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Remembering the Union Hotel

SPJ, NJSPJ mark

hotel’s historic role

SPJ New Jersey celebrated a special event in Flemington where we unveiled a plaque that marked the Union Hotel’s entry on SPJ’s national historic sites in journalism registry.

About 35 people attended the ceremony June 30th  when we presented the plaque to the Hunterdon County Historical Society Library in downtown Flemington. Hear the ceremony at Studio SPJ.

The Historical Society has agreed to serve as temporary custodian of the plaque until the future of the Union Hotel is resolved.

The hotel served as a media hub for journalists who came from around the world to cover the Lindbergh baby kidnap-murder trial which took place at the courthouse across the street in January 1935.

Among the journalists covering that trial were:

  • Arthur Brisbane, one of the best-known editors of his day who worked for the Hearst Newspapers
  • H.L. Mencken, the well-known journalist, satirist and social critic from Baltimore.
  • Dorothy Parker, the wisecracking writer from Long Branch who became part of the famous Algonquin Hotel roundtable writers.
  • Walter Winchell, the newspaper and radio gossip columnist who wrote for the Hearst papers.
  • Damon Runyon, the journalist whose stories about characters in New York City were collected in his book “Guys and Dolls.”

SPJ New Jersey recognizes that the Union Hotel has seen some hard times since 1935 and that it’s not what it was when these journalists came to town.

We also note that there has been a fierce debate over the future of the hotel and its redevelopment.

Our role is not to weigh in on the details of that dispute.

But our plaque says loud and clear that this site represents a significant chapter in the history of American journalism.

We hope that in some fashion the site is preserved for future generations to appreciate.

Special thanks here to Patricia Millen, executive director of the historical society, for taking care of our plaque and making this event possible.

Remembering the CapGazette

The dreadful murders of five people within the Capitol-Gazette newsroom in Annapolis last week has left many of us shaken and sorrowful.

We greatly admire the “Hell Yes” persistence of their colleagues who published their paper while working through their grief.

SPJ New Jersey shares that grief.

At our board meeting in Flemington, we voted to donate $100 to the GoFundMe campaign that was set up to help the families of those whose lives were lost.

It is the least we can do to honor their memory.…

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Plaque unveiling is June 30

The Union Hotel named a Historic site in Journalism by NJ-SPJ, SPJ

Join us in Flemington at noon Saturday, June 30 when the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists unveils a plaque commemorating the role of the Union Hotel as the hub of world-wide media coverage during the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in 1935.

The plaque commemorates the hotel’s role in housing an international press corps that converged on Flemington for the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was tried and convicted for the kidnapping and murder of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Reporters covering the trial included Arthur Brisbane, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Damon Runyon, and Walter Winchell.

The Union Hotel is the first site in New Jersey to be added to SPJ’s National List of Historic Sites in Journalism.

The Society’s Historic Sites in Journalism program honors the people and places that have played important roles in American journalistic history. The program began in 1942.

The plaque will be unveiled at the Hunterdon Historical Society Library at 114 Main St. in Flemington. The Historical Society has agreed to take temporary custody of the plaque until the future of the Union Hotel becomes more clear.

All are welcome to attend this free event.

For further information, contact John Ensslin at 973-513-5632.

Other historic sites

Other historic sites include The Pennsylvania Packet in Philadelphia, the first successful daily newspaper in the United States and first to publish the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution, Freedom’s Journal in New York City, the first Black newspaper published in the United States and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

 …

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2018 conference; new scholarship; Nov. 19 meeting

Hello SPJ members,

I have some big news to share with you: our Regional 1 Spring Conference will be held on April 21-22 at Temple University in Philadelphia.

This weekend of training and discussion – dubbed “For the Love of Journalism” will be a joint production of the New Jersey and Keystone SPJ chapters.

I’m very excited about the prospect of co-hosting a regional conference in Philadelphia. It’s a great city with a rich journalism history and a wealth of talent.

So watch for more details in the weeks ahead and please save the date.

When it rains, we work

The SPJ NJ Board had a very productive meeting on Oct. 29. Heavy rain that day forced the board to meet by a telephone conference call, but we took some significant steps:

The Fran Burns Memorial Scholarship

The board voted unanimously to create a $500 annual scholarship to help a deserving SPJ NJ student member attend our annual conference, starting with the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore on Sept. 27-29, 2018.

We decided to name the scholarship after Fran Burns, a former chapter president who passed away earlier this year. Fran was as loyal an SPJ member as ever there was. And she attended our regional conferences faithfully, even in years where her health presented a challenge. So we believe she would have appreciated this memorial.

The recipient of the scholarship will be asked to present a written report on the conference and to detail their experience via social media.

Watch for more details in the weeks ahead on how to apply for the scholarship.

“Oh, the humanity…”

The board also voted unanimously to add the Lakehurst Air Station to our list of historic sites in New Jersey journalism.

The site is where radio journalist Herbert Morrison broadcast his famous account of the Hindenberg crash.

The crash occurred on May 6, 1937, as Morrison was covering the landing for Chicago radio station WSL. His emotional words “oh, the humanity!” is still one of the most famous examples of live radio reporting.

This brings to three the number of sites on our chapter’s list of historic sites in journalism.

The other two are the Union Hotel in Flemington – where the press corps stayed during the Lindbergh kidnap-murder trial – and the T. Thomas Fortune House in Red Bank – home of a pioneering African-American journalist.

A meeting and a tour

Our next board meeting will take place on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Center for Cooperative Media in the new School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University.

Our meeting will be preceded by a tour of the building. Members are welcome to attend, but please RSVP to me at johnensslin@gmail.com 

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