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)
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.