Convention Delegates Pass 11 Resolutions-Three to Address Media Coverage of War

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BELLEVUE, Wash. - Delegates to the 2001 Society of Professional Journalists National Convention adopted 11 convention resolutions Oct. 6; three of them focused on media coverage of America's war on terrorism.

These resolutions, approved at the Society's Main Business Session, addressed obtaining public information on the terrorist attacks, ethical coverage of the war on terrorism, and fairly and accurately telling the story of diversity in the war.

"This is not only one of the most momentous events in the history of this country, it is just as momentous in the history of journalism in this country," said SPJ President Al Cross, political writer and columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. "We must be careful not to get so caught up in the national cause that we lose our independence, which is the basis of our credibility, or our abilities to gather and disseminate the information that citizens want and must have."

The resolution on obtaining information - authored by the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee - addressed releasing names of the persons arrested and detained in the United States as suspected terrorists, getting names of injured and deceased persons in a timely manner, prohibiting military officials from reviewing news reports for security issues prior to publication and other numerous other issues that might impede journalists' work.

"I wanted to make sure that the body of the Society of Professional Journalists put its full force and weight behind this resolution and therefore behind our efforts with other journalism organizations to make a bold statement about the relationship between the government and the media at this important time in our nation's history," said Freedom of Information Committee Chairman Ian Marquand, special projects coordinator at KPAX-TV in Missoula, Mont.

The other resolutions on media coverage of the terrorist attacks state the Society's position on ethical, diversified news coverage of such events.

"I think it's important that SPJ reinforce the four principles we have emphasized in our Code of Ethics in every opportunity and in every situation," said SPJ Ethics Committee Co-Chairman Fred Brown, capital bureau chief at The Denver Post. "Even in the most rapidly developing stories, journalists need to pause and to remember and to live up to those principles."

The SPJ Diversity Committee encourages journalists to tell the story of the diversity of the human experience boldly even when it is unpopular to do so.

"In these times of heightened patriotic passion, it's especially important that journalists don't lose sight of their commitment to seeking the truth and telling an accurate story," said SPJ Diversity Committee Chairwoman Sally Lehrman, an independent journalist at BestWrit. "We must redouble our efforts to reach outside our own experience and report on the complexity of the diverse populations that make up the United States and the world."

The complete text of the 11 2001 SPJ Convention resolutions follows.

RESOLUTION NO. 1 A RESOLUTION ON PRESS COVERAGE OF THE WAR ON TERRORISM

WHEREAS American news organizations have a distinguished history of providing the public and government officials with essential information during times of warfare and national crisis, and

WHEREAS a free and autonomous press is as central to the preservation of democracy as is a strong military, and

WHEREAS media organizations have handled information concerning troop movements and deployments in a responsible manner during past conflicts, and

WHEREAS in light of the terrorist attacks on September 11 the role of the press in informing the nation about public safety concerns and the military and diplomatic actions of its government will be tested in novel and profound ways, and

WHEREAS during the Persian Gulf War, the Department of Defense inhibited news coverage of combat operations by forcing reporters and photojournalists into small pools controlled by military officials and tried to exercise editorial control over news content, and

WHEREAS the Pentagon and the news media subsequently reached an accord regarding coverage of military campaigns that recognized that open and independent reporting would be the norm for such coverage, and

WHEREAS military public affairs guidelines acknowledge that the dissemination of timely and accurate information concerning combat operations serves the interests of the U. …