By John Ensslin, 2011-12 SPJ President | January 30th, 2012
While the SPJ Executive Committee visited with members of our Greater Charlotte chapter in North Carolina on Jan. 27, I gave a talk on the State of the Society.
Below is a copy of my remarks (although not an exact transcript.) Or watch the video, uploaded by the Charlotte chapter:
I’d like to take a moment here to share a few thoughts on the state of SPJ — on where we are and where we’re going.
First off, tonight we’ve reached another milestone in SPJ’s long and storied history. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Quill, our signature magazine.
What started as a fraternity newsletter in January 1912 has evolved into an outstanding magazine that helps our members stay current with what going on in journalism and within the Society.
And think about it. How many magazines in America have survived a century or more? Well, there’s Scientific American at 167 years old and Harper’s at 162. But there aren’t a lot more, and as I like to tell our editor, Scott, we’re older than Time.
The pages of Quill tell the history of journalism in America, and later this year, we’re going tap into some of the magazine’s images to tell our history as well. SPJ member Jennifer Peebles is building an interactive timeline of significant events in SPJ history. So, watch for that.
Looking ahead in that history, I’m hoping we can increase our online version of Quill so it’s something members can turn to every day instead of six times a year.
SPJ has a long history of advocating for journalists and the public’s right to know, and this year that has certainly been true. We protested the arrests of several journalists who were wrongfully detained or arrested while covering various “Occupy” demonstrations across the county.
We’ve committed $1,000 from our Legal Defense Fund for a freelance photojournalist who was arrested while covering an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.
We’ll continue to fight these good fights and to stand with journalists who are in that often lonely place of taking fire for simply doing their jobs.
Another thing SPJ is known for is its ethics code, which some folks have called the gold standard for our industry.
Last year, we reached an important goal with the publication of the 4th edition of a textbook of ethics case studies. This year, we’re taking that a step further by writing a series of white papers on various ethics topics.
I’d urge you to take a look at these essays. They are posted on our website, spj.org. They show that for us, journalism ethics is not just a textbook on a shelf, but an on-going set of values that are useful when doing our jobs every day.
SPJ is also about to do something we’ve never done before: be a landlord.
Thanks to some hard work by our Executive Director, Joe Skeel, we are on the verge of signing a lease with a global recruitment firm that wants to rent the underutilized second floor of our headquarters in Indianapolis.
This will require us to invest some funds into renovating that part of the building, but in the long run, it will create a new stream of revenue.
Now you would be right to ask: What does this have to do with journalism? Nothing really. But at time when other journalism organizations are struggling just to stay afloat, we’re doing something that will help stabilize SPJ’s finances and ensure our future.
And finally, I have some good news about SPJ’s membership.
For the first time since 2008, we are starting the year with more members than we had the year before. Not a lot — just about 200 to 300 more — but it has been that way consistently for more than two months.
Part of that increase may be due to an increase in the number of entries were seeing for our annual Mark of Excellence college journalism awards. But I think some of the credit also goes to our membership committee, which has been reaching out to lapsed members and talking them into sticking with SPJ.
I hope you’ll help us continue to build on this small trend. I’m asking that every chapter, student and pro, do one membership-building event in the month of March.
We’re calling it our own March Membership Month. You’ll be hearing more about it in the next few weeks, and when you do, please do what you can to ensure that our Society continues to grow in the year ahead.