During the past few weeks, since the reality of the new President has emerged, I have a very good friend who has been asking, "What can I do?” She is not only not in agreement with the President-Elect, but also finds him reprehensible due to his disrespectful behavior and comments. She is not one to sit around and expect things to change on their own. Well-spoken, knowledgeable, and intelligent, she is an activist and motivator.
On this moment ahead of the Presidential Inauguration, I know she is not alone. A new president will be sworn in just a few hours from now, and some (many?) of us are scared about our freedom of speech, among other rights.
Today, I share actionable items, something that she, and you, can DO with your pocketbook of course, but more importantly, with your intelligent conversation with friends, your FB and social media feeds, and with your principles. I'm talking about following and reading up on the SPJ, the Society of Professional Journalists.
SPJ is a nonprofit more than 100 years old that works every day to protect and safeguard our First Amendment rights. Although "journalist" is part of the name, the organization is comprised of journalists and non-journalists alike, individuals from all professions who believe that a strong, objective free press is the cornerstone of democracy. Unfortunately, we are faced with an incoming administration that may crush those rights and freedoms.
To show you the kind of work SPJ does, just this week, SPJ joined with more than 60 journalism organizations (yes, there are that many journalism organizations and more around the world) to request a meeting with PE Trump and VPE to discuss journalists' access to government.
This is the kind of stuff SPJ does on a regular basis, pressuring the administration on behalf of the public. It has HQ in Indianapolis and chapters throughout the US.
As a member of the Seattle SPJ chapter since 2009, I volunteer with the SPJ FOI (Freedom of Information) committee trying to preserve our right to access public records. Also, as a member of the SPJ International community, I work to improve the safety of journalists working in dangerous regions around the world.
So, click here for SPJs special campaign about joining.
But don't let this come across as a New Year's plea from yet another worthy non-profit desiring a much- needed donation. Really, it’s not so much about the money (although I’m sure they would love your donation), but getting yourself informed.
Read up on what the SPJ does on behalf of the public. Here's the press release with the information about the SPJ letter to PE Trump I've mentioned above.
And for those of you also saying, "What can I do?" these are ways to join in the protection of the First Amendment:
- Look up #PressThePrez on social media.
- Join SPJ today.
- Make a donation to SPJ, the biggest journalism organization in the United States.
- Write to me, a freedom of the press advocate who covers free speech and First Amendment issues, and tell me how I can help strengthen your right to free speech.
Lastly, I will share with you that since 2010 I have traveled internationally talking with reporters in Johannesburg and Pretoria (South Africa), Reykjavik (Iceland), Paris (France) and in other parts of the world, and time and again, they all have cited the United States as the bastion of press freedom.
They say, “Jennifer, you have the Washington Post, the New York Times, Watergate, Woodward & Bernstein.” They know the names and the institutions; in some cases, they have earned a journalism degree at the very competitive Columbia University (NY) studying our media. They look to the US as a role model in this regard.
If we cannot secure, preserve, and strengthen our free speech freedoms, especially during a time of threat, then how can reporters and the public in repressed regimes around the world have hope of democracy and their freedom of expression?
Independent Journalist & Freedom of the Press Advocate