Join Maine SPJ for a law discussion, lunch

Media attorney Sig Shutz, of Preti Flaherty, will meet with Maine SPJ on Wednesday, April 8 at 12 p.m. Shutz will talk about Freedom of Access issues, recent libel cases and review how the fair reporting doctrine affects reporters’ work.

The discussion will take place at Preti Flaherty’s office, at the top of One City Center, and there’s a $5 per person charge. Maine SPJ will provide lunch — sandwiches and wraps from City Deli — and parking stubs from the City Center garage can be validated.

Please RSVP by Friday, April 3 to Irwin Gratz at Checks can be made out to “Maine SPJ” and sent to Gratz at MPBN, 323 Marginal Way, Portland, Maine, 04101.

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Register now for SPJ Region 1 conference

The SPJ Region 1 spring conference is from April 17-18 at Hofstra University, in Hampstead, New York. The Press Club of Long Island and the Hofstra University student SPJ chapter are hosting the event. Details about accommodations, registration and the conference schedule are available at

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Save the date: Maine law discussion

The Maine Pro Chapter will host a lunchtime discussion with media attorney Sig Schutz on Wednesday, April 8. Details will be coming soon.

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Peering Through the Dark: Reporting On Campaign Finance

Maine SPJ and the Maine Association of Broadcasters are hosting Peering Through the Dark” Reporting On Campaign Finance In the 2014 Elections on Saturday, May 17 at the University of Southern Maine Abromson Center from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The seminar will feature Kim Barker of ProPublica, Eve Byron of the Institute on Money in State Politics and Jonathan Wayne of the Maine Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices. As we move into Campaign 2014, find out how to track contributions and expenses in federal and state campaigns. Our speakers know the law, where to find information and tips on how best to report it.
The fee is $20 for members of SPJ Maine and Maine Association of Broadcasters stations, $40 for non-members.
Checks can be made out to “Maine Pro Chapter, SPJ.” They can be sent to Irwin Gratz, c/o MPBN, 323 Marginal Way, Portland, ME 04101.
R.S.V.P. by Monday, May 12 to
Questions? Call 329-6203

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Save the date

Maine SPJ and the Maine Association of Broadcasters are partnering to offer a workshop on how to track campaign spending and turn that information into compelling stories. The morning workshop is set for May 17.
Details are coming soon.
Look forward to seeing everyone there.

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SPJ’s Region 1 conference is right around the corner

The SPJ Region 1 Conference will be held at Boston University April 25-26. The two-day conference will feature NPR’s Robin Young, former ABC anchor Carole Simpson, a host of professional development sessions and the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.
Registration is now open and early-bird prices are available through March 31.
Additional information on registration, the schedule and accommodations is available at

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Upcoming meetings in Portland and Augusta

What could be better than one SPJ gathering?

How about two on the same day?

Join us Tuesday, March 4 in either Portland or Augusta  We will bring you up to date on efforts to ease the remaining prohibitions on camera and microphone use during criminal trials and discuss other chapter business.

In Portland, we will gather for lunch at noon at Sonny’s Restaurant 83 Exchange Street.

Or, join us at the Senator Inn in Augusta for libations at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. (In case you’re wondering, my dictionary defines libation as “an act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice (as to a deity).)

From those of you who are members, we will be seeking approval of an interim leadership team to succeed Jeff Inglis.  From those of you who are not members, we will be seeking your membership.  Please join us on the 13th.

To RSVP, contact Irwin Gratz at

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ICYMI: Lynch discusses access to courts, possible rule changes

SPJ Meeting Notes – Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Our guest was Mary Ann Lynch, Government and Media Counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts.   Essentially she’s been serving as the media relations point person for the court system since her position was created about five years ago.  Lynch sees part of her role as being an ombudsman between journalists and the courts.  She told several stories of instances when she was able to intervene on behalf of reporters who were having trouble gaining permissions from judges for recording under the current cameras-and-microphones-in-the-courts rules.
She reminded us that judges retain wide latitude in their handling of cases and Lynch suggested reporters not be afraid to ask for permissions that may appear to be beyond the scope of the current rules.
In dealing with court clerks, Lynch suggested reporters invest the time to get to know clerks and develop relationships that could smooth the way for future requests.
Lynch took a few moments to tout the live web streaming of Maine Supreme Judicial Court oral arguments, now joined by recorded copies made available for two subsequent weeks.  All present agreed this has been a useful development.
Lynch did say the courts may approach the Legislature next year for money to begin the process of making more docket and scheduling information online, but she said this will be a multi-year process at best (with funding not guaranteed).  She noted the current system is based on COBALT programming language, quite old and out-of-date.  When the federal system, PACER, was held up as a model, Lynch agreed, but noted that federal courts handle far fewer cases than state courts do, and all federal litigants are represented by counsel, something that doesn’t always happen here, complicating the job of clerks.
Lynch also didn’t offer any hope for electronic distribution of materials or creation of a computer terminal to allow members of the public to look up docket numbers.
On the positive side, there was discussion about a meeting being called by the Chief Justice for Dec. 12 in Portland.  The meeting will be aimed at hearing arguments for re-writing the state’s current cameras-and-mikes in the courts rule.  Lynch suggested this could be another opportunity to press the justices for a new rule regarding the use of social network systems, particularly Twitter, to post real-time information about ongoing trials.   Lynch suggested the court may be looking at emulating New Hampshire’s rules regarding recording in the courtrooms and suggested we direct some of our talking points toward the adequacy, or inadequacy of those rules.
Lynch encourages all with questions about media coverage of the courts to be in touch with her.  Her phone number, 207-592-5940, is a cell phone and so with her at all hours.   She did suggest e-mail to would be preferable, especially when she is at the statehouse, since during those times her phone must remain muted, but she will frequently check for messages.
— Irwin Gratz

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Learn about Maine courts

Our next SPJ gathering will be Tuesday evening, Oct. 29 and feature Mary Ann Lynch, director of court information for Maine.
We will join her for discussion and dinner at the Dry Dock Restaurant Tavern at 84 Commercial St. in Portland (near the Maine State Pier).
We’ll begin at 6 p.m. and will make a dinner reservation for 6:30 p.m.

To facilitate that, please reply to by  Wednesday, Oct. 23 so we can have a rough count.  Hope to see you there.

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