Prison journalists

This is a long way away from Region 2, but it’s worth sharing.

Did you know there is a group of SPJ members inside a prison? San Quentin State Prison in Northern California.

I heard about this a few weeks ago, and read more details over the weekend at http://www.lifeofthelaw.org/2015/12/san-quentin-journalists:

In July 2015, two dozen inmates behind the walls of San Quentin State Prison
became the first journalists serving sentences inside a U.S. prison
to become members of the Society of Professional Journalists.
 
They’re members of the first professional association inside a
prison. The reporters with the San Quentin News and the
San Quentin Prison Report hold monthly meetings to discuss the ethics
and the craft of journalism with guests who are both news-makers and journalists.
San-Quentin-Chapter-of-the-Society-of-Professional-Journalists-1140x760

Check out the copy of the (new) SPJ Code of Ethics in the group photo and read the inmates’ accounts of what journalism and SPJ mean to them.

There’s a lot to think about here.

(Cheers to Peter Sussman for sharing this link with me and for his advocacy on this topic)

 


Hey ’19

The SPJ national board voted electronically on Dec. 22 to hold SPJ’s 2019 national convention in San Antonio.

There are a variety of reasons why this is a good thing, including a favorable bid on hotel rooms and convention space and a sensible rotation among regions of the country. The SPJ headquarters staff is very good at scouting convention sites and at running the conventions.

The Excellence in Journalism convention schedule for the next four years will be New Orleans in 2016, Anaheim in 2017, Baltimore in 2018 and now San Antonio in 2019.

The 2019 conference dates will be Sept. 5 to 7.

This brings up the annual dilemma about the best time of year to hold the national conference. Early September isn’t a great time for college students to break away from school, but there are many other factors (including cost) that sometimes necessitate picking that week.

As a side note, SPJ still needs to do better about sharing the news about votes taken by the board as they happen and letting members know in advance that the board is considering taking an action such as this. I generally try to post news about electronic meetings such as this one in advance, but didn’t this time.

I believe the board and HQ staff should publicize every meeting, even if there’s no practical way for the public to sit in on the meeting.

The following section is part of the Openness and Accountability Best Practices that SPJ encourages chapters to follow. The national board should try to follow them, too, and generally does — but not always.

  • Meetings

    SPJ meetings at the local and national level should follow the spirit of state sunshine laws (for a good description of open meeting law elements, see www.rcfp.org/ogg). Leaders should:

    — Post meeting time, date, and place information in advance for members, prospective members, and the public, on a website, Facebook page, email or other accessible venue.

    — Include action/discussion items in meeting agendas to increase meeting attendance and attract potential new members. Members should contact the president at least two days in advance of the meeting if they would like to request a topic for the agenda.

    — Allow anyone from the membership or public to observe meetings. Provide an open comment period to let people chime in.

    — Post a summary of the meeting at a chapter website promptly, preferably within five business days of the meeting, so members can keep abreast of chapter activities. Include any decisions or votes.

    — Make meetings accessible, both physically and electronically. Meetings should be held where people are welcome to attend and can easily access. Consider GoToMeeting or other electronic means of broadcasting meetings and allowing participation for those cannot get to the meeting, but are interested in what happens.

    — Account for circumstances where private discussion among leaders is necessary, similar to state open meeting laws. For example, typical exemptions that might allow meeting in “executive session” include considering/debating the qualifications of new leader appointees, rent negotiations for space, pending/potential litigation, etc. If board members do discuss matters in executive session, they should come out and make any decisions and votes publicly.


Guest post: Be Vigilant and Courageous, SPJ

Regional director’s note: The following piece is by Gideon Grudo, a board member of the Washington, D.C., Pro chapter of SPJ. I offered this space as a platform for his opinion.

Gideon is reacting to this:

On Friday, SPJ posted this statement from Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman about journalists entering the home of suspected San Bernardino killers Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik:
“Journalists should feel free to investigate stories when and where possible. They need to minimize harm in their reporting, however. Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

Gideon’s response (from himself, and not representing the D.C. Pro board):

BE VIGILANT AND COURAGEOUS, SPJ

When I read SPJ’s reaction to the now infamous live-broadcast shooters’ apartment ransack, it pissed me off.

Why? Because when SPJ fails to stomp its foot and slam its fist at unethical journalism, it violates its own code of ethics and it loses more relevance.

Here’s a clause from the very first plank of that code: Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.

Absent are these traits in the statement SPJ’s ethics chair, Andrew Seaman, delivered about CNN’s and MSNBC’s unethical blunder. It is not vigilant and it is not courageous. It is weak and it is cowardly. It is indirect and it is fragile. It’s not a statement. It’s a friendly reminder that SPJ’s code exists, directed at no one and avoiding eye contact.

