SPJ’s Journalists of the Month: all LGBTQ journalists

SPJ logo with rainbow flagEach month at about this time, we normally celebrate the accomplishments of an established SPJ volunteer. We usually post a congratulatory, brief essay about how much we appreciate their hard work. People are lauded for their contributions to chapters, to campuses, to committees, to national-level volunteer efforts.

But this month, the dark shadow of the Orlando nightclub shooting hangs over us as we write. Forty-nine lives were lost, more hang in the balance, and we all are awakened anew to the danger that LGBTQ people face daily just for living their lives – and that includes journalists. Note: If you haven’t read it yet, see Sandra Gonzalez’s excellent post about the Orlando massacre on Who’s News, the Diversity blog. She notes that a journalist was among those killed: Jonathan Camuy had been an active member in a student chapter of National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida to work for the Telemundo network.

Although same sex unions were legalized by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling one year ago, discrimination and hate remain. We’ve all been reminded of that this month.

We can’t write another word until we spend some time honoring and recognizing those who go about their daily duties as journalists with a heightened sense of caution and fear.

Journalists are often the first or second on the scene of a crime. We interview people on a daily basis who are in crisis, are angry with governments or each other. Emotions run high, and in those situations, journalists can become targets. This is all the more true for LGBTQ journalists.

We usually honor members in this space. But today – we honor everyone. Every journalist who is LGBTQ – we stand up today to tell you we are with you. We support you. We honor you. We stand hand-in-hand with you as you do your jobs in the face of intolerance, in the face of hatred. We applaud the work you do to exhaustively cover the murder of your own in Orlando.

We will be marking #SPJ4all next week — our annual hashtag event that invites journalists to post a selfie and use the hashtag #SPJ4all. This year, this effort will have extra meaning for us. We hope that everyone will join us on June 21 to say that ALL are welcome in SPJ — and that journalists of every race, nationality, and orientation are welcome and needed.

LGBTQ journalists: you are our journalists of the month. 

From,

Paul Fletcher, President, SPJ
Lynn Walsh, President-Elect, SPJ

And from the SPJ Membership Committee,

Robyn Davis Sekula, Chair
Wesley Juhl
Holly Fisher
Dori Zinn
Brandon Ballenger
Colin DeVries
Maria Ortiz Briones
Susan S. Stevens

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Join us for #SPJ4all on June 21

On June 21, join us for our second annual #SPJ4all hashtag event! We want SPJ members to post a selfie in social media with the hashtag #SPJ4all to emphasize that we welcome everyone. Please join us!

You can post a photo of yourself, or you and an SPJ friend or two. If you’re involved in an SPJ chapter, feel free to snap a photo at your next event, and share that. Whatever you want to do is OK by us so long as you use the hashtag #SPJ4all and post publicly so we can find your posts, share those posts and thank you for your support.

Please post your photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Those are our most popular social media channels. Tag SPJ in your posts. On Facebook, your post might look like the screen shot below when you tag SPJ. To tag us, type the @ symbol and start typing the name Society of Professional Journalists will be one of your choices. Select it and it will automatically tag our page.

SPJ 4 all screenshot2

To finish your Facebook post, use the #SPJ4all hashtag and make sure the post is public.

SPJ4all screenshot 1

On Twitter, our handle is @spj_tweets. Send out your tweet and use our handle in it. On Instagram, you can find us at @spj_pics.

Ultimately, what we want to see from this is greater awareness of SPJ and our membership. What we hope to see is people posting photos of themselves and their journalist friends. If you’ve got an SPJ board meeting or event between now and June 21, snap a photo and set it aside to post on June 21.

Got questions? Aren’t sure how it works? Ask away in the comments and we’ll gladly help.

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Jason Parsley: SPJ Member of Month

Jason Parsley

Jason Parsley, the editor of the South Florida Gay News. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

An SPJ leader who encourages SPJ participation beyond his own state of Florida — Jason Parsley – is SPJ’s Member of the Month for May. Congratulations Jason!

Jason is an award winning journalist and executive editor of the South Florida Gay News. He’s currently the membership chair for SPJ Florida and is also a past president. Under his leadership, SPJ Florida won chapter of the year in 2014. As president he launched his “no journalist left behind” initiative, expanding the chapter’s territory across the state so every journalist in Florida would be represented. He also expanded his chapter’s awards contest to include journalists from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, since neither territory has a chapter of its own.

