Monday, May 23, 2016

Oregon SPJ Sunshine Committee Urges Transparecy, Openness in Government

Portland, Ore. -- The reinvigorated Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announces the creation of a new Sunshine Committee that aims to improve transparency and openness in government.

The committee has already attracted some of the best of the state’s investigative journalists and their allies. The creation of the committee aligns with work through the Attorney General’s Public Records Task Force, which is working to identify legislative solutions to a long-festering problem of more than 500 exemptions and a general lack of clarity in Oregon Public Records Law.

Shasta Kearns Moore is on the board of the Oregon Territory Chapter of SPJ and serves as its Sunshine Chair. Kearns Moore reports on education and health care at the Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group.

Other members of the committee are:

Les Zaitz, the Oregon chapter’s liaison to the Attorney General’s task force. Zaitz has been at the forefront of investigative journalism since the 1970s through The Oregonian and other news outlets. He is a five-time winner of the Bruce Baer Award, the highest honor for an investigative journalist in Oregon.

Lee van der Voo, managing director for InvestigateWest, a nonprofit journalism studio working to equip the public with information to make change. Van der Voo’s work has appeared in several national news outlets, including The New York Times and CNN. She is the author of the upcoming nonfiction book "The Fish Market."

Nick Budnick, former Oregon SPJ sunshine chair, reports on crime and justice, Multnomah County and health care at the Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group.

John Sepulvado, the Weekend Edition host at Oregon Public Broadcasting radio. Sepulvado has won four Edward R. Murrow awards for environmental reporting and he shares in a Peabody for CNN's Gulf Oil Spill coverage.

Lori Shontz, an instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and advisor to the student chapter of Oregon SPJ. Shontz has spent more than two decades as a writer and editor specializing in sports, women’s issues, and higher education.

Hillary Borrud, a state government reporter in the Capitol Bureau of the EO Media Group. Borrud is credited with breaking the story of former First Lady Cynthia Hayes’ $118,000 fellowship with environmental lobbying groups.

Read more about Oregon SPJ at or follow on Twitter, @SPJOregon, or

Join SPJ at

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SPJ Sets NW Journalism Award Programs for June 18 in Seattle; June 21 in Portland

Notifications will be going out shortly to winners in the 2015 Region 10 Northwest Excellence in Journalism Competition. This year, we are tying together the Region 10 conference and awards ceremony into a day-long event in Seattle on June 18.

If you can’t travel to Washington, don’t worry. We’re planning a smaller-scale awards ceremony in Portland on June 21.

Here are the details: 
Image courtesy of Scott Maxwell/Creative Commons


The Region 10 Conference runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at the University of Washington Communications Building. Tickets are $15 for current SPJ members and $25 for non-members.

Topics include:

• Google Tools for Journalists: Learn the ins and outs of Google's suite of tools that are helpful for journalists.

• Ethics Presentation: SPJ National President Paul Fletcher will join us from headquarters to lead a "choose your own adventure" ethics workshop.

• Podcasting: Industry veterans will lead a session on giving voice to your stories.

• Covering Trans- and Non-binary News: This panel is designed to address the current problems that come with the coverage of trans and non-binary news. With the coverage of Caitlyn Jenner and the outing of Lilly Wachowski, professional journalists have shown that they are ill-equipped to avoid harms, intentional or no. Outing people like Dr. V in the infamous Grantland story resulted in devastating effects.

• Long Form Journalism in a Digital Age: Mark Armstrong, founder of the site, will join us in a Q/A run by James Ross Gardner, editor in chief of Seattle Met. They will discuss the viability of long form journalism, how it's managing to succeed in the digital world of listicles and 140-word tweets, and how exactly one can practice "good" long form.

Get your tickets here:


Extend your day of journalism by celebrating award-winning works by your peers at the 2016 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism Awards Gala and Auction.

