The Society of Professional Journalists is back in the news again, at least on the left coast, after a reporter for a local paper in San Diego was able to obtain over 2,000 internal emails from the organization’s San Diego chapter.
According to FishbowlLA, San Diego CityBeat reporter Dave Maass decided to dig into the chapter’s emails after he felt slighted for being passed on for a local SPJ panel on the WikiLeaks cables about which he had extensively reported.
Maass decided to look into the SPJ after conference coordinator and SPJ-San Diego Vice President Christy Scannell accidentally forwarded CityBeat Arts editor Kinsee Morlan an email containing an internal discussion in which Morlan was called “obnoxious,” and which included a snide remark about Maass’ request to be on the WikiLeaks panel.
So, as Maass writes, “because I’m a mean-spirited, vindictive jerk bent on retribution,” he then submitted a public record request for all SPJ correspondences originating from the email account of SPJ San Diego board member and regional SPJ director Jodi Cleesattle.
Normally requests to obtain such records from a private organization wouldn’t be honored, but Maass struck pay dirt because Cleesattle is an attorney with the California Department of Justice and used her work account to correspond with other SPJ members. Can anyone say, oops?
While most of the emails were rather mundane their was a lengthy discussion about the Helen Thomas Award, and at one point Cleesattle said she was tired of the “pissing contest” taking place between certain directors. See the thread here.
The SPJ isn’t likely to face any long term damage from the release of the emails but their release has certainly shed an unwanted light on their operations.
And they have no one to blame but themselves. If they had just let Maass participate on the panel he probably wouldn’t have bothered to seek a little vengeance, and if Cleesattle had actually used her own private email account instead of her government one, the emails never would have seen the light of day.