This year he’s made it his goal to engage Florida’s unaffiliated members. Read the rest of this entry »

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Elle Toussi: SPJ’s Member of the Month

Elle Toussi

Elle Toussi

A cross-platform journalist who reports on the film industry, Islam, the Middle East and all matters pertaining to Southern California and still finds time to co-chair SPJ’s International Community is SPJ’s Member of the Month for April — Elle Toussi. Congratulations, Elle!

She trained with award-winning journalists at CNN, NBC Los Angeles, KTLA, Screen International and USA Today. She has also freelanced for National Geographic Channels. Toussi is an Iranian-American born and raised in Southern California. Her passions including reporting on the Middle East, women, technology and how these worlds come together.

She is working on a project about the role of immigrants in the U.S. Inspired by her time in Jordan interviewing Syrian refugee women and children, she will launch a non-profit, In One Minute. It will use mobile technology and philanthropy to meet specific needs of women around the world. She has written for SPJ’s Freelance Community blog. She also is a co-leader of Los Angeles events for the Freelancers Union. And she has helped judge SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards that honor student journalism. You can learn much more about Elle at About.me and Elletoussi.com.

Elle was nominated for Member of the Month by Alex Veneeman, community coordinator for SPJ and past MOTM winner himself. He says that since Elle became co-chair of the International Community last June, she has devised and developed ideas of engaging SPJ members (and the wider journalism community) about international affairs and coverage of world events, most notably with a recent series of conversations with Google News Labs.

In addition, she has allowed these conversations to thrive in the digital age, through social media and other means, and to reinforce the importance of covering and discussing world affairs, in an age where investment in foreign coverage by a lot of U.S.-based media outlets has declined.

“Elle, I believe, is a true ambassador and champion of world affairs, as well as the global village, helping the world understand each other, irrespective of borders,” Alex said. “I am fortunate to know that she is at the helm of this very important work as well as upholding the essential and fundamental principles that support SPJ’s work, not just in the US, but internationally.”

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan Stevens, Membership Committee member, at susanstevens@aol.com. Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why your nominee is worthy of recognition. Nominations are due the 5th of each month and announced by the 15th.

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Welcome to SPJ’s newest member!

Written by Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist

Hilde Kate Lysiak has accomplished a lot in her short journalism career.

The 9-year-old is editor and publisher of the Orange Street News in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pa. This young, dedicated multi-media journalist was not only writing about a possibly rabid skunk being shot dead in her community, but covering tough crime stories too. She has been interviewed by everyone from the The Washington Post to the Today Show, and was recently published in The Guardian.

The Society of Professional Journalistsnational board of directors was so impressed by Hilde’s fortitude and dedication to journalism, members pitched in to give her a four-year student membership. SPJ headquarters is also sending her a goodie box to help her show off her journo pride. SPJ President Paul Fletcher and President Elect Lynn Walsh filmed a short welcome video to encourage Hilde in her journalism work.

SPJ supports journalists of all ages and fights for protection of the First Amendment and press freedom. We believe anyone can commit an act of journalism and we want to be there to support, educate and advocate for anyone who exemplifies SPJ’s mission of protecting and improving journalism.

Hilde is obviously passionate about the news, informing the public and being a dedicated journalist. SPJ will be here to support her throughout her — hopefully very long — journalism career.

Keep up the great work, Hilde! SPJ has your back and we think you’re pretty awesome!

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

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Congratulations to Catherine Gin, Member of the Month

Photo_Catherine GinCongratulations to SPJ’s Member of the Month for March: Catherine Gin! Catherine is the assistant secretary of The Deadline Club, SPJ’s New York chapter, and the web/newsletter editor of Advertising Age at Crain Communications.

She first joined the board of The Deadline Club in September 2010, serving as secretary until December 2012, when she moved to Philadelphia. On her return to New York, Catherine resumed her position as secretary through 2015. After deciding not to stand for re-election in 2016, she was asked to rejoin the board as assistant secretary last month. She says that proves “The Deadline Club is very hard to quit!”

