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30th annual Silha lecture set for Monday

The 30th annual Silha lecture at the University of Minnesota is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, at the Coffman Memorial Union Theatre.

Admission is free and open to the public. The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law sponsors the annual event.

This year’s lecture, “Clear and Present Danger: Covering National Security Issues in the Post-9/11 World” will feature Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist James Risen and media attorney Joel Kurtzberg.

Risen is an investigative reporter for The New York Times whose work focuses on national security and intelligence issues. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes. The first was for his work in 2001 as part of The New York Times reporting team covering the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The second was for his reporting with Eric Lichtblau in 2006 that revealed the National Security Administration’s illegal wiretapping program. In 2006, Risen published State of War, which examined the George W. Bush administration’s U.S. intelligence operations after the September 11 attacks. Federal prosecutors later subpoenaed Risen, demanding that he reveal his confidential source for specific information disclosed in State of War. Risen argued that he had a First Amendment right to protect his source and refused to testify after a federal circuit court of appeals decision ordered that he must. Despite the threat of being jailed, Risen never revealed his source during the years-long battle the federal government fought in pursuing his testimony.

Kurtzberg is a partner at the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP in New York who focuses on general commercial litigation. Kurtzberg has extensive experience in legal issues related to media organizations and the First Amendment. He also teaches a mass media law course as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School as well as a course on Internet law as an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law. Kurtzberg formerly served as the New York State Bar Association’s chair of the Media Law Committee and was an editor of the American Bar Association’s First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee Newsletter. Kurtzberg graduated from Harvard Law School in 1996 and is admitted to the bar in New York.

This Open Access Decision Really Matters

The Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists applauds the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ recent decision to affirm the public’s right to access onboard Metro Transit bus video — in a case brought by local TV station KSTP. KSTP has been engaged in important work to preserve the public’s right to open data. We hope that the Metropolitan Council, which is in charge of Metro Transit, makes the decision to turn over the video KSTP has requested, rather than further appeal the case.

“Open access to records and other information is crucial to good government. We were disappointed when Metro Transit tried to hide this clearly public data and are pleased that the Minnesota courts agree,” said Jonathan Kealing, president of MNSPJ. “Bravo to KSTP for committing the resources to pursue this case until they get the information that the public so rightly deserves.”

The Met Council has argued that the requested video cannot be released because it wants to protect the privacy of its bus drivers, even though the video is from a public setting where passengers themselves can legally take their own video. KSTP says it wants the video to help answer questions about important news events that include a bus driver inexplicably driving off the road and another bus driver who reportedly left his bus and assaulted a bicyclist.

“Because the video recordings were maintained for a variety of purposes, and not solely because the bus drivers were government employees, they are public data,” Judge Margaret H. Chutich wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel that heard the case.

We couldn’t agree more.

Read the full decision here.

Here’s How You Can Make History in Minnesota Courts

The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists and Minnesota Coalition on Government Information commend state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Gildea and the Supreme Court Advisory Committee for allowing more camera access inside the state’s courtrooms. Now we need the help of journalists and activists across Minnesota to demonstrate to the courts that it is possible to respectfully record proceedings in a visual manner, and for the good of everyone.

How can you help? Make yourselves available in the state’s criminal courts–even under the present limited rules–and take video, shoot photos, and cover meaningful news.

Email and, and include the hashtag #SunshineMN in your tweet, to let us know about what you’ve produced from your court appearances. We’ll include links to your work on a soon-to-be-created webpage to highlight the work being done around the state.

It won’t be easy with all the limitations of the two-year pilot, but it promises to provide the public with a glimpse of court proceedings they rarely see in our state.

Here’s a summary of the new rules:

  • You still need to give the judge advance notice, and judges have a great deal of discretion over whether to grant permission.
  • You still cannot film anything going on when the jury is present. (Though, a sentencing hearing is a possibility.)
  • The good news now is that you at least don’t need permission of all the parties in the case–just the judge.
  • Victims cannot be filmed testifying without their permission. But that would usually happen in front of a jury anyway, and would be presently off limits.
  • Read the full court order here.

