John Ensslin: SPJ helped me get my new job

This month, as SPJ gathered in New Orleans for our annual Excellence in Journalism conference, I had a chance to have lunch with John Ensslin. He is a former president of SPJ and a long-time journalist. His current job is at The Record, a New Jersey publication where he has worked for just under five years. 

John shared with me and past president Dana Neuts that his publication eliminated jobs through a round of layoffs. He’s getting a new job at the same publication, and this is largely due to the training and learning opportunities he’s had through SPJ. 

I asked John to write a short piece explaining how SPJ had helped him gain skills, stay employed and enjoy his journalism career more, and he was happy to do so. Thanks, John! Read his thoughts below. 

By John Ensslin

John Ensslin

John Ensslin

For years, I’ve been touting the merits of SPJ membership.

I’ve told people how we are a leader within the profession when it comes to ethics. How we fight day in and day out for access to public records.  How we advocate for diversity in newsrooms.  How we help defend journalists who’ve gotten in trouble with law just because they did their job.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the value of the job training that SPJ routinely offers its members. And in many ways, I’ve become the poster guy over the last decade for the ways in which SPJ can transform your career.
I’m starting a new assignment this fall at The Record, the paper where I’ve worked for just over five years. I’ll be working on the paper’s digital team, using all the multimedia tools available to augment my reporting and story telling skills. I previously served as a statehouse reporter, covering the New Jersey Legislature.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I owe my ability to take on this new work to the training I received from SPJ colleagues over the last decade.
I think of how Jeff South first opened my ears to the potential for using audio as an offshoot of my print stories. I recall those jammed-packed session that Ron Sylvester and Jeff Cutler offered on their 60 apps in 60 seconds programs.
I remember how Carl Corry taught me the right way to shooting video on a breaking news story with my iPhone. I remember how Holly Fisher first got me involved with Podcasting through Studio SPJ. I think about all that Sree Sreenivisan told me about using social media as a reporting tool. I credit Cindy Rodriguez for teaching me how to create short videos with Videolicious. I can list all the programs that Kevin Smith showed me during his Kiplinger/JournCamp presentation.
And at our most recent convention, I learned how to do audio story telling through an day-long NPR workshop.
In other words, pretty much everything I’ve learned through SPJ over the last decade has prepared me to be the journalist I am today.
None of the newspapers where I worked during that time could have afforded to provide that kind of training.
So when it comes to the benefits of becoming an SPJ member, I’m living proof of one of them: You can learn what you need to know to become a better journalist by taking advantage of all the training that SPJ has to offer.
Ready to join? You can do that right here. Got questions? Ask me, Robyn Davis Sekula, at
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How to get involved in SPJ: Transitioning from student to pro

Editor’s note: We’ve asked members of SPJ to write blog posts for us about how exactly to get involved in SPJ. Sometimes, people don’t know where to start. Some join as students, some as pros, and others somewhere in the middle. Kathleen Devaney of the Florida Pro chapter writes about why she first joined SPJ and how she transitioned from student chapter to pro chapter. Read her full story below.

Extra editor’s note: If you’re a student or recent graduate (or anyone, really!) and you want to get involved in a pro chapter, you can find listings of chapters by state here. If you’d like some other kind of SPJ volunteer role, contact me, Robyn Davis Sekula, at I’ll be glad to talk to you.


By Kathleen Devaney


Kathleen Devaney

Kathleen Devaney

I went to college at Florida International University, a unique institution in sunny Miami with a soft spot for cafe con leche and the concept of living at home until you’re 25.

But I attended the docile Biscayne Bay Campus, a subset of the main school, which probably matched my then-meek persona.

When I decided that I wanted to switch over from studying English to Journalism at the beginning of my junior year, I gained some help from an unexpected place.

Embarrassingly enough, I’ll admit that I applied for an internship at The Miami Herald without having much experience under my belt. So I received a call from a woman named Chris Delboni, an instructor at FIU who was the director of The South Florida News Service, a classroom-run wire service which produced stories for local mainstream media outlets.

The truth stings at first, but she told me I wasn’t ready to intern at The Herald just yet, but if I started writing for the SFNS, she might be able to recommend me someday in the future. But most importantly, she also told me to join SPJ, an organization that I had never heard about, which she advised.

So I took her word for it and showed up at SPJ FIU’s first meeting. And in no time, I was overstepping my bounds as usual. I found myself sitting in on the executive board meetings, when I was just a regular member, chiming in with my opinions and ideas for events they were planning.

