Learn about NJ’s sunshine laws

In honor of Sunshine week, our friends at the NJ Foundation for Open Government are holding a free open government seminar in Camden County on Monday, March 13, 2017 from 7-9 p.m. at the Bellmawr Baptist Church, 328 Creek Road, Bellmawr. The discussion will focus on New Jersey’s Open Public Records and Meetings Acts (OPRA and OPMA).  Attorney Walter Luers, who specializes in OPRA and OPMA matters, will be speaking. Handouts and light refreshments will be provided. Be sure to bring your questions. To register, click here. For more information, email NJFOG at info@njfog.org or call 732-992-6550.…

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Feb. 11 Google workshop

Meet other journalists and other data-minded folk at our free Google training on Saturday, February 11 at Brookdale Community College. The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will cover how to use Google Fusion Tables and Google My Maps plus offer an overview of Google News Lab. Space is limited to 50. You must RSVP by Wednesday, Feb. 8. For more information, click here.…

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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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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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