A battle over prior review and editorial freedom at The Red & Black, an independent school newspaper at the University of Georgia, apparently has ended.
A separate conflict within SPJ that developed along the way still lingers.
Michael Koretzky, SPJ’s director for Region 3, which includes Georgia, sent Katherine Tippins, a journalist, to the University of Georgia last week to investigate what was happening and report back. Koretzky posted and commented on her findings.
I wondered if there had been a misunderstanding between them about whether Tippins was an emissary for SPJ as a whole or for Koretzky as the regional director.
This is actually my third attempt to comment on this conflict on my blog. My second try was Tuesday morning, but I waited so I could hear Ensslin’s side. I’m glad I did. He emailed it to me Tuesday night; it’s posted below.
As I suspected, Koretzky and Ensslin had different expectations.
Koretzky says he arranged the trip and mentioned it as a courtesy to Ensslin, who seemed to approve.
Ensslin wanted a thorough investigation and a reasoned response from SPJ as a whole. He thought Koretzky agreed on that plan.
I wondered: What freedoms and boundaries do regional directors have?
They are elected by a small percentage of the members of their region – whoever attends the regional meetings at the national convention. For Region 2, that might mean maybe 30 people deciding an RD on behalf of at least several hundred. (This year’s switch to One Member, One Vote will improve that process.)
As members of the national board, RDs are sometimes placed on committees or assigned tasks. That might mean reporting to the president, as Koretzky quoted Ensslin saying in their exchange.
This is the email Ensslin sent me Tuesday night:
Here’s a bit more about what happened:
This is a case where I felt it was important for SPJ to speak with one voice when addressing a troubling incident.
My practice as SPJ president has been to do a fair amount of due diligence and fact gathering before writing a letter that states the Society’s concerns or outrage on any particular issue.
Call me old school, but it’s no different that when I write a story for The Record. I interview as many of the stakeholders as possible and then write the story.
This is not a new practice with me. It’s been a tradition among previous SPJ presidents as well.
Often I rely upon our chapter leaders or regional directors to assist me in this fact-finding process.
So for example, when a Temple University photojournalism student was arrested this spring while taking pictures for a class assignment, I consulted both with Luther Turmelle and the president of the SPJ Philadelphia chapter president before writing a letter of protest to the police commissioner.
In the Georgia case, I turned to Michael as Region 3 director and Neil Ralston, our VP for campus chapter affairs for their guidance.
Unfortunately, either Michael misunderstood his role or I failed to clearly communicate it to him. Rather than report back to me with his findings, he chose to post both them to his regional director blog.
This presented two problems. First, Michael already has come under criticism for not attempting to at least interview some of the stakeholders in this case before reaching his conclusions.
Second, by posting them to an SPJ hosted blog, it would be easy for readers to mistake Michael’s opinions as a statement of SPJ’s position in the matter.
For those reasons, I asked him to take down the blog post, which he did, albeit under protest.
I don’t necessarily disagree with any of Michael’s findings. But I did feel the need to ask some additional questions before delivering an opinion that will be SPJ’s position in this matter.
I have crafted an SPJ response to this case, which will be going out tomorrow.