Panel on News Councils at SPJ National Convention in Chicago

Washington News Council Executive Director John Hamer took part in a panel on news councils at the Society of Professional Journalists’ national convention in Chicago on Aug. 26.

The SPJ panel – “News Councils as a Tool for Building Public Trust” – focused on how news councils can aid the media and democracy by holding journalists accountable to their own standards of accuracy, fairness and balance.

SPJ invited Hamer to organize the panel, whose other members were:

– Gary Gilson, Executive Director, Minnesota News Council (

– Bill Babcock, Executive Director, Southern California News Council (

– Bill Densmore, Executive Director, New England News Council (

The Minnesota News Council ( was established in 1970. The Washington News Council was created in 1998. And the Southern California and News England councils were formed this year (see item below) after a national contest administered by the Minnesota and Washington councils, which awarded two $75,000 start-up grants to the new groups. The awards were made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (

About 50 people attended the panel discussion, which was one of several concurrent sessions at the SPJ convention at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Each executive director described his organization briefly, then invited questions from the editors, reporters and journalism students who attended.

Hamer gave a brief history of the Washington News Council and discussed its many and varied activities — including public forums, student mock hearings, scholarships, and the annual Gridiron West Dinners. He noted that WNC has a current complaint against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from the King County Sheriff’s Office, but we are still in the 30-day (extended to 45-days) resolution period and we cannot discuss the specifics or merits of the case at this stage, under WNC guidelines.

Hamer made available copies of the WNC brochure, our latest newsletter, a sheet of testimonials (“Why We Need News Councils”), his recent (July 16) op-ed from the King County Journal, his column from the April 2006 Quill (SPJ magazine), and copies of the P-I (Aug. 15) and Seattle Weekly (Aug. 23) stories about the complaint.

SPJ videotaped the panel and may stream it on their website or make DVDs available for purchase. Call the WNC office at 206.262.9793 for further information.


“100 Friends of the WNC” — Distinguished Group Growing Fast!

The Washington News Council has formed100 Friends of the WNC. Members pledge to donate $1,000 a year for three consecutive years to help support the News Council’smission. Friends also receive two tickets to our annual Gridiron West Dinners.

Members so far include: Nancy Alvord, Minoru & Yoko Arakawa, Tom Barwick, Richard & Edwina Baxter, James Bianco, Steve Boyer, Herb & Shirley Bridge, Suzie Burke, Doris Cassan, Pedro & Laura Celis, Tom Cock Jr., Jane & David Davis, Tom Downey, Jennifer Dunn, Jim Ellis, Bill Gates Sr., Margo & Andy Gordon, Martha Kongsgaard & Peter Goldman, Austin & Ina Hamer, Ken & Cathi Hatch, Tom & Peggy Hayward, Richard & Elizabeth Hedreen, Bob & Pat Herbold, Sandeep Kaushik & Elizabeth Goodwin, Betsy Lieberman & Richard Groomer, Grant & Marci Larsen, Bruce & Jolene McCaw, Chuck & Tracy Nordhoff, Chuck & Cathy Novak, Mary Odermat, Vic Odermat, Mary Pigott, Joe & Jaynie Putnam, Harry & Ann Pryde, Skip Rowley, Bill & Jill Ruckelshaus, Sandy Schoolfield & Jon Kechejian, Karen Seinfeld, Helen Silha, Stephen Silha, Gary Smith, John Stanton & Theresa Gillespie, Sid Snyder, Craig & Joan Watjen.

If you’d like to join this distinguished group, please call our office at 206.262.9793 or go to the “Click & Pledge” box at the top of this page.