By Anthony Fenech
Another successful Society of Professional Journalists National Convention is in the books.
Tuesday night, inside a ballroom at Planet Hollywood’s convention center, Hagit Limor was officially installed as the 92nd SPJ president.
“Here I am standing before you and I’m truly humbled,” Limor said. “We’re all here for a reason. We have all been drawn to this room at this moment by a common denominator.”
Her installation was the final display in a night that included laughs, cheers and raw emotion on the podium.
In his final speech as president, Kevin Smith said, “We did more than just weather the storm. We built an ark.”
Carol Rosenberg, a reporter at the Miami Herald, was one of three awarded the SPJ First Amendment Award. Rosenberg fought for access to public records involving the Guantanamo Bay controversy.
“It hasn’t been easy,” she said, her voice trembling. “They banned me, they smeared me and they tried to get my editors to take me off the case.”
There were two winners of the First Amendment Awards. Lawyer Herschel Fink was honored for his work to keep Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter out of jail for refusing to reveal his sources. Dave Cuillier, a professor at the University of Arizona, was honored for his work as chair of the Freedom of Information committee.
“The First Amendment means everything to us,” Cuillier said. “I’ve seen it with my eyes. Journalism is not dead, it is alive and well.”
Smith also presented Cuillier with a President’s Award in the form of a statue of the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, known as a staunch defender of the Constitution.
David Perlman, a 91-year-old science writer from the San Francisco Chronicle, won the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Perlman started a 78-year journalism career at age 12 with his junior high paper but was unable to attend the banquet, instead blaming his “mean editors” through Chronicle city editor Audrey Cooper, drawing laughs from the crowd.