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News Release: Oct. 26 celebration of SPJ’s designation of Red Bank home of T. Thomas Fortune as a historic site in journalism

Please let us know if you plan to attend! Click here for the registration page


• Miriam Ascarelli, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists,
• Gilda Rogers, vice president, T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, 732-383-5483

RED BANK — The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the T.
Thomas Fortune Foundation will join together on Oct. 26 to co-host an afternoon of festivities to celebrate the African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune and SPJ’s recent designation of Fortune’s Red Bank home as a historic site in journalism.

The celebration, to be held at the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, 94 Dr. James Parker Blvd., Red Bank, will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cultural center — which opened this year –once served as the home of Fortune and his family.

The family lived there from 1901 until 1911. Although Fortune’s story has been largely forgotten, Fortune was co-owner and editor of The New York Age, one of the leading black newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He used his newspaper as a vehicle to speak out against lynching, black disenfranchisement and other injustices. In addition to the unveiling of a bronze plaque from the Society of Professional Journalists designating the Fortune home as a historic site in journalism, the program will feature a talk by Dr. Walter Greason, president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, about how Fortune influenced the development of Red Bank and also helped to radicalize the black press.

After the ceremony, there will be tours of the newly restored Fortune house and an opportunity to see the cultural center’s current exhibition, Afrofuturism & Afrofuturist Design: From Ancient Dogon to Wakandan Futures. Light refreshments will also be served.

Fortune’s home — which he named Maple Hall — was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and the New Jersey Register in 1979. However, by the early 2000’s, the house had fallen into disrepair and was slated for demolition.

It was saved from the wrecking ball in 2016, thanks to the efforts of local activists and developer Roger Mumford, who came up with a plan to restore the house and convert it to a cultural center and to build 31 luxury apartments in the style of the home in the back of the property.

The restored home re-opened as the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center at Fortune Square this past May. The Society of Professional Journalists’ National Historic Sites in Journalism program is completely separate from the historic site registries administered by the state and federal governments. Thanks to a nomination by the New Jersey chapter, SPJ named the Fortune House a National Historic Site in Journalism this summer.…

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Access 101: Journalists cannot be barred from public meetings

NJ-SPJ is very concerned about an event on Wednesday at City Hall in Newark where members of the media were prevented from covering a public meeting. Below is a video from NJTV explaining what happened and the ramifications for the public:

To quote the SPJ mission statement: “It is the role of journalists to provide  . . . information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely and understandable manner.”

At no time is that more important than in the middle of a public health crisis.

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Reminders: Red lines in Journalism

In response to a confrontation that took place Aug. 3 at a newsworthy event in New Brunswick, where a private security guard took a journalist’s camera and later grabbed him in the hotel lobby and led him to the street, the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJ-SPJ) believes it is essential to remind the organizers of public events about the importance of observing legal and professional protocols on which all journalists depend for their safety and livelihood.

The events of Aug. 3 involve a speech by CNN journalist April Ryan at the 4th Annual NJ Parents Summit, an event to which public registrants had been invited. During Ryan’s speech, a man identified as a bodyguard assigned to Ryan took down the tripod from which Charlie Kratovil, the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, had been filming, seized his camera, and later physically removed Kratovil from the venue.

Kratovil had been invited to cover the event by a public-relations firm working with the organizers, had gone through the registration system and RSVP’d his attendance, did not conceal his video-recording activity, and had no outward indication that videography was prohibited in the venue. (Journalists had been freely admitted to cover other events during the Summit, including shooting video.)

Details of the specific event are disputed, and may be sorted out in the coming weeks by the legal system, as Kratovil has stated that he will press assault charges. Nevertheless, the larger issue of journalists’ ability to safely cover events of public interest and importance is a recurring one of great importance to the SPJ and its members.

As a first principle, it is never under any circumstances permissible for a person aggrieved at being photographed or videotaped to lay hands on the journalist, or attempt to take away the journalist’s equipment. This is a bright-line rule from which all journalists benefit, and which must be observed and enforced rigorously. Even in the event of a trespass (and Kratovil, a registered guest, was not a trespasser), the only proper recourse is to notify law enforcement, not resort to “self-help.”

Moreover, “ground rules” about the use of recording equipment at events to which members of the public are invited should be clearly spelled out, in advance, to all attendees. To the extent that recording is to be restricted, such restrictions should be uniformly enforced — or unenforced — among all attendees, regardless of their media affiliation.

While journalists may have no special rights superior to members of the public, they do not have fewer rights than others.  A no-photography policy should apply to everyone. Nor should the perceived viewpoint of a news organization be regarded as grounds to deny admittance to a member of the media; people who make news do not have a license to dictate how and by whom they are covered.…

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R.I.P., John Ensslin

Update: A celebration of the life of John Ensllin will be held Sat., Aug. 17 from  3-6 p.m. at the Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square, Princeton.

Please R.S.V.P. to Mary Anne Greenberg (John’s sister) at

This is a short post to let our members and supporters know that John Ensslin, beloved friend, colleague and journalist extraordinaire, died this morning. John was a  former national president of SPJ who we were lucky enough to have on our local chapter board. He recently finished a two-year stint as president of the New Jersey SPJ chapter, but he was much more than that: He was the rudder of our chapter, always steering us in the right direction with wisdom and generosity. He will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Denise, and to his family.

To learn more about John and his impact on journalism, read this beautiful tribute written by a colleague at Colorado Politics, where John had been working since last spring.

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