This event, June 18 at the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, will recognize winners of the 2015 Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest, gala award winners and scholarship recipients. Members from across SPJ Region 10, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska are encouraged to join us in celebrating the accomplishments of our region's hard-working journalists over the last year.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the program and dinner beginning at 7 p.m. The evening will conclude after 9 p.m.

Dress to impress, get your photos taken and bid on silent auction items that benefit Washington journalism scholarships until 7 p.m.

Tickets are $60 if purchased before June 13. Tickets can be purchased online:


Region 10 contest winners will be announced June 18, but for those who can’t attend the gala, we will have a smaller event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, at the barrel room of Green Dragon Bistro and Pub, 928 SE 9th Ave. in Portland. There is no cost for this event.

This will be a chance to recognize regional contest winners from Oregon, as well as the winners of the 2015 Bruce Baer Award, the 2015 Rookie of the Year Award and the First Freedom Award.

Please RSVP at the event page:
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For more updates, see the Oregon Territory SPJ blog at

Monday, May 16, 2016

Matthew Kish, Portland Business Journal Earn Bruce Baer Investigative Reporting Award

Three-year investigation uncovers massive financial fraud in Aloha corporation mill

PORTLAND – The Portland Business
Reporter Matthew Kish of the Portland
Business Journal
Journal and reporter Matthew Kish have won the 2015-16 Bruce Baer Award for outstanding investigative reporting in Oregon.

Kish, who researched and wrote the story headlined “The Shell Game,” will be presented with a check for $1,000 from the Friends of Bruce Baer, sponsors of the annual award. The story was published in October 2015.

Kish uncovered “The Shell Game” in 2012, when he came across a regulatory filing that said a company using a small, weathered home in Aloha was seeking to raise $140 million. His trail led to Bengt Stenbock, a twice-convicted felon who had served sentences for drug-smuggling and wire fraud in California.

Stenbock had turned to Oregon to begin business forming “shell companies” – businesses with no operations and no employees. Obtainable for $30,000 or less, shell companies are ideal for moving large sums of money with little detection. Often, the shell company would mimic a long-established corporation by changing just one letter of the company’s name.

The Aloha house is now the home to 1,300 other shell businesses. In January, Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said her office would develop legislation to combat shell-company problems.


Willamette Week Reporter Nigel Jaquiss Earns Special Recognition

Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss, a three-time Bruce Baer Award winner, was selected for Special Recognition by the award committee.

For 15 years, a Portland foster care provider operated four group homes under the name “Give Us This Day.” The state’s Department of Human Services had been lenient financially and slow to react to reports of child neglect.

In a series titled “Home Sweet Hustle,” Jaquiss revealed that “Give Us This Day” had neglected to pay creditors, employees, and the IRS. Much of the money had been diverted for personal use, and former employees told of squalid living conditions in the group homes.

Prompted by the stories, both the federal government and the Oregon Legislature have begun investigations.

About the Award: The Bruce Baer Award has been presented annually since 1978. The award honors the late Bruce Baer, a political reporter for the Portland Reporter and for 13 years with Portland’s KATU, Channel 2. The award focuses on in-depth coverage of Oregon politics and public affairs.

Stories are judged on the quality of effort in reporting, and the enterprise and courage reflected in the work.

For more information about this year's winners, the Bruce Baer Award or the Friends of Bruce Baer, contact Roger Anthony at 503-998-5509 or go online to

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Journalists Urged to Get Involved in Work of Oregon Public Records Task Force

Image courtesy of

Note: Les Zaitz of the Oregonian represents journalists and the Oregon Territory Chapter of SPJ on the Oregon Public Records Task Force. Here is a report on last week's task force meeting. 

TO: SPJ – Oregon Territory

FROM: Les Zaitz


The task force is meeting monthly with three subcommittees meeting as needed. The objective is to produce legislation to reform the Oregon Public Records Law in the 2017 session. The task force was appointed and is led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Minutes and task force materials are all available on the state Justice Department website.