That’s why the next semester, I got voted in to be the events coordinator, a position which I held with so much pride.

Quickly, I found myself planning roundtable discussions and building the framework for our first ever Listen, Learn, Connect conference, which has since become an annual event. I even helped plan zany events like how to write an obituary from within a funeral home. (In fact, I credit our kooky ideas in helping us win best collegiate chapter in Region 3 for the past four years.)

And once again I was promoted, this time to chapter president. Things were sailing full force for me as I was beginning my senior year and now interning at The Miami Herald. None of this would have been made possible without the guidance of Chris Delboni, who helped give me a pep in my step and shaped me into being a poised female journalist.

During my last year, most of my efforts in SPJ FIU were focused on creating two mentorship programs with a local middle school and high school.

But when it was time for me to graduate, I felt so sad to leave behind SPJ. That chapter gave me wonderful friendships on a campus that can sometimes feel community-less and it provided me with a foundation for leadership, a trait I hope I never give up.

After seven long months of searching for a job and searching for myself, I finally got a job as a Social Media Producer for The Palm Beach Post, two counties up from my FIU campus. In addition, I also nerved up to join SPJ Florida. (By the way, it should be noted that I was able to move out of the house before 25.)

The idea of joining a professional chapter was something I had played around with for a while, and lucky for me, I joined the perfect one with prestige and a whole lot of gusto. SPJ Florida was voted as best large chapter of the year in 2010, 2014 and again in 2016.

I was quickly voted in as the VP of Programming, as I had already formed connections with some of the chapter’s members throughout the past couple years.

Currently, I’m working on planning Muslimedia alongside Region 3 Director, Michael Koretzky. This semi-controversial event will bring together Florida journalists with Muslim leaders from Boca Raton to debate the media’s best and worst practices when reporting about the Muslim community in America.

I also recently attended this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. Most of the panels I attended expanded my mind on how to be culturally sensitive when covering different communities. But they have something for everybody, whether it be tech, ethics, journalism education, and more. I’ve found the most rewarding part of attending EIJ over the past few years is getting to network with fellow journos. SPJ and the array of alphabet soup journalism organizations that participate in the conference are all there for the same reason – our love for journalism. And just when you’ve thought the newsroom as we’ve known it is headed down a dark path, the passion and drive for learning new skills at EIJ makes the future seem brighter.

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Jennifer Brannock Cox is SPJ member of the month

Jennifer Brannock Cox

Jennifer Brannock Cox

A professional chapter president who also is a student chapter adviser, Jennifer Brannock Cox, is SPJ’s Member of the Month for September. Congratulations Jennifer!

The new president of the Maryland Pro Chapter and assistant professor in Salisbury University’s Communications Arts Department will travel to EIJ16 with a group of her students. They will fly this year, rather than pull two all-nighters in a van as they did to attend last year’s national conference.

“SPJ has had an important role in my life since I was an undergraduate at Appalachian State University,” Jennifer said. “As a member and later as a working journalist, SPJ provided valuable opportunities for me to network with professionals and learn about important journalism issues. When I became a journalism professor at Salisbury University in 2011, I knew I wanted to launch a chapter there to provide my students with the same formational experiences I had.

“We began with a group of six dedicated student journalists, who worked diligently to form our chapter during the 2012-13 school year. Since then, we have received awards for best new student organization, adviser of the year and chapter president of the year from the university. We have hosted diversity in media forums, conducted successful fundraisers and hosted workshops aimed at giving students hands-on media experiences. We took 10 students to the national conference in Orlando last year, and our group will head to New Orleans this year.

“As the new president of the Maryland Professional Chapter, I hope to convey my commitment to SPJ by connecting journalists and educating them in unique, exciting ways. As it always has been, SPJ will continue to be a driving force in my life for years to come.”

Jennifer was nominated by Region 2 Director Andy Schotz. He has this to say:

“She is a strong force in keeping the campus chapter vibrant each year. The chapter’s latest annual report shows a mix of programs, fundraising activities and service projects.

Members of her chapter show en masse and enthused to regional and national conferences, even when they have long distances to travel.

“Jennifer also is active in the Maryland Pro chapter. Her detailed recordkeeping as chapter treasurer is a model for transparency. This year, she is chapter president. I greatly appreciate her commitment to SPJ.”

