July 17th, 2012
Guest post: Why Ann Wilmer remains an SPJ member
By Holly Edgell
Editor’s Note: Ann Wilmer serves as moderator for the SPJ group on Linkedin. The group has more than 17,000 members and, as she discusses in this post, serves as a community for SPJ members and non-members alike.
If you are part of the Linkedin group but not an official SPJ member, consider joining (or re-joining) us! We are working harder than ever to provide real value to our nearly 8,000 members.
More information here: Why Join? As your national membership committee chair, I am happy to answer your questions: email@example.com
Ann Wilmer’s View
I joined SPJ in 1971 while a student at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. I never could make up my mind what I wanted to be when I grew up. My major, “technical journalism,” was a program in the PR track that required every journalism course except the newspaper practicum, plus a number of courses print and broadcast journalism majors were not required to take. My “technical” specialty was Asian Studies – a second major.
Membership has is frustrations
My first encounter with the attitude that occasionally rears its ugly head on the SPJ forum on LinkedIn was when I ran for chapter president. After serving as vice president I was “swift-boated” by my opponent who spread the word that I had taken courses in public relations. I lost but remained a loyal member of the chapter and continued to participate actively.
When asked to explain why I still belong to SPJ, I really had to think about it. To be honest, it’s not because SPJ has helped me advance my career and, in recent years, SPJ’s official stance on some things have sounded more like management than rank-and-file journalists’ points of view. For many years, I kept my membership for the magazine and for the term life insurance plan, but when I found out that the insurance carrier for our term life insurance was AIG… well, let’s say I continue to belong in spite of SPJ’s management. (Editor’s note: the current plan offered is underwritten by The United States Life Insurance Company).
Connection and community
I continue to belong because SPJ is comprised of some of the best people I know. The odd outlier aside, these are salt-of-the-earth people who believe in fairness and balanced reporting. These are folks who care about the same things that I have cared about for more than 40 years. After college, I did not live near a chapter so I became an inactive member. I did miss talking shop with colleagues but it was inconvenient to schlep to a monthly meeting that required a 2.5 hour drive each way. The Linkedin forum is rather like a chapter. We have frequent contact with one another and it doesn’t have to unduly impact our time. It was nice to belong again.
In my other life, I have been an activist for adoption reform. I had experience moderating on-line forums so, when it became clear that the SPJ Forum on LI needed another moderator and Jenny asked me if I would like to help, it was an opportunity to give back. No organization survives if members seek to reap benefits without giving service. While conventions are fun, they are a very expensive way to play. I believe that social media will make it possible for us to enlarge participation in SPJ, rather than limit it to a small group of players. Our collective knowledge is valuable and together we can continue to be a force for good in the life of our communities. That’s why I stay on.
About Ann Wilmer
Ann is the owner and principal of Capital Letters, a Maryland firm which provides public relations and other strategic communication services. She is also a freelance writer and editor and has been a member of SPJ for more than 40 years. Check out Ann’s Linkedin profile.