The SPJ brand: Sizzling or fizzling?

This past weekend I had the honor of visiting the Fort Worth, Texas, SPJ chapter, checking out the Stockyards, eating cowboy cuisine with Eddye Gallagher, Kim Pewitt-Jones, Rebecca Aguilar and others, and receiving a branding iron as a memento.

I flew coach to Fort Worth on Saturday to visit the SPJ chapter. I think it was more cramped than this coach parked in the Stockyards.

I flew coach to Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday to visit the SPJ chapter. I think the plane was more cramped and uncomfortable than this coach parked in the Stockyards.

You gotta¬† love Texas, one of the world’s greatest nation-states. Now, I don’t plan to brand anything with my iron, but I know ranchers rely on a strong label to distinguish their cattle from their neighbors’ cattle.

So what distinguishes SPJ from our neighboring journalism organizations? What is OUR brand?

We are going to figure that out. Brian Eckert, former Region 2 director, will lead a group this year to examine the communications and brand of SPJ, to see how people view the organization and whether we are missing out on prospective members. In a related effort, former SPJ president John Ensslin will lead a task force to discuss the pros and cons of changing the name to the Society for Professional Journalism, as requested by the delegates at the national convention in August.

Both efforts will require us to ask ourselves some tough questions. Who are we and who do we want to be?

Journalism is evolving, and SPJ has always evolved. After all, we are no longer the college fraternity we started as, and we have continued to change to reflect the needs of society and journalism. There were times when we haven’t changed very fast (e.g., first women admitted to the society in 1969. Really?!?). We must stay relevant and flexible, yet remain firm in our convictions for ethics, diversity, freedom of information and helping journalists do their jobs better.

I welcome this discussion, and I hope it is followed by action that is meaningful, concrete and constructive. As we get started I will post more information about how you can get involved.

It will take all of us to forge this SPJ brand!



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