Catherine began her journalism career in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, as a slot on 13 weekly community newspapers. She was a copy editor at Woman’s Day, Australia’s No. 1 weekly magazine; Women’s Health; and publications produced for Weight Watchers, Virgin Australia and Volvo. After relocating to the U.K. in 2009, Catherine became the online content assistant and blog editor for nonprofit organization Oxfam Great Britain’s books website.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Member profile: Wesley Robinson

The SPJ membership is a diverse one. The 7,000+ members come from a variety of backgrounds and contribute a number of ideas to help enrich not just SPJ, but the future of journalism, on a local and national level. This series of blog posts takes a look at some of these members, and what SPJ means to them.

We begin with Wesley Robinson, 30, a reporter with The Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Robinson is a member of the Keystone Pro Chapter, and a past president of the student chapter at the University of Kentucky.

How did you first discover SPJ? What was the big selling point to you to join SPJ?

I discovered SPJ at the University of Kentucky while I was working for the Kentucky Kernel as a staff reporter. I was involved the campus NABJ chapter at the time and heard about an SPJ meeting. When I checked it out, it seemed like another good fit for me in terms of professional organizations because of the mission to promote journalism on a broad scale.

The discussions and the speakers SPJ offered also intrigued me. I’m still not sure if journalism is something I will follow for my entire life, so having a platform and forum to get a better understanding of the issues the industry is facing has been key. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed hearing from people who have watched it evolve or made important decisions throughout the processes of metamorphosis.

How important do you think SPJ has been to you overall?

I’m not sure if my experience is unique, but SPJ has been very key in pushing me forward. As a student, the SPJ regional conferences were energizing through the opportunity to meet passionate people and better understand journalism.

As a professional I haven’t had the opportunity to attend any national conferences, but I’ve met and connected with local and national leaders that keep me in mind and let me know of opportunities that are available. That’s really big for someone like me who values interpersonal interactions.

Wesley Robinson of the Patriot-News in Pennsylvania, says SPJ has helped push him forward in his career. (Photo via Twitter)

Wesley Robinson of the Patriot-News in Pennsylvania, says SPJ has helped push him forward in his career. (Photo via Twitter)

What do you think is an initial first impression when one comes across SPJ?

I think it depends on how that happens. As a student I jumped at the opportunities it offered. I have basically been a non-traditional student as long as I’ve studied journalism, so I jump at every opportunity I get to learn, grown and network within the profession.

I do think SPJ struggles with the same issues most professional organizations deal with in having people understand its value, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement to reach younger people and tailor the message to the future.

How has the work of SPJ helped you as a journalist?

The organization has connected me in ways I wouldn’t have gotten just showing up at my school newspaper or to work. I’ve had the opportunity to hear wonderful speakers, connect with leadership, and listen in on important conversations, all of which are invaluable. It has also helped me be more open to communicating with journalists of all ages. I have had the opportunity to speak to students as a recent graduate and I’ve also received career advice from consummate professionals.

What is the big thing about SPJ that you think people should know about?

That SPJ listens. Most groups take suggestions and that’s it. No dialogue, no open discussion, no voting, nothing. SPJ has great two-way communication that is second to none.

What role do you think membership in SPJ will have as journalism continues to develop?

This will depend on the growth of the organization and how many young people get involved. The biggest push journalism needs is advocacy and professionals who know the industry, rather than click-centric management.

Ultimately there is room for both ideologies in the media but it will take people and groups like SPJ pushing to keep quality content as a part of popular journalism.

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Seeking connection

sunset-hands-love-womanRecently a group of SPJ leaders gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona, to discuss membership in a deep and strategic way, something we haven’t done in quite some time. SPJ President Paul Fletcher has membership on his agenda for this year, and wants SPJ to consider how we get members, how we keep them, and what our membership wants. That was our task in Scottsdale: to identify key factors in membership success, and to possibly come out with recommendations.

At the Scottsdale gathering, we began with sharing how we came to be part of SPJ. Nearly every single person sitting around the conference room table said they came to SPJ because of a personal invitation from someone who mattered to them. Many mentioned a professor or teacher from their past who impressed upon them the importance of networking and continual education, two things SPJ offers in spades. Others were young journalists when invited to join. They were looking for a place to meet fellow journalists, unwind a bit and keep their skills sharp. The same goes for mid-career journalists. Retirees may have different needs, but they, too, are seeking connection.

But the common thread was a sense of connection, and a personal invitation. It reinforced what I’ve always known about organizations: to get people to get involved, you can’t rely on a paper brochure, web site or social media to do the inviting. It can be how people find out about something for the first time, but most people won’t just show up at an event without knowing that they are truly welcome. Your marketing materials for your organization should back up what you offer in person. But those items aren’t a substitute for connection.

