The Numbers Game: Political Polls, and What They Mean, Sept. 28

Journalists are bombarded with data from polls, especially when election season approaches. Are you confident you can tell the legitimate numbers from the sloppy surveys? How effectively can you evaluate the polling methods? Do you know when nine out of 10 isn’t really nine out of 10?

Join us as we host political pollster Mike O’Neil of O’Neil Associates, for this informative event, just in time for the deluge of polls that will be released before the Nov. 8 election. Mike will discuss the current state of polling and how to understand and evaluate polls.

It’s 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Half Moon Windy City Sports Grill, 2121 E. Highland Ave., four blocks east of Route 51/Piestewa Freeway (Highland Avenue exit), Phoenix. SPJ welcomes all members of the media to this FREE event, but you must RSVP by Monday, Sept. 26 to:

Topics will include:
• Polls: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly—which is which
• Live interviewer polls, robopolls, internet polls: what’s the difference
• The Polling Aggregators (fivethirtyeight,, and Real Clear Politics): which are better and why
• Why that “plus or minus” figure everyone always fixates on is actually among the least important of poll attributes (and why people still think it is important)

Walter Robinson, former Boston Globe editor who headed team portrayed in film ‘Spotlight,’ to speak at Sept. 14 screening co-sponsored by SPJ, Cronkite School


The Academy Award-winning 2015 film Spotlight will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the First Amendment Forum at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Walter V. “Robby” Robinson, the editor who headed the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight investigative team that reported the story of the pedophile priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000s, will speak in September at a Phoenix screening of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, co-sponsored by the Valley of the Sun chapter of SPJ and the Arizona State  University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Walter Robinson, Boston Globe, Spotlight

Walter V. “Robby” Robinson, former editor of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team, will speak at a screening of the film “Spotlight” in Phoenix Sept. 14.

Robinson, right, portrayed by actor Michael Keaton in the 2015 film — which won the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay earlier this year — will give remarks at the screening, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The showing will be in the First Amendment Forum on the second floor of the Cronkite School, 555 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Officials announced on the Cronkite School website that Robinson has accepted a position at the school as Donald W. Reynolds Visiting Professor, teaching a course in investigative journalism for graduate and advanced undergraduate students. His Spotlight team’s series in the Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2003.

SPJ arranged with the producers of the film to allow its professional chapters one-time licenses to show it locally. The Valley of the Sun (Phoenix) chapter was eager to secure a license for the Phoenix screening. The chapter is grateful to the Cronkite School for the opportunity to show the film on its large screen, which should give a local audience insight into how the Spotlight Team reported what ultimately became a national story.

Meet up, cool down & network at SPJ’s annual summer solstice party

Each year, the Valley of the Sun SPJ chapter invites all Valley media, but particularly our valued members, to a party at a local watering hole within a day or two of the annual summer solstice. It’s a chance to get together and cool off on Phoenix’s longest day. We’re two days off this year from the actual June 20 solstice, Wednesday, June 22, when at 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., we’ll gather in the Brewer’s Room at SunUp Brewing (appropriate for the day, no?) for some cool brews, hot talk and a few rounds of free appetizers, courtesy of your chapter’s generous board members.Glass of Beer

So come to SunUp Brewing, 322 E. Camelback Road, a few steps from the Central/Camelback light rail line in uptown Phoenix, and quaff a few cold ones with us! Say you’re coming at our Facebook event page!

We’ll also take five minutes around 6:15-ish to elect our 2016-2017 chapter officers. This is essentially one-party rule, unless someone actually steps forward to challenge the slate* (which we’re officially ready to accommodate, although no one can remember the last time this has ever happened). After a voice vote we’ll immediately return to the festivities.

(*The slate: Amanda Ventura, freelance writer, president; Tim Eigo, Arizona Attorney magazine, vice president; Kaely Monahan, KTAR-FM, secretary; Teri Carnicelli, North Central News, treasurer.)

This is actually part of a nationwide simultaneous meetup held by SPJ chapters across the country called SPJ After Deadline. Technically, they’re doing it on June 21. But we are mavericks here in Arizona, so we’re having ours one day later. Like that name, SPJ After Deadline? Maybe we’ll participate again… and this time we might hold it on the same day our national organization planned.

Questions? Email our president, Amanda Ventura,

Local events commemorate 40th anniversary of Phoenix reporter’s murder

Two events in early June will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the car-bomb murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles on June 2, 1976, at what was the Hotel Clarendon in midtown Phoenix.

  • “You Can’t Kill a Story” is a “gathering of storytellers at the scene of the crime,”  the Clarendon Hotel and Spa itself, 401 W. Clarendon, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Thursday, June 2. “Law enforcement, firefighters, journalists, and family members will recall their first person memories of that unforgettable day,” according to the event’s Eventbrite page where tickets are sold at $25 each. The gathering, presented by the Arizona Centennial Theatre Foundation, will be held at the hotel’s rooftop Sky Deck bar. A reception is to follow.
  • The Arizona Storytellers will present “Stories Behind the Stories,” 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, June 3, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University’s downtown campus, 555 N. Central Ave., In addition to recounting other journalistic efforts, the evening will “feature stories of Bolles’ work, life and death, as well as ones about the continued relevance of Arizona-based investigative and watchdog journalism,” according to the event’s Facebook page. A $12 donation is suggested; get tickets here.

Body of ASU professor who attended SPJ conference found near Oak Creek Canyon

As this Arizona Republic story reports, first responders found Arizona State University professor Debra Schwartz’s body Sunday morning, May 8, at the bottom of a slot canyon a short distance from her campsite in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona.

Schwartz had attended the SPJ Western Regional Conference April 29-30 in Phoenix and many attendees had the pleasure of meeting her. Results of an investigation into the cause of her death are pending.

The Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists expresses its deepest sympathies to Debra Schwartz’s family, friends and colleagues.

Don’t chain Arizona’s watchdogs

Like any good joke, timing is everything.

House Speaker David Gowan demonstrated peculiar timing this week.

Days after affirming that representatives can carry concealed weapons while the House does its work, he banned reporters from the House floor unless they consented to an ill-defined and arbitrary criminal background check. Gowan said his action was necessary to ensure the security of potentially armed members from people who carry pens and laptops.

So that’s the punchline? Gowan believes the pen is mightier than the sword?

No one can believe that the members of the capitol press corps pose any threat to legislators’ security. If you have any doubts, turn on KAET’s Arizona Horizon on any Friday during the session, when capitol reporters talk about the week’s news. They’re policy wonks, not gangsters.

The only “threat” capitol reporters pose is in digging up news Gowan and his cohorts prefer to keep secret: large amounts of money spent on remodeling while the state was cutting key services; a plan to install showers and a “multipurpose room” in the House basement; and, most recently, the Arizona Capitol Times’ expose of Gowan’s use of state vehicles to travel across the 1st Congressional District, where he is a candidate. He paid back $12,000 for inappropriate travel expenses.

That story was reported by Hank Stephenson, who has a minor blemish on his record for trespassing. That misdemeanor, under Gowan’s rules, would be enough to keep him from ever stepping on the House floor.

It is hard to believe this is coincidental.

For decades, reporters have had access to the House floor with absolutely no incident. They just do their job, providing the public an eye to the proceedings of their elected representatives — for good or for ill.

Reporters don’t expect to be popular. Nor should they be punished for asking tough questions. Legislators should not be able to pick and choose who writes their stories. They should not try to silence journalists by making an example of those who do stellar work. The public can’t let Gowan have the last laugh.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Valley of the Sun chapter urges Gowan to rescind this arbitrary and unnecessary change in journalists’ access to the House floor. Reporters pose no security threat — unless truth hurts.

Amanda Ventura is president of the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Contact her at Follow the chapter’s Twitter feed at @spjphx.

Phoenix is site of 2016 SPJ Region 11 conference

Get the tools to keep your journalism skills sharp and network your way into opportunity at SpringConf15_Logothe SPJ Western Regional (Region 11) Conference, April 29-30 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. The conference hashtag is #spjwest.

Click here for conference details. Sign up today to get our affordable registration rate of $65, $50 for SPJ members, $30 for full-time college students. These prices include all sessions, a Friday opening night reception, Saturday continental breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and an invitation to a post-conference decompress gathering at the Sky Deck bar atop the Clarendon Hotel and Spa in midtown Phoenix.

NPR’s Mara Liasson to speak about 2016 election at ASU-Tempe Feb. 25

Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, delivers the John J. Rhodes Lecture in an event sponsored by Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at Katzin Concert Hall in the Music Building at Arizona State University, Tempe.

The veteran reporter, who has covered six presidential elections, is scheduled to speak on the topic, “A Citizen’s Guide to the 2016 Election.”

Admission is free but tickets must be reserved. Click here for tickets and more information.

Meet the national SPJ Executive Committee — at a reception at a Scottsdale patio bar, Friday, Jan. 29

Spend a January evening like an out-of-town tourist — at an Old Town Scottsdale patio bar — with some out-of-town tourists from SPJ: the Society’s national leadership.

Paul Fletcher

National President Paul Fletcher of Virginia Lawyers Weekly in Richmond, Va.; President-Elect Lynn Walsh of KNSD-TV in San Diego and other members of the Executive Committee — it makes decisions about the governance of the Society of Professional Journalists in the absence of the national board of directors — will be in Scottsdale for their semi-annual meeting in Scottsdale Jan. 29-30.

But they want to meet you, local members of SPJ as well as all other Arizona journalists who would like to stop by, at a reception at Boondocks, 4341 N. 75th St., at Stetson Drive, in Old Town Scottsdale, starting at 6 p.m. Here’s a link to a map of the neighborhood around Boondocks. There’s also a map embedded below.

Lynn Walsh

Friday. Jan. 29. SPJ national headquarters and the Valley of the Sun chapter will be buying the first rounds of appetizers; you pay for your own beverages.

Also on hand will be your Valley of the Sun SPJ chapter board, whose members include Robert Leger, 2002-03 national SPJ president and current president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Come and meet them at a Friday fun night in Old Town. It’ll be a night of talking about media, past, present and future, and a chance for you to let the pe who are at the forefront of media is

Robert Leger

sues what you think — and to share a few stories among friends. We’ll also be sharing information about the upcoming April 29-30 SPJ Western Regional Conference at the Heard Museum in Phoenix!

Plenty of free street parking — Scottsdale has no parking meters by city tradition — as well as nearby free public parking lots.


Get your Yule on: Journalists invited to gather at the third annual Valley Media Holiday Mixer, Dec. 16

New bar, same location! Six Valley media organizations invite area journalists to the third annual Valley Media Holiday Mixer, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Chambers on First, 705 N. First St. (at Pierce, just north of the ASU Cronkite School) in downtown Phoenix.

media_mixer_2015Admission is free. Attendees will pay for their own drinks. But appetizers are being paid for by the media groups: Asian American Journalists Association (Arizona), Arizona Latino Media Association (NAHJ), Arizona Press Club, National Black Journalists Association (Arizona), National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (Arizona), Society of Professional Journalists (Valley of the Sun).

Chambers on First is owned by the same owners as its predecessor, The Turf, where this event has been held in 2013 and 2014. The interior has been renovated, including chandeliers with a law library/private club look. Check out photos and the menu here. Happy hour prices on drinks are offered until 7 p.m.

Please come and invite media people you know. For more information, email