Dash-cam videos, new SkillsFest

Hello SPJ members! I hope you’ve all had a good summer and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

Your SPJ New Jersey board had a very productive summer. Here are a few things we’ve been working on.

Friend of the court

This past weekend the board voted unanimously to join in an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit filed by John Paff versus Ocean County.

John Ensslin

Paff is an officer with New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, an open records advocacy group with which New Jersey SPJ holds a permanent seat.

He sought a copy of a police dashboard video from a 2014 incident in which a police dog attacked a woman who allegedly failed to stop in a vehicle pursuit.

Here is a link to a story about the case.

As one of our board members wrote, it is a relatively easy decision to join this case as a “friend of the court.”

To a person, our board believes it is important that police dashboard camera footage be a public record.

A step back in time

Our board had a productive meeting on Aug. 26 in Flemington. We met in perhaps the most elegant surroundings of any meeting in several years: the Doric House next to the Hunterdon County Historical Society Library.

The library had a wealth of materials about the 1935 Lindbergh kidnap-murder trial which took place in the courthouse just down the block and across the street.

For me, the highlight of the collection was a document signed by all the reporters who covered the trial, including one “Damon Runyon.”

Later Regional Director Jane Primerano led us on a walking tour to the now defunct Union Hotel where Runyon and the press corps stayed during the trial.

A new board member

During the meeting, we voted to confirm the appointment of Claire Regan as the newest member of our board.

Claire is a former editor for the Staten Island Advance who now teaches journalism at Wagner University.

She is a former member of the New York Deadline Club’s board of directors where she served on their scholarship committee. She helped Jane organize the most recent Region 1 Spring Conference in New York City.

Claire is a gifted graphic designer. She designed the beautiful medallions that the Deadline Club uses for their Hall of Fame. She also helped our chapter with designing brochures when New Jersey last hosted the spring regional conference in New Brunswick.

She fills the unexpired term of Maureen Nevin. Thanks, Maureen, for your service.

We’re a non-profit (again)

Our chapter received some good news recently from the Internal Revenue Service. We have been approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)6 organization.

What this means for us is that we no longer have to rely upon the national SPJ’s tax exempt status.

A 501(c)6 is typically granted to business leagues such as chambers of commerce or trade associations.

They are used to promote a common business interest, and to improve business conditions in an industry

Thanks to chapter treasurer Elizabeth Oguss and her predecessor Ron Miskoff for their work on getting this status re-instated after it had inadvertently lapsed.

The return of SkillsFest

One of several bright spots for our chapter this year was our SkillsFest 2017 training day that took place in April on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The first-time event drew 22 professional and student members to a day of training in the use of audio, video and social media apps for journalism purposes.

This event was so successful that we’ve decided to try it again. The second SkillsFest is tentative scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, again at NJIT in Newark.

Watch for more details in the weeks ahead.

Remember to cast your vote

This week, hundreds of SPJ members will converge on Anaheim, Calif., for the annual Excellence in Journalism Conference.

Miriam Ascarelli, our immediate past president, will be our delegate to the convention, where she’ll cast the chapter’s two votes on some significant proposed changes to the makeup of our national board.

Miriam also will be accepting the Howard Dubin award for being an outstanding pro chapter member. We’re so very proud of her.

Even if you can’t attend this year’s convention, you do have an opportunity to help decide several contested elections for the national board.

You can find information on the candidates here.

And watch your email this week for your official ballot.

Next stop: William Paterson University

Our next board meeting will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. on the campus of William Paterson University in Wayne.

While we are there, we hope to meet with members of the journalism department as well as a group of students who are hoping to form their own SPJ campus chapter.

As always, any SPJ board member is welcome to attend our board meeting. Watch for more details on directions and parking.

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