NJ-SPJ annual contest opens Jan. 4

Start your new year off right by entering our annual Excellence in Journalism contest!

Submissions will be accepted from Wed., Jan. 4 until 11:59 p.m. March 1 for all categories except the Awbrey — which, because of the extra documentation needed for this prestigious local journalism award, closes a week later. Any journalist who lives or works in New Jersey or who reports about New Jersey or the region is eligible to participate. Cost is $25 per entry for non-SPJ members and $20 for SPJ members. (To join SPJ, click here.)

For our list of our 50+ categories, click here. For eligibility guidelines and directions on how to enter, click here. If you need extra help navigating the system, don’t hesitate to call our contest administrator Terry Williams at 619-743-3669 or email her at spj.nj@cox.net.

Want to help? Our contest (like our chapter) is run completely by volunteers. Submissions are judged by members of another SPJ chapter, with whom we swap entries. If you’re interested in helping us judge contest submissions from our SPJ trading partner, drop us a line with your contact information and journalism bona fides at newjerseyspj.feedback@gmail.com.


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NJ-SPJ objects to search warrant issued against New Brunswick Today

CONTACT: Miriam Ascarelli, NJ-SPJ president
Phone: 862-576-1256
Email: prez@njspj.org

NJ-SPJ statement on search warrant issued against New Brunswick Today

The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists strongly objects to a decision by a Superior Court judge to authorize a local police department to execute a search warrant against New Brunswick Today in order to recover an old water meter that the newspaper was using to investigate alleged corruption at the New Brunswick Water Utility.

The search warrant was signed by Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Colleen M. Flynn at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20. Less than a half hour later, two New Brunswick Police officers knocked on the doors of the newspaper in search of the water meter as well as the memory card from the camera that was used to produce a broadcast about the water utility. After a cordial 13-minute conversation that was recorded on video by Editor Charlie Kratovil, Kratovil turned the water meter over to the police.

As for the memory card, the broadcast was live streamed on Facebook so no such storage device exists, Kratovil told the officers.

NJ-SPJ takes search warrants against news organizations very seriously. Such search warrants are rare. They can have chilling effects on journalists and deter them from investigating instances of government misconduct. They also circumvent the New Jersey Shield Law and the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 which were enacted to protect against such governmental seizures by providing a judicial subpoena process where journalists and news organization have an opportunity to be heard before being required to disclose or provide such sought after material.

In this case, the water meter was given to Kratovil by a confidential source, and it was featured in a video that was posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page on Dec. 16. In that video, Kratovil showed viewers an old water meter that he said came from a local business where, curiously, the meter showed water usage to be zero.

“I don’t know,’’ Kratovil told his viewers. “It looks like this meter might have seen a little bit more water go through it. We’ve been exploring what could potentially lead to this, and we actually showed this to someone who used to work at the New Brunswick Water Utility, and he said – and I quote – ‘This is proof there is a crime committed here.’ ’’

It is the nature of journalism that reporters sometimes receive leaked information. Sometimes that material is illegally obtained by a third party. However, that does not make it illegal for journalists to use it.

Perhaps the most famous example of leaked information obtained by a third party is The Pentagon Papers. In that landmark 1971 case, the U.S.…

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Rally in Trenton! NJ-SPJ speaks out against “newspaper-revenge bill”

It’s not over til it’s over. Legislators arrived at the statehouse in Trenton this morning, only to discover protesters from all over the state expressing their opposition to a pair of bills that would remove the requirement that legal notices run in newspapers.

NJ-SPJ was there too, thanks to board members Emily Kratzer, Bob Schapiro and Ron Miskoff. And as Emily, Bob and Ron said over and over again in interviews today, we oppose the bill for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, it opens the door to corruption because it allows governmental entities to pressure cash-strapped news organizations to give them favorable coverage in exchange for potential revenues from legal notices. (Remember: the bill makes running the notices in a newspaper optional.) It also creates the temptation for politicians to hide information from the public in the far corners of governmental websites.

Supporters claim that the measure will save money — but how? If the ads are to be posted on governmental sites, those sites will need to be secured against hacking. That costs money. It also requires personnel, something that will certainly strain smaller communities. As for the proposal in the bill to create a state-wide aggregator website run by the NJ Office of Information Technology, that, too, will add up to more taxpayer expenses.

During their visit to Trenton, Emily, Bob and Ron managed to button hole  Senate President Steve Sweeney, who, when pressed about why he allowed such a bad bill to move forward, replied, “I’m working on it, I’m working on it.”

Does this mean that there’s hope that the bill may be voted down after all? Votes for both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled for this afternoon. Stay tuned!



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Reinvention 101

Journalists who have been laid off or are looking for work are invited to attend “Life After The Newsroom,” a free luncheon, panel discussion and networking event on Monday, Dec. 12 at The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. The event will feature a panel discussion by those who have either been let go from legacy organizations or who took a buyout, and who have forged new or different career paths for themselves. The panel includes Chris Satullo, formerly of WHYY and the Philadelphia Inquirer, now running Keystone Civic Ventures; Mike Rispoli, formerly of Gannett and now of Free Press; Sandy Levine, formerly of NJN and now an independent documentary and video producer; John Mooney, also formerly of The Star-Ledger and now of NJ Spotlight; and Tanya Barrientos, formerly of the Philadelpha Inquirer and now of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The luncheon starts at 1 p.m.; the program itself kicks off at 2 p.m. Space is limited to the first 75 people who sign up. For more information, click here.…

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Huge layoffs coming at North Jersey Media Group

The bad news many have been dreading since this summer when the Gannett Co. Inc. purchased The Record and the dozens of community newspapers that comprise the North Jersey Media Group came to pass yesterday with the announcement that 426 employees will receive pink slips by the end of the week. About half of those being laid off are expected to be rehired for new positions created as part of a restructuring, meaning the net job loss will be about 200, the company said.

Gannett bought the North Jersey Media Group in July from the Borg family, which had owned the NJMG for more than 80 years.…

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