By: Tony Case Action on member billing, prison calls, Buckley Amendment sp.
RESOLUTIONS CONCERNING billing of members, prison telephone calls and the Buckley Amendment were approved by members of the Society of Professional Journalists at the group's recent convention. A $2-a-member fee imposed by the SPJ board in the spring to help cover the national office's administrative costs was scrapped after complaints by the society's chapters that it caused an undue burden. SPJ executive director Ernie Ford said the association could reduce the fee to $1 by supplying membership information to chapters bimonthly instead of monthly. The society also resolved to ask the federal Bureau of Prisons to re-examine its new telephone system to allow maximum contact between prisoners and the media. Prisoners occasionally provide valuable information to reporters, who the inmates often call collect. The federal prison system is changing its phones to a non-collect system, SPJ noted. The reorganization of the phone system would require that prisoners list 20 people whom they will be allowed to call at their own expense every 90 days. It also would require a person calling an inmate to give information about his relationship with the prisoner.
Military papers threatened
Noting that the Stars & Stripes military newspapers face "new financial threats and difficulties," SPJ called on the secretary of defense, American Forces Information Services and members of Congress to "take all reasonable steps" to ensure that the papers remain an "economically sound, vital information source" for U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. And citing recent threats to the campus press, SPJ, through another resolution, reinforced its commitment to scrutinizing college administrators' application of the Buckley Amendment, also known as the Family Education Privacy and Rights Act. The society pointed out that many colleges and universities have used the law, which restricts them from releasing students' academic, financial and health records, to withhold information ? crime records, for example ? that the public has a right to know. Recent cases in Georgia's university system are setting precedents in the area, SPJ said. The association also resolved to commend President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno "for the actions they took to increase the amount of government information made available to the public." It noted an Oct. 4 memo telling federal agency and department heads that "a presumption of disclosure shall exist for government records" under the Freedom of Information Act.