So let’s get courageous…

Seaman writes: Journalists should feel free to investigate stories when and where possible. They need to minimize harm in their reporting, however.

Don’t be afraid to call spades and write something like this: CNN and MSNBC journalists violated journalistic ethics in their apartment crawl coverage. If you get access to a suspected shooter’s apartment, be responsible.

And vigilant…

Seaman writes: Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

What the hell does “does not represent best and ethical practices” mean? Say what you mean, like this: Don’t walk into a building and live broadcast identifying information of people who might have nothing to do with killing people. You could be endangering lives with this unethical drivel. It’s irresponsible and has no place on your platform.

Get angry. Get loud. Stand up. Get red in the face. Stop being so damn polished. When you’re this clean, no one can hear you. When no one can hear you, SPJ’s membership keeps falling. It’s all connected.

If SPJ wants folks to respect its code, it should show the code some respect, too (and itself some respect while we’re at it).

To its credit, SPJ now links to material that expounds on its ethics clauses (an effort Seaman adamantly and successfully championed). Here’s backup for the clause I quoted from the likes of Poynter and Harvard. CNN and MSNBC don’t make policy like those at whom the clause is historically targeted, but they do very much set an example of what to do or not do to media across the world. They are largely influential, or as I see it, “with power.”

We know SPJ’s Code of Ethics and we belabor its importance in an effort to elevate our stature. But when shit hits the fan and smears the lot of us, we subtly forget about Strunk & White. We force our words through turnstiles of passivity and placidity. The result? No one notices. No one cares. If change is realized, it won’t be by our hand.

In an age saturated with aggregate filler, direct and deliberate speech is the currency of relevance.

Here’s my likely quixotic advice to this society I hold very dear: Be who you are or don’t be at all.

To respond, either post a comment here or contact Gideon at ggrudo@gmail.com.


Introducing/remembering Austin Kiplinger

Several years ago, I used to edit the Washington, D.C., Pro chapter’s newsletter, called Dateline. I started a feature called “Introducing…,” a monthly Q&A with a chapter member.

One of my favorites was with Austin H. Kiplinger, editor emeritus of Kiplinger Washington Editors, an SPJ luminary who died Friday at age 97.

This was in 2007, as he and the chapter each (coincidentally) celebrated their 75th anniversary with SPJ. (It’s not clear if he had the most years of SPJ/SDX membership ever, but it’s possible.)

[Here, here and here are some clips in which Kiplinger’s wisdom, eloquence and humor come across.]

Kiplinger, a member of the D.C. Pro Hall of Fame and 2014 lifetime achievement award winner with the chapter, typed his answers on two yellow pages and mailed them back — after editing my questions a little, for the better. The heading on his answers is “AHK Intvu for Jan. 2007 Dateline (SDX).” He used a black pen to carefully edit himself.

kiplinger

Here is what he wrote:

INTRODUCING… Austin H. Kiplinger

Where are you from? I was born in Washington of parents who had recently moved here from Columbus, Ohio. My father started on the Ohio State Journal and then transferred to the Associated Press in Columbus. During World War I, he came to Washington to cover the Treasury for the Associated Press.

Have you always been a journalist? Yes. Even before I was getting paid for it; I edited a paper for my high school Latin Class “Ad Ovum Usque Mala.” Then I edited the Western Breeze at the Western High School in Washington, and the Areopagus magazine of commentary at Cornell. But I did get paid for doing string reporting for the Ithaca Journal while I was an undergraduate at Cornell.

When did you join Sigma Delta Chi? I joined in 1936 at Cornell while I was working for the Ithaca Journal (I got $4 a week for my work.)

How long have you been a member of the Washington Chapter? I’m not sure. I may have joined in 1939 when I was working as a junior reporter on the Kiplinger Washington Letter.

What kind of publications have you worked for? I have worked in every known form of journalism (except blogging). I’ve reported and written for dailies (the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Journal of Commerce), weeklies (The Kiplinger Letters), monthlies (Changing Times, The Kiplinger Magazine), broadcasting ABC and NBC in Chicago during the political convention years of the 1950s, and now electronic media (Kiplinger.com).

What was your best journalism moment? There have been so many vivid experiences, it is hard to pick the best one. One of the most dramatic (and exhausting) was the day of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. I got word of the shooting in Dallas at about 1 o’clock on that Friday afternoon. I was at our circulation offices in suburban Maryland and I dashed to the office. We already had a draft of the week’s letter ready for the press. It dealt with the political problems President Kennedy was experiencing, and it would have sounded almost ghoulish if it had been read on Monday morning. That was scrapped, and for the next 12 hours we scoured the city, covering our sources on the Hill and throughout government and elsewhere for every scrap of judgment we could get on Lyndon Johnson, the new President. In retrospect, that Letter was a good solid job which has held up remarkably well over the years.