The most recent meeting (April 25, 2016) focused on the issue of deadlines for public agencies to respond to records requests. The discussion shows for me the challenge that remains in reforming the law – special interest groups will jealously guard their interests, making legislative reform uncertain.

Oregon journalists need to participate in the debate over deadlines.

Under current law, agencies face no deadline. Rather, they “shall respond as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay” and “furnish proper and reasonable opportunities” for access.

The task force focused on draft legislation from the 2016 short session in HB4130. That legislation required agencies to respond within 5 days, providing the records or otherwise explaining the records aren’t available. Within 30 days, the agency would have to provide the records, cite exemptions, or declare the agency is still gathering the records and provide an estimated date for response.

The task force discussion moved towards modifying this proposal to require an acknowledgement of a request within 5 days, more substantive action within 10 days, and a more fulsome response within 30 days.

Representatives of the cities, counties and school boards are reluctant to agree to firm deadlines. And they are opposed to creating in statute any more opening for a requester to seek a district attorney’s order to compel disclosure when a deadline isn’t met. During the discussion, these groups on one hand said their members largely provide records without delay but then said local governments might be forced to make records processing a priority over other government functions, such as issuing a building permit. They also are concerned how agencies were to handle large, complex requests to comply with deadlines. They further argued that imposing deadlines would create a rush to district attorneys, burdening those offices and their members with addressing public records petitions. They represented the district attorneys aren’t likely to support any step that creates more work for their offices.

On behalf of SPJ and Oregon journalists, I noted that the attorney general’s manual already provides as a general guide that public agencies should be able to respond to most requests within 10 days. I noted this has been the standard for some time, and that this has not produced any long line at the office of district attorneys with people filing public records petitions. I urged that we build clarity into the law for public employees, journalists and citizens with deadlines. I recommended language could be crafted to allow leeway for complex, large or disruptive requests. I also urged that any deadlines should include some consequence so public employees are on clear notice that willfully failing to obey the law will draw some action.

Some of the task force suggested that a new public records ombudsman ought to be empowered to handle disputes over timely processing.

After the meeting ended, I approached those representing local governments, asking what solution they saw for what journalists see as a real problem. Their responses continued to focus on the burden requests impose on their members and they don’t want to do anything that makes that worse.

RECOMMENDATION: SPJ members need to provide documented instances where agencies have delayed providing records. The examples need to clearly illustrate that agencies will take advantage of the vague language of existing law to procrastinate. Examples should not include unusual or complex requests where other factors cloud the reason for the delay. I welcome members to send me examples at

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Oregon AG Rosenblum Holds Public Records Law Reform Task Force Hearing

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum will join members of the Public Records Law Reform Task Force Monday, May 9, in Eugene for the task force’s second public hearing.

The hearing is an opportunity for Oregonians to provide input on Oregon’s Public Records Laws and the work of the task force, according to a news release from the attorney general's office.

It begins at 4:30 p.m. at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, in Allen Hall, Room 141.

The task force was formed by the attorney general in September 2015 as a way to promote greater transparency in government. Its purpose is to review and recommend specific improvements to Oregon’s public records laws.

So far, the task force has focused on establishing deadlines for public bodies to respond to requests for records, and on addressing the more than 500 exemptions from public disclosure.

The task force also will examine the fees that public bodies may charge for records, and consider whether the state should create a Public Records Advocate.

All members of the media and the public are welcome to attend and testify.

Additional hearings will take place in other Oregon communities.

Comments can also be emailed to the task force at

At a glance:

WHAT: Public Hearing of the Public Records Law Reform Task Force
DATE: Monday, May 9
WHERE: University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, 1275 University of Oregon, Allen Hall, Room 141, in Eugene
TIME: 4:30 to 6 p.m.
MORE INFORMATION: Contact Kristina Edmunson, Oregon Attorney General’s Office, 503-378-6002

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