Congratulations to Andrew Seaman, SPJ Volunteer of the Month

Andrew Seaman

Andrew Seaman

Congratulations to SPJ Member of the Month Andrew Seaman, who is chairman of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.
Andrew is a medical journalist with Thomson Reuters in New York City, where he reports medical and health news from around the world.
Before moving to the company’s headquarters, Andrew worked in the Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on the Affordable Care Act and the White House. His work has appeared in – among other places – USA TODAY, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Andrew currently serves as the chair of the Ethics Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists. Previously, he served as chair of the Awards and Honors Committee, and as a member of the Generation-J Committee.

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Congratulations to SPJ Member of the Month, Robbie Ward

Robbie Ward

Robbie Ward

Congratulations to SPJ Member of the Month, Robbie Ward, who was an organizer of the SPJ Google Hangout World Press Freedom event. He blogged at SPJ’s FOIA FYI blog during Sunshine Week. He also participated in SPJ’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute.

A staff writer for the Upstate Business Journal in Greenville, S.C., Ward looks for stories that make a difference. Based on his reporting, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division forced a Mississippi rural water association to compensate workers for time worked but not paid. Ward’s reporting resulted in the Mississippi Ethics Commission defining text messages of public officials as public records and convinced one local government to approve policies to archive and maintain public officials’ email and text messages.

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Ideas for diversity programs for your chapter

Many of us who are leading chapters want to have programs that bring different types of people to the events and give everyone who is working in journalism the same tools to succeed. Journalism is better, healthier and more reflective of the communities we serve if our newsrooms are diverse. 

My own chapter, Louisville (Kentucky) Pro, has made an effort to diversify those leading discussion and participating in our events. I truly believe that is more important than diversifying membership, and that if you do the first one right, anyway, the second one will follow.

I’ve been watching and learning from other chapters, too, and I was particularly intrigued by the Florida Pro Chapter‘s annual Diversity Mixer. I asked Jason Parsley, Immediate Past President of the Chapter and the coordinator of the event, to tell me how it came about. He explained the mixers this way:

Jason Parsley at the Diversity Mixer

Jason Parsley at the Diversity Mixer

SPJ Florida held its first diversity mixer in 2012. It was the first event our chapter had planned that centered around diversity.

It was a huge success and very easy to put together. In order to make this event a success we reached out to journalism groups such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association, and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. The most difficult part was coordinating a date with our partners.
We held the first mixer at a local restaurant and the second one at a local wine and cheese bar with the second one building upon the success of the first.
Outside of conventions both of these mixers were our most attended events of the year.
The mixers gave us an opportunity to connect and partner with other journalism organizations. Building those relationships with a simple mixer led us to partner with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on a regional convention, and add a Spanish language division to our awards contest. We also partnered with NAHJ on our awards ceremony last year and this year we plan on hosting a second joint convention together.

After talking more with Michael Koretzky, Region 3 Director, he notes that this kind of mixer works in South Florida because this is an area where the diversity journalism organizations have chapters and are active and engage. In other communities, this would be more difficult to do. I have to agree with him on that. Also, inviting people to come to a diversity mixer might not be a good first step for a chapter that hasn’t had much of a track record in diversity.

So tell us: how has your chapter diversified your leadership, your events, your chapter membership? We love to hear your ideas. We have more and will share those ideas here as we get details.

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SPJ May Volunteer of the Month: Carlos Restrepo

Carlos Restrepo

Carlos Restrepo

SPJ’s Volunteer of the Month for May is Carlos Restrepo, a freelance journalist and full-time communications specialist based in St. Louis, Mo.

He volunteers as organizer of the Society of Professional Journalists International Community and is vice-president of the St. Louis Pro Chapter of SPJ. A native of Medellin, Colombia, Restrepo has a bachelor’s degree in Global Journalism from Webster University.

Although Restrepo currently works in the non-profit communications field, he says his heart and soul yearn for journalists and the difficult job they do every day. Growing up in a war-torn country, Restrepo admires and respects the efforts of the many journalists who were threatened, repressed and murdered for speaking out against violence and corruption. His desire is to make even a small difference in the lives of journalists through his service at both the local and national level of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Carlos is modest. In his words: “I would like to pass on and dedicate this recognition to all of the SPJ members who have contributed to the SPJ International Community and the SPJ St. Louis Pro Chapter. I am nothing but a middle man and my colleagues, who are in the field day in and day out, deserve even more to be recognize for their commitment, hard work and passion to the beautiful and important profession of journalism.”

Carlos was nominated by SPJ President Dana Neuts. Here is what Dana says:

I’d like to nominate Carlos Restrepo of the St. Louis chapter for volunteer of the month. Last year Carlos came to me with an idea to revive the International Committee in Community format. He agreed to head the community and he has single-handedly created a vibrant, multi-faceted, talented community. Carlos went the extra mile in working with community members to define a vision and action plan for the community, and he continues to be active, writing blog posts, gathering information to help me make communications-related decisions, participating in community discussions, etc. Carlos is proactive and has a great attitude. He continues to go above and beyond the call of duty, despite his local chapter responsibilities, which continue to grow. Long-time SPJ members Dan Kubiske and Robert Buckman, who remember when the International Committee was very active, are grateful for its resurrection, and it is all because of Carlos.

