’s truly amiss, we have a Legal Defense Fund and other weapons we can bring to bear. Invite feedback from one and all, because we’re still open to persuasion as we complete our reporting.

6. Ask around. After the initial statement, do other organizations want to join us if a full statement is required? Do they want to issue their own if they don’t dig ours? Even if they do nothing, bet they appreciate the call.

7. Release the hounds of hell. If the problem persists, blow it up. What should be in there: SPJ’s opinion up high, background handled succinctly with reliable third-party links for more, and a call to action for our members – even if it’s simply spreading the word or directly messaging the offender.

8. Update on Twitter. Many times, we condemn in a statement and never say another word. HQ should keep curating and updating. And should we be on the winning side, that needs to be touted and shouted.

3 thoughts on “Making a statement

  1. I like the “On The Radar” tag as a good — and prompt — first step so long as we devise an “alert” tool to keep track of and update the status of the issue. (I hate it when we report that so-and-so was arrested, but never supply the folo-on.) As Michael says, by the time we hear of some transgression (alleged or grounded in fact) it’s most likely already out there in the datasphere. And, just like escalating steps in foreign policy, we could/should have degrees of intensity for comments and action on specific issues.

    RE M’s two questions: ““What have you heard? What do you have in mind?” I would add, “…heard and what/who are your sources”? Essentially, “What do you know and how do you know it.”

    That said, SPJ’s reputation for veracity and action are the primary things of value we bring to the table of public discussion.

    1. I don’t know if my comment got to the original list or not. -tj

      ============================================ Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism — Santa Fe, NM USA 505.577.6482(c) 505.473.9646(h) Society of Professional Journalists – Region 9 Director Twitter: jtjohnson slideshare.net/jtjohnson/presentations http://www.jtjohnson.com tom@jtjohnson.com ============================================

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