We have already had some success with cameras allowed during civil cases–the pilot pushed by journalists and legal advocates that preceded this one– which is now permanently adopted. Let’s make this ruling permanent, too, and achieve even more access.

We are on the cusp of a historic change in how court journalism is practiced in Minnesota. It’s up to us to now follow through and deliver on the promise. So let’s get to work!


Jonathan Kealing

President, MNSPJ


Gary Hill

Chair, MnCOGI


Chris Newmarker

President Emeritus, MNSPJ

MNSPJ Joins Motion Challenging Closed-Door Sex Offender Program Meeting

Minnesota SPJ has joined a host of other state news organizations–including the Star Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, KSTP-TV, WCCO-TV and many more–in a court motion seeking access to a meeting about Minnesota’s sex offender program that a federal judge has closed to the public.

Read more about the case here.

More than two dozen public officials, including numerous state legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton, are expected at the Aug. 10 hearing. The stakes are high in this case because it involves fixing systemic problems within Minnesota’s sex offender program. The hearing is likely to be anything but mundane.

The motion, prepared by lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels, drives home the point with a a quote from the late former Chief Justice Warren Burger: “People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing.”

The Society of Professional Journalists, Minnesota Pro chapter, and a host of other news organizations in the state urge U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank to reconsider his decision to close the Aug. 10 meeting.

Update: Minnesota SPJ is disappointed by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank’s rejection of media organizations’ court motion. Reforming Minnesota’s sex offender program is such an important issue that we urge the judge to keep future hearings in the case open to the public. 

2015 NABJ Convention in Twin Cities

The Twin Cities chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists reminds all of us that the national NABJ conference is in our state Aug. 5-9. Registration is available for journalists who want to attend sessions, keynotes and the career fair. But, for those who can’t attend, a number of events are open to the general public. Here are a few highlights. For more details, check out the local website for Twin Cities Black Journalists or

  1. TCBJ presents Mint Condition fundraiser concert: First Avenue, Minneapolis,Thursday, August 6, 8 p.m., $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
  2. JCamp’s 15th Annual All-Star Reception: Rooftop of WCCO TV, Minneapolis, Friday, August 7, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Free, RSVP to Justin Seiter at
  3. In the Footsteps of Gordon Parks events at Walker Art Center: Friday, August 7, 3 of “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey,” Discussion with David Parks, Parks’ son, and Daniel Pierce Bergin, 7 p.m. Free.
  4. NABJ Sports Task Force Scholarship Jam: The Venue, Minneapolis, Friday, August 7, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., $30 for non-member.
  5. NABJ 5K Run/Walk: Lake Como, St. Paul,Saturday, August 8, 8 a.m. (registration 6:30 a.m.) $20 for non-members in advance, $25 on event day.
  6. TCBJ Community Service Project, Saturday, August 8, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Northside Child Development Center, Minneapolis.
  7. NABJ Town Hall on education disparities: Minneapolis Convention Center, Saturday, August 8, 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Meet the 2015-16 Minnesota SPJ Board

Results of our annual board election are in. Here are our new officers and elected/re-elected board members, effective July 1:


Jonathan Kealing

Director of Interactive Properties, Public Radio International



Ben Garvin

Multimedia Photojournalist, KARE 11




Jenna Ross

State News Reporter, Star Tribune




Christopher Snowbeck

Business Reporter, Star Tribune



Elected to 2-year board director terms

Nick Halter

Retail & Sports Reporter, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal


Anna Pratt

Freelance Journalist


Gregg Aamot

Instructor, Normandale Community College and Ridgewater College


Adrienne Broaddus

Reporter, KARE 11


Elected to 1-year board director terms

Nathan Hansen

Education Reporter, La Crosse Tribune


Jay Furst

Managing Editor, Rochester Post-Bulletin


Congrats to our new and returning officers and board members! We’re looking forward to a great 2015-16 for Minnesota SPJ!