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#SPJ4all: a recap

Robyn Sekula InstagramSo, that went well!

As it turns out, members have shown you’re passionate about promoting diversity and encouraging all journalists, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or anything else, to join us as a member of SPJ. You posted, you encouraged, and you enthusiastically supported and endorsed our idea for a one-day hashtag campaign called #SPJ4all. This was a joint project by the Membership and Diversity Committees, with help and support from SPJ President Dana Neuts and many others.

In case you missed it, we asked our members to post a photo of themselves (a selfie) with the hashtag #SPJ4all – and that’s it. Some posted photos from past Excellence in Journalism conferences, from their local chapters, from their newsrooms – lots of amazing photos. Some took the opportunity to raise awareness. It was amazing and wonderful to see the many faces of our members parading by on my timeline as I checked Twitter and Facebook throughout the day.

If you’d like a recap, SPJ headquarters staff prepared a well-curated Storify on it. You can view that here. Also, Alex Veneeman wrote a piece about it on the Net Worked blog, and Andrew Seaman wrote about it on Code Words, the blog of the SPJ Ethics Committee.

THANK YOU to every single person who posted about it.

A few stats on how we did:

Sospj4all hashtracking graphic2 far as I can tell, 64 people posted a photo publicly on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and used the hashtag #SPJ4all. This only counts the group board photo that was taken in April once, although it was posted and used a number of times throughout the day (thanks to everyone who posted it).

In total, the hashtag was used 576 times on Twitter, almost entirely on Wednesday. 161 of those were original tweets, and another 393 were re-tweets. Another 22 were message tweets, which are defined as tweets that begin with the @ symbol. Our messages had nearly 1.6 million timeline deliveries (doesn’t mean it was read, just that it was on a timeline at some point). I gathered all of this from hashtracking.com – and how do I know about this site? I learned about it at Excellence in Journalism in a session taught by Jeff Cutler. See, you learn stuff from SPJ.

I’m pretty darn happy with our numbers.

But… I’m not content to stop here, and I don’t think you are, either. I find myself loving the enthusiasm shown by our membership – but wondering what we do next. How do we take this energy and create the diverse SPJ that we all want, that journalism needs – and that better reflects the world we serve? How do we dive deeper?

What do we do NOW?

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on how we capture this energy and use it to propel us forward. If you have thoughts, you are welcome to post those in the comments, or contact me privately at robynds@live.com. I hope to hear from you.

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Join us TODAY for #SPJ4all

#SPJ4all

#SPJ4all

Today! We’re asking all 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 your board as a group shot or just you, or you and an SPJ friend or two. 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.

To recap our how-to from an earlier post:

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.

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.

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

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

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Join us for #SPJ4all on May 20

#SPJ4all

#SPJ4all

In light of recent news in Indiana and similar measures under consideration across the country, SPJ issued a statement reaffirming that we do not discriminate. As the chair of the membership committee, and an Indiana resident, I fully support this statement, and want to emphasize that I believe SPJ is open for everyone, no matter the person’s race, gender, sexual orientation or any other factor. If you’re a journalist, you’re welcome here, and always will be.

On May 20, we’re asking all 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 your board as a group shot or just you, or you and an SPJ friend or two. 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 May 20, snap a photo and set it aside to post on May 20.

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

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Robyn Sidersky is the April SPJ volunteer of the month

Robyn Sidersky

Robyn Sidersky

SPJ’s Volunteer of the Month for April is Robyn Sidersky, a reporter and digital content producer for The Free Lance-Star, in Fredericksburg, Va., where she has worked for the past four years.

She covers government, education, and craft beer, and produces digital content for fredericksburg.com, and helps guide the newspaper’s digital strategy.

Prior to that, she worked at The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. as a fellow, also covering government, education and features.

In 2010, she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in journalism and political science. She became involved in the Society of Professional Journalists her freshman year. She held several leadership positions in her college chapter and continues to serve on the leadership team of the Virginia Pro SPJ Board.

In addition to working for The Free Lance-Star, she volunteers and loves baking and visiting craft breweries.

Robyn was nominated by Paul Fletcher, SPJ president-elect and current SPJ secretary-treasurer. Here is what Paul says about Robyn:

“I nominate SPJVA Vice President Robyn Sidersky for Volunteer of the Month, based on her outstanding work on our chapter’s recent College Media Day program, held Feb. 14.

“Robyn was again chair of CMD, soliciting speakers and taking care of many details. She first came up with the idea of gathering collegiate journalists from across Virginia for a day-long program last year, and the initial CMD was a big success.

“For this year’s program, SPJVA partnered with SPJVCU, the campus chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Program sessions including how to get a job, alternative careers for journalists, how college journalists can use the FOIA and covering campus crime, among others.