As a student, SPJ is your ticket to your career. You’ll meet journalists who really do help determine your future. You’ll possibly get an internship, a job, an award, or a scholarship (or all of the above, as I did) from your SPJ connections. You’re gaining so much more than you’re giving as a student. As a professional, you’re gaining, too, but sometimes, what you’re getting is less concrete. To me, one of the best things SPJ does is provide that sense of connection. The 2010 Excellence in Journalism conference in Las Vegas was my first national conference to attend as a working professional. What I loved about it was that it was full of extroverts who are ready and willing to connect, chat and learn from each other. I felt welcome right away, and my connection to SPJ is now a big part of my life.

One of the biggest take-aways I learned in Scottsdale was that those of us who are supporters and volunteers of our local chapters need to make sure we’re taking the time to connect with new, possibly future members. Yes, do forward event details to your newsroom, but also take the time to invite people who you think would benefit from SPJ to come to an event with you.

It’s a great way for those of us who are mid-career (yes, I guess that’s me) to connect with the next generation. It’s good for SPJ, and it’s good for journalism.

So I’m curious. How did you come to SPJ? What keeps you with us? Tell me in the comments.

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Congratulations to Mary Hausch of Las Vegas, our member of the month

Mary Hausch

Mary Hausch

A Las Vegas SPJ chapter board member for almost 44 years, Mary Hausch, is SPJ’s Member of the Month for February. Congratulations, Mary, for jobs well done!

Mary joined SPJ at Ohio University in 1970 in a ceremony “complete with candles and Greek sayings.” [Editor’s note: OU remains one of SPJ’s best student chapters.]

“My first job was as a reporter at the Gazette Telegraph in Colorado Springs and I loved going to Denver for SDX meetings,” Mary said. Then she moved to Las Vegas, where she spent almost 20 years at the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a reporter, assistant city editor, city editor and managing editor. The last 25 years, she has been a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“When I moved to Las Vegas, many of the chapter members were older men who had moved to the public relations world. It was a great way for a newcomer to meet other professionals in what was then a relatively small town.

“Unfortunately the chapter had gone into debt hosting a regional convention and it became inactive. I was elected president of the Las Vegas chapter in 1976 when we reactivated and received a letter of welcome back from Russell Hurst. I’ve been involved in SPJ in Las Vegas for 44 years and been on the board for most of that time.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Congratulations to Dori Zinn, January Member of the Month

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn, President of the Florida Pro Chapter of SPJ

Congratulations to Dori Zinn of the Florida state professional chapter, who is SPJ’s Member of the Month for January!

Dori has been a member of SPJ as long as she has been on the SPJ Florida Pro board, almost seven years. In that time, she has served as her chapter’s Vice President of Membership, Vice President of Programming, Executive Vice President, and currently serves as President. SPJ Florida has won Chapter of the Year awards twice since Dori joined the board.

Dori is the Associate Editor for Bundoo, where new parents can connect with doctors and experts. Targeting parents of 0-4 year-olds, everything is written or reviewed by pediatricians, OB/GYNs, and childcare experts.

Dori also started her own company last year, Blossomers Media, a web development and content creation company. Along with her full-time job at Bundoo, Dori freelances for publications like South Florida Gay News and MoneyTalksNews.com.

Dori loves reading, writing, and helping young journalists with programs like the First Amendment Free Food Festival, Will Write for Food, and speaking at high school and college journalism conferences around the country.

Dori Zinn

Zinn

Dori graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelors of Arts in multimedia journalism. She lives in Fort Lauderdale with her husband. If she isn’t hiding behind a book, she’s stressing about her fantasy football team, napping with her dog or live-tweeting a Miami Heat basketball game. If it’s winter, she’ll be at the beach.

Dori was nominated by SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky. He notes she flew to Austin to moderate a panel on journalism and mass killings, which was recorded and reported by the chapter at a national college media convention. It hosted speakers from No Notoriety, a movement covered by CNN and other major outlets, but not as in depth as this.

She has also supported the SDX-funded Zombie Stories and following up on SPJ National’s request to support high school journalism.

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan Stevens, Membership Committee member, at Susanstevens@aol.com. Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why

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