February 24th, 2008
Starting from Scratch
By John Ensslin
Many of us are hard at work trying to grow membership in states with long established chapters.
But imagine the energy, creativity and committment it must take to start an SPJ chapter in a part of the country where there’s been no activity for over a decade or more.
That’s why the Gardener wishes to tip his hat this week to two members who are planting the SPJ banner in Iowa and North Carolina.
Garden Center blogger M.E. “Buddy” Baker interviewed them both and filed this report:
Starting from Scratch
By M.E. “Buddy” Baker
Passion is at the root of what motivates two women working to start SPJ chapters.
Callie Martell, an assistant producer for North Carolina television program “NC Wanted,” is trying to resurrect an old chapter that’s faded to black. She’s confident that its revival “can and will happen.”
“The state of North Carolina is the home to many passionate journalists who have been asking about the chapter for some time and want to see it succeed, regardless of the timing,” she says.
The effort is still in its infancy, with the first meeting scheduled for early March. Already Martell says there’s “a lot” of e-mail and phone chatter about the group-to-be since SPJ’s national conference in the District of Columbia last October. She’s using the national headquarters as a resource and reaching out to members who were involved in the earlier incarnation of the group.
“We have a small handful of people from across the region who are committed to the project but we are having to plan far in advance to accommodate schedules and travel distance,” she says. “We are just going to take this step by step and learn the ropes as we go. So, no, there aren’t any officers in place but I expect things to start rolling very smoothly once we have our first meeting. Right now, we encourage anyone who is interested to step on up!”
May her efforts with the chapter be as successful as her TV show. Thanks to stories she’s helped tell, “NC Wanted” has aided in the capture of more than 10 fugitives since her arrival.
Rachel Weber also is confident of success in starting a chapter in Des Moines, Iowa. Two print powerhouses are located there – the Des Moines Register and Meredith Corporation, where she is a staff writer for “Kitchen Makeovers” magazine. Meredith is a major publisher of books and magazines, and also owns 14 television stations.
Weber graduated only last spring from Iowa State, where she was treasurer of the student chapter. Still fresh with the enthusiasm of the newly initiated, Weber has been recruiting people at Meredith and has signed up journalists at the Register.
She feels good things can come from this assemblage of newspaper reporters and magazine writers. “I feel like there’s going to be a lot of collaboration.” Meredith, she says, also has a lot of resources – read that as people “my mom’s age” – that she can consult for advice and assistance.
Which brings us to what she considers one of her greatest challenges: her youth. Only a year out of college, Weber has been mistaken for a teenager. “I want us to be taken seriously. I want this to be organized and really strong starting out.”
News of Weber’s efforts has spread solely through the scribe grapevine. “People want to do it,” she says. “It’s just a matter of organizing them.”
Her efforts are moving along quickly. Just before press time, Weber e-mailed an update: “I’ve made headway and have had conversations with the regional director as well as one of the chapter doctors and am really excited for our first informational meeting on Saturday, March 15.”
Good work and good luck to both of you.
SPJ Garden Center Tip of the Week
Does you chapter award scholarships? Consider adding a one-year student or post-graduate membership along with the scholarship. It’s a meaningful gift that could pay dividends in the long run.
SPJ By the Number
Membership this week 9,244
Membership one month ago 9,163
Membership one year ago 9,096