“Attendance was not as strong as we had hoped (10-11 students, compared to 40 last year), but it wasn’t for lack of trying and reaching out. Throughout the planning and execution of CMD, Robyn showed great leadership and passion for her mission.

“I highly recommend her for this honor.”

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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Building your local membership: Part 2

2015-03-27 15.17.02The regional conference season for SPJ is gradually winding down. I attend my regional conference (Region 5) nearly every year, and some years have the opportunity to help shape programming or give a presentation. I really enjoy all aspects of conference planning and presenting.

This year, my chapter, SPJ Louisville Pro, was the sponsor and it was held at the Galt House hotel in downtown Louisville. We decided to do something different to help boost SPJ membership: we offered the opportunity to join SPJ national, and our chapter, as part of conference payment.

In setting the prices for conference attendance, we set prices for each level of attendee. I noticed something: it would actually be cheaper to join SPJ and attend as a member, for students anyway. So, we folded the cost of membership into the pricing levels. It became levels five and six for attendance.

So, options for attendees became:

  • Student member
  • Student non-member
  • Student PLUS national SPJ membership
  • Pro member
  • Pro non-member
  • Pro PLUS national SPJ membership

We had about 105 attendees, and 13 (all students) also purchased membership in SPJ national. Ten attendees joined our chapter. Since our chapter has no dues, we didn’t have to do anything extra to add them. The other three new members are from other universities in Indiana. I have let them know that they can affiliate with a chapter near them, and what the options might be. Once the payments from the conference are in, we cut a check to SPJ national to cover the cost of those 13 SPJ national memberships.

The one flaw in my plan was charging for the local dues. I could not figure out a way to allow attendees to choose which chapter they wanted to join and set it up so those dues would be automatically added to their order. I contacted EventBrite, and they weren’t helpful. (If someone knows how to do this, let me know!)

So, our chapter added 10 student members due to hosting the regional conference.

I think this was a popular option for this simple reason: we made it easy to join, and gave our attendees a solid reason to do so – it was cheaper, in the long run. The key, though, will be keeping them as members. Our chapter needs to be sure to reach out to every person who joined and be sure they know about upcoming events, talk to them about what they’d like to see in our chapter, and continue to provide value.

What people want when they join SPJ depends on where they are in life and their goals and objectives. For students, that’s usually networking, awards, internships and, of course, a job.

It’s one thing to get members. It’s quite another to keep them.

How do you think SPJ can make it easier for people to join? I’d love to have your thoughts in the comments. 

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Building your local chapter membership: Part 1

2015-04-03 12.04.21I am President of my local pro chapter, SPJ Louisville Pro, a role I’ve held on and off for a few years. I’ve always sought to build membership, but some years, it’s been tougher than others. Media layoffs took some members from us as they changed professions or simply didn’t have the funds to continue their membership. It was hard watching folks go, but equally as difficult to figure out what to DO about it.

This year, though, I discovered a trick that’s changed things for our chapter, and I want to share it with you in hopes that it will help your chapter, too. We eliminated local dues. 

This is how it came about.

I have fairly regular conversations with Linda Hall, who is the membership coordinator at SPJ headquarters. Linda is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. She mentioned in the fall of 2014 that we could get a list of all members in Kentucky and see who is in our area that we might be able to entice to join our chapter. As you probably know, you can join national SPJ without joining a chapter. Sometimes people move here and transfer into our membership area or sometimes they don’t know we exist.

I read through the list and found a number of folks who are here in Louisville but aren’t members. I asked them to join, and while many said they would, they never paid the $10 local chapter dues to join officially. It was discouraging, but understandable. We do not have a separate way to pay us electronically, and no one mails checks anymore, which is what I was asking them to do.

Linda volunteered that if we did away with chapter dues, all someone would have to do is say they wanted to join our chapter, and they’re in. Several chapters, including Cincinnati and SPJ Rio Grande (New Mexico), she said, had done away with local dues and it has helped them build membership. Many more either never had dues or did away with them years ago.

*OH*

So, if I e-mailed someone and asked if they wanted to join our chapter, and they e-mailed back a yes, I could forward that to Linda, she puts it in SPJ database, and they’re in.

I took it to our chapter board for a vote. We were sitting at about 54 members as of September 2014, and our dues were $10 per person per year. (Local dues are on top of national dues.) That’s about $540 per year we’re collecting if they’re all pro members and not students. Student dues are $5 per person per year. The board very easily and quickly voted to eliminate local dues.

I looked through the Kentucky list, looking specifically for folks in the Louisville area. There is also a Bluegrass Pro chapter in Kentucky, which covers Lexington, so I’m only looking for folks in my area. I began e-mailing folks, and the responses were quick and happy. Yes! Of course, they’d love to be a part of our chapter. I picked up about 8 members just through these e-mails. As of December 2014, we were up to 62, and seeing more interest in our chapter as our events picked up speed and our contest time approached.

We also did something else that brought us more membership in conjunction with hosting the spring Region 5 conference, which was March 27 and 28. I’ll post about that in my next blog post.

Does your chapter charge dues? I’d love to hear from our members about how you draw members to your chapter.

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