A Guest Post by Lynn Walsh, SPJ President-Elect
EIJ16 is almost a month away. On top of all of training and networking opportunities, SPJ chapter delegates will have an opportunity to vote on two proposed changes to the organizations bylaws.
One of them called “SPJ Supporters,” would help us redefine our Associate membership category to better attract people interested in journalism and protecting the First Amendment, but may not be practicing journalists.
Click here to read a condensed version of this post and the proposed bylaws change.
Journalism is not changing, it has changed.
As the ways in which people consume media change, the people creating it are also changing.
SPJ has always supported journalists through training, legal support, networking and more.
But, we also fight for the public’s right to know through FOIA and freedom of the press. We educate the public and speak out on ethical concerns in the media. And maybe most importantly, SPJ is able to take those fights to lawmakers, advocating on behalf of journalists but also the public.
Right now, our membership is made up almost entirely of journalists or former journalists. We want to see those numbers continue to grow, but journalists are not the only people who care about freedom of the press issues, access to public information and the pieces of work we produce that hold the powerful accountable.
In this day in age there is power in numbers. This is especially true if we want to engage lawmakers.
Just look at the NRA. According to a 2013 figure, the group estimates it has 4.3 million members. Right now, a membership costs $30 for one year. We have all witnesses how powerful the group can be at lobbying, preventing measures its members do not support, pushing through measures its members do support.
While SPJ may never be able to reach those type of membership numbers (a girl can dream, though) there are more people out there than just practicing journalists that care about journalism, freedom of the press, access to public information and holding the powerful accountable.
We want to start being able to better engage those individuals. By passing this bylaws amendment, I think we will be one step closer to making that happen.
People who support journalism and the issues SPJ fights for, defends and stands for can become Supporters. We already have the membership category (it was originally used for individuals working in PR) but now we can redefine it, re-brand it and better serve those who join in this category.
These people could be attorneys who work in FOIA or open records law areas. They might be citizen bloggers or activists who share information and report on issues, but may not consider themselves full-time journalists, therefore not have joined SPJ. Maybe these are just friends and family, general members of the public who have been impacted by a great journalist, who want to support our profession and fight for the public’s right to know.
SPJ Supporters would join at a reduced rate. They would not vote on national elections. They would receive newsletters and updates from SPJ designed for them. More information on how SPJ is fighting to fix FOIA, less information about tips on managing a newsroom or how to get a job in news. (Just an example. More information on this proposed bylaws change can be found here. )
The SPJ National Board members support it and so do I. I hope you will too. If you are not a chapter delegate, please contact your local chapters asking them to support it.
Let’s help bring the possibility of impact and influence back to journalists, the public and SPJ.
Lynn Walsh is the current President-Elect for SPJ. In her “day job” she manages and leads the NBC 7 Investigates team in San Diego. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter, @LWalsh, or contact her via email: Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.