A blue chip crowd of more than 1,000, paying up to $50,000 for a table of ten, will attend the annual Awards Dinner of the Committee to Protect Journalists Nov. 23 in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Chairman of the event is Sir Howard Stringer, chairman, CEO and president of Sony Corp. Corp. Host is Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

2009 CJP banquet image: CJP
CPJ raised $3,852,513 in 2008, its latest available financial report. This was a steep decline from $6,307,423 raised in 2007. It lost $3.8M in the stock market in 2008 and saw its net assets dip to $9.3M from $12.9M.

While CPJ is mostly concerned with physical violence and jailing of journalists abroad, a topic of conversation at the dinner is bound to include the steep decline in employed journalists in the U.S. coupled with an increasing hostility to much of the press in business and political circles.

U.S. journalists were especially miffed by the ridicule heaped on them by TV figure Jon Stewart at his “Rally to Restore Sanity” that attracted more than 200,000 to Washington, D.C., last Saturday.

He said the country’s “24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator” may not have caused certain problems but “its existence makes solving them that much harder.”

“Distrust of the media was laid down throughout the rally by video montages of ranting broadcast bobble heads,” wrote New York Times columnist David Carr Nov. 1.

Politicians 'Mad' at Media

An NYT story Oct. 31 headlined: “Politicians Seem to be Fighting Mad This Election Year at the News Media.”

Sarah Palin was called one of the leaders of the attacks on media. She has referred to “the lame-stream media” and referred to an unnamed reporter of the Congressional Quarterly as “You idiot reporter!” She said the reporter falsely reported that she had sought a speaking engagement in Iowa.

Republican consultant and Burson-Marsteller counselor Dana Perino, who was White House press secretary from September 2007 to January 2009, said the press has long been attacked for its perceived liberal bias but that “I do think there’s something larger going on.”

Journalists are well aware of the love affair that business is having with social media. Those who see mainstream media as biased and unfair now feel they have a way to bypass such media and go directly to target audiences via SM.

Estimates are that about half of U.S. journalists have lost their jobs since 2001.

Steiger of ProPublica CPJ Chair

Chair of the CPJ board is Paul Steiger, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now editor-in-chief of ProPublica.

Honorary chair is Terry Anderson, a former AP correspondent who was a captive for seven years until 1991of the Shiite Hezbollah during the Lebanese civil war.

The nearly 300 donors to CPJ include such blue chips as Altria Group, American Express, Blackstone Group, Bloomberg, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor, GE Foundation, Goldman Sachs & Co., Johnson Foundation, Microsoft Corp., NBC, New York Times Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Prudential Financial, Samuel Newhouse Foundation, Sony Corp. of America Foundation, Time Warner, Viacom, and the Washington Post.

There are no press tickets to the dinner. Reporters may purchase a ticket for $500 to $1,000 or sit in the balcony and not take part in the dinner.

PR Is Mostly Absent

Absent from the list are any of the major PR firms, the ad conglomerates, or any of the more than 15 PR associations. The only PR firm listed is Brunswick Group.

Some individual PR pros are listed including Lois Whitman and Peter Verengia. Also listed is Carl Spielvogel, former ad columnist of NYT who became head of Interpublic.

Honored at the dinner will be Mohammad Davari of Iran, who exposed abuses in the Kahrizak detention center; Nadira Isaveva of Russia, who reported on violence in North Caucasus; Dawit Kebede of Ethiopia, jailed for reporting on 2005 election violence; Laureano Marquez of Venezuela, “the scourge of left wing president Hugo Chaves,” and Arveh Neier of the U.S., who will receive the Burton Benjamin Award for a lifetime of achievement in press freedom. He founded the Human Rights Watch in 1978.

CPJ Tracked 838 Murders Since 1992

CPJ has tracked 838 murders of journalists since 1992 including 539 who were “murdered with impunity.” Some journalists are killed in battle but most of them are hunted down and murdered. Little or no investigations follow. Another 454 journalists have been sent into exile since 1992.

CPJ investigates violations of press freedoms including lawsuits against them, imprisonment, the denial or limiting of reporters to news events; materials confiscated or damaged, and cases where “freedom of movement” is impeded.

It investigates the denial or suspension of “credentials” of reporters.

'Credentials' Condemned by INSI

The International News Safety Institute, Brussels, which tracks abuses of journalists worldwide, is strongly against the “credentialing” or “accrediting” of journalists.

“The exercise of journalism and journalist freedoms is not made dependent on accreditation,” says Principle 11 on “Use of Accreditation Systems.”

Should there be an accreditation system in place, “accreditation should normally be granted,” it says.

“Accreditation should not be used for the purpose of restricting the journalist’s liberty of movement or access to information…” says the Principle.

Journalists should not have to grant “concessions” in order to obtain accreditation, it further says.

Other groups that help journalists who encounter obstacles to their coverage of news include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.