BIRMINGHAM– Besides the great programming that the Society of Professional Journalists offered at its Southeastern Regional Conference this past weekend, there was the change of characters on stage.
Bill Oates, a former editor of the Miami Herald’s International Edition and adjunct professor at the Indiana University School of Journalism hosted his first Regional conference here in the Magic City April 1-2, 2009.
Oates succeeded Former Region 3 Director Jenn Rowell, who left the region to take a job in the DC area.
Those of us already on the SPJ National Board welcomed Bill to the leadership fold, but also watched as he was thrown in head-first to swim in the waters of leading an important training opportunity for our SPJ membership.
Bill did more than swim. The regional conference had lots of great information and his own presentation on “Journalism in Latin America” was eye-opening and a refreshing change from all of the talk of social media that dominated the conference.
As SPJers, we also have to take a more global perspective on what we do.
In his presentation, Oates drew a connection between the Latin American countries that are stable democracies, progressing toward democracy, and “headed in another direction” and the Press Freedom Index of 2010.
He explained that the countries with a “perfect score” were many of the Nordic countries. Noticeably absent from that group of countries with perfect press freedom is the United States.
“We have this idea that we’re the best and we’re not,” Oates said.
So when it comes to press freedom, we still have some work to do in our own borders even as we look to places like Columbia and Mexico, where journalists are under attack.
Two journalists were killed March 25 in Mexico.
“This is very current, ” Oates said. “It continues to happen.
Within SPJ, as the Region 3 director, Bill will play a big role in helping us “globalize” our thinking about journalism.