Today we joined with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 50 other media organizations in issuing a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its subpoenaing of telephone records belonging to The Associated Press.
The DOJ’s actions — gathering two months of records for more than 20 telephone lines, both from major AP bureaus and the home and cell phones of individual AP journalists — is a startling and potentially dangerous overreach of its powers, powers that are strictly limited under the DOJ’s own guidelines for issuing subpoenas to the news media for testimony and evidence.
The range of media organizations that have signed on to the letter and the speed with which we have reacted gives some sense of how strongly ONA — and the journalism community at large — feels about the DOJ’s intrusion and its potential impact on our work in the service of the public. As outlined in the letter, we have requested a swift response from the DOJ on a variety of related issues, and we’ll keep you updated.
Jim Brady, President
Josh Hatch, Chair, Legal Affairs Committee
Welcome to 2013, another year sure to feature significant changes in how we produce journalism, and how the public finds and consumes it. If that sounds like a complaint, it’s not. I actually find that quite exciting, and I hope you do too. It’s not often that any generation gets to invent and define a new medium.
It’s funny, but just about every ONA President’s Letter ever written has prominently referenced the transformation of our industry and our craft. So, as I sat down to write this, it struck me that, instead of referencing that again, maybe we all just need to acknowledge that “change” is our new normal. “Transformation” isn’t the word we should be using, since it implies an end point, a goal reached. It’s “evolution” we’re talking about, something constant and never-ending. And if there’s a perfect group of people to help lead this evolution, it’s the more than 2,000 members of the Online News Association.
Dear ONA12 attendees,
We’re glad you’ll be joining us for the 2012 Online News Association Conference and Awards (ONA12) in San Francisco next month. As we’ve been getting ready for the conference, it’s come to our attention that some attendees and speakers are receiving messages from representatives from a labor union, Unite Here, about an ongoing labor dispute between the union and the Hyatt hotel chain. We wanted to give you some background, clear up any misunderstandings, and let you know, to the best of our ability, what to expect in San Francisco.
Unite Here and the Hyatt Corporation have been in negotiations for two years over a range of issues. While tentative agreements have been made regarding wages and benefits, policies regarding union-membership voting rules and broader Hyatt chain worker safety history remain unresolved. (More details can be found at The Hyatt Corporation website and the Unite Here website and hotelworkersrising.org.)
Because of these unresolved issues, Unite Here has waged a campaign to urge travelers and meeting planners to boycott Hyatt Hotels. We were not made aware of the dispute by Unite Here or the hotel until 2012, a year after we signed our contract with the Hyatt Regency. Pulling out of a binding contract at that point would have been a six-figure cost — a non-starter for a nonprofit organization such as ours. As you know, we rely on the registration and sponsorships that come from our annual conference to provide member benefits and serve our journalism community. So while ONA is supportive of the ongoing negotiations process and has urged both parties to resolve their issues in a timely manner that is fair to all, we will hold our meeting as planned at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco from Sept. 20-22.
Demonstrations ramped up in July, when a group of unions supported a global boycott of the Hyatt hotel chain. The Hyatt Regency staff is not on strike, nor — as far as we can know — are they expected to be, so ONA12 attendees will not be crossing a picket line, although there may be demonstrations. If that changes, we will let you know and offer conference refunds to anyone who feels uncomfortable with the situation by Sept. 12, according to our standard refund policy. At the conference itself, we will urge our media attendees and student newsroom to cover all sides of the issue as they see fit.
First off, I’d like to wish a happy 2012 to all our members. It’s sure to be another exhilarating year for those of us in journalism, and we’re thrilled you’ve chosen to experience it with us. Additionally, I’m personally honored to be serving as President of ONA this year. As a longtime board member, I’ve seen this organization grow dramatically over the past seven years, and I’m proud we’ve been able to build on the original vision our founders had when they created ONA in 1999.
I’m writing today to provide you with an update on our recent board meeting and some other important ONA news.
This was the first meeting of our 2012 board — with new members Mario Tedeschini-Lalli, Burt Herman, Juana Summers and John Keefe all in attendance at the offices of Dow Lohnes in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20-21.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA. With the House Judiciary Committee set to resume debate on the bill later this month, we thought it time to weigh in. As an organization representing thousands of content creators, ONA strongly condemns infringement of intellectual property and the violation of copyright. However, we believe SOPA would do little to stem those problems and would actually cause harm to the Internet and to the American public.
Indeed, the act — and its counterpart in the Senate, the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) — would inappropriately shut down websites, disrupt the free flow of legitimate information and limit Americans from fully exercising their First Amendment rights.
That is why, consistent with ONA’s desire and mission to keep the Internet open and vibrant, we join with others to oppose SOPA and PIPA. Furthermore, we encourage our members to contact their representatives in Congress and ask that they, too, oppose these bills.