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan Stevens, Membership Committee member, at 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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SPJ Member of the Month: Pat Trosky

Keystone Pro Chapter President Pat Trosky is SPJ’s Member of the Month for August, brought to our attention because of her work on behalf of SPJ at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Congratulations, Pat!

She has been a member since 1982 and teaches at Luzerne County Community College.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ginny Frizzi: SPJ’s July Member of the Month

Ginny Frizzi

Ginny Frizzi

SPJ has countless members who work hard, month after month and year after year, to help the organization at the local and national levels. This month, we honor just one of them – Ginny Frizzi – who has served long and well since 1973. Congratulations, Ginny!

Ginny has been an active member of SPJ since college. She was a charter member of the Point Park College (now University) chapter in 1973.

In addition to being treasurer of the Pittsburgh Professional Chapter, she served as Region 4 representative to the national SPJ board for six years. She was a member of and chaired the SPJ Awards and Honors Committee and also served on SPJ’s strategic planning and Freedom of Information committees.

She has been a judge for SPJ’s New America Award and for various press club and SPJ chapter contests. She regularly serves as a judge and judging coordinator for SPJ’s professional Distinguished Service Awards and its college Mark of Excellence Awards.

She was among the founders and is a current board member of the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, serving as its first secretary. She is a member the Press Club’s scholarship committee that selects the recipient of the annual Bob Fryer Memorial Scholarship and Press Club Scholarship.

Ginny has served as president of the former Pittsburgh chapter of Women In Communications, Inc. and as president of the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh. She is also a judge for the Women’s Press Club’s annual Gertrude Gordon Writing Contest for college students.

At the 2015 Golden Quill Awards, she received the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania‘s Service to Journalism Award.

She has worked on four regional conferences hosted by the Pittsburgh Pro chapter, twice heading up fundraising. She was the first recipient of SPJ’s Regional Director of the Year Award, and was given the award twice.

She arranged contest judging swaps between her SPJ chapter and press club and other SPJ chapters and press clubs.

She has only missed two SPJ national conferences since 1974 (1980 and 2015) due to unexpected medical issues, and is a regular at SPJ Region 4 conferences.

She has been a freelance writer since college, in addition to her public relations career.

Ginny holds bachelor and master of arts degrees in journalism and communications from Point Park University. Her first journalism job was with the Coraopolis Record before moving into public relations career at Point Park and then the University of Pittsburgh.

Advice for members? “I guess the most important would be to be willing to go beyond your comfort zone. Try something for SPJ you have never done before–volunteer to help judge a contest, work the registration table at a program, greet new members, work with a college chapter … there are countless possibilities. This can lead to new skills, friends and ways to get much more out of your SPJ membership.

“Don’t use the excuse of being too busy. Everyone is busy. Even if you can only do a one-time assignment, it’s a good place to start. You could be laying the groundwork for a future leadership role … and SPJ always needs leaders.”

Ginny was nominated by two other long-time volunteers who work hard for SPJ: Nerissa Young and Rebecca Talent.

Here’s what Nerissa has to say:

Ginny joined the Point Park University chapter in 1974. She’s been a faithful member and often officer for the Pittsburgh Pro chapter since she left college. Ginny has served on the SPJ finance committee, Honors and Awards Committee (chairwoman, also) and set the bar for Region 4 directors during her terms as RD. She is a contest wonk who helps coordinate a lot of judging for MOE, SDX and Pittsburgh Press Club contests. She has planned many regional conferences on behalf of Pittsburgh Pro and has rarely missed a regional or national conference. Ginny is devoted to service of SPJ and offers her expertise, insight and help to any and all who ask. Ginny stays busy as a freelance writer and SPJ volunteer. Because of her, I joined the SPJ Ethics Committee in 1995, which put me on a path of SPJ committee service for two decades. I would not have been an SPJ leader without her mentorship and friendship.

Nerissa Young

adviser to Ohio University SPJ chapter

current David L. Eshelman Adviser of the Year

From Becky:

I have known Ginny since 1982 and she has been a firebrand for SPJ. Some of the things she has done include:

  • Running the annual Green eyeshade competition
  • Judging a variety of contests
  • Was Regional Director
  • Has served on numerous local and national committees
  • Consistently volunteers for any project SPJ offers.

One interesting thing: last conference was the first one she missed since 1981, and it was only the fact she was hospitalized with open heart surgery that kept her at home.
Rebecca J. Tallent, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
School of Journalism and Mass Media
University of Idaho

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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. 


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 and

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 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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