What was the oddest thing you ever experienced on the job? I don’t quite know. I do remember keeping a telephone line open for nearly two hours at the hotel room of Vice President Alben Barkley on the day he announced he was not going to run for President. When the telephone operator asked me who to charge the call to, I said “charge it to the Vice President,” which now, these many years later (54 years), does seem a little cheeky. But then reporters are supposed to use their ingenuity and I used mine.

Why do you belong to SDX, SPJ? Because it is an effective vehicle for interesting bright young prospects in our great profession, and one of the best guardians of ethics and honesty in the preparation of the news.

 


Membership planning proposal approved (I voted no)

I wrote on Monday — before an electronic meeting of the SPJ national board — about a proposal we were considering for creating a strategy on reversing SPJ’s trend of declining membership. I promised an update after the board voted.

SPJ National President Paul Fletcher proposed spending $8,600 on a brainstorming session in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January at the same time the SPJ Executive Committee meets.

The money would cover travel, lodging and meals for Robyn Davis Sekula, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Membership Committee; April Bethea, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Diversity Committee; and an SPJ member to be determined who does not belong to a chapter.

It also would pay for SPJ Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer and Membership Director Linda Hall to join the session. Other SPJ staffers who typically attend the Executive Committee meeting would already be there.

I was receptive to part of this idea. I can see the value of getting people together to dive into an important topic. SPJ has lost thousands of members in the last several years.

What I did not support, though, was the majority of the $8,600 proposal — $4,450 for fees and expenses for facilitator Tim Daniel.

The board previously was told that Daniel has experience leading other journalism organizations through strategy sessions, but does not have experience in association membership.

I don’t see the logic in hiring someone to run a meeting on a topic everyone else in the room already understands.

I also didn’t understand why we didn’t instead pursue a consultant who specializes in association membership, or even ask for a few quotes. (I’m not sure I would have supported that plan either, but it at least made more sense to me.)

Before and during the meeting, I was told:

• A consultant could come up with a membership plan, which we might adapt. But a strategic plan that we created on our own would go deeper and be more meaningful.

• Participants in a strategy session might come in with preconceived opinions. It’s better to have a neutral outsider in charge.

• A trained facilitator makes sure everyone is heard, not just those who speak the most often or loudest.

I don’t agree with these explanations, so I voted no.

I’m not sure of the final vote, but I think 12 of the 23 board members were in on the call. And I know two people voted no (me and Region 5 Director Deborah Givens). That probably makes the final vote 10-2.

I’m typically tuned in to the final results of any meeting I’m in, but the board’s electronic meetings sometimes make that difficult.

It’s easier to follow along through a computer, with a chat function. When we have these meetings during the workday, I have to participate by phone and that’s less orderly.

When I see a final tally (which is required for the board’s roll-call votes), I’ll post it here.


Spending money to brainstorm membership ideas

This afternoon, the SPJ national board is scheduled to hold another virtual meeting (electronic/phone). The topic is membership.

SPJ National President Paul Fletcher has said it’s one of his top priorities to address SPJ’s declining membership. In that vein, he is proposing a retreat for a strategy session.

The retreat would be held in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January at the same time the SPJ Executive Committee meets.

The session would include Robyn Davis Sekula, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Membership Committee, and April Bethea, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Diversity Committee. A, SPJ member to be determined who does not belong to a chapter would also be included.

Two SPJ staff members — Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer and Membership Director Linda Hall — would join the session. SPJ staffers who typically attend the Executive Committee meeting would already be there.

The proposal also includes hiring a facilitator to run the meeting.

The total cost of the proposed strategy session is $8,600. That includes $4,450 for fees and expenses for the facilitator and $4,150 for travel, lodging and meals for the other five people mentioned above.

The board was told that the facilitator has experience leading other journalism organizations through similar strategy sessions, but does not have experience in association membership.

I agree with the idea of holding a session specifically to address membership. But I do not support spending money to have someone lead a meeting for us.

If you have any thoughts on this idea, post them here. I’ll write an update after the board makes a decision.


Parsing ‘Truth’

I recently attended an advance screening of ‘Truth,” a new movie looking back at “60 Minutes II” controversial reporting on the Air National Guard service of former President George W. Bush.

A segment on the CBS news magazine relied on purported copies of 1970s documents to conclude that Bush received special treatment, helping him avoid being sent to Vietnam during the war.

But “60 Minutes II” brushed aside doubts about the veracity of the documents as it rushed a story to the air shortly before the 2004 election. When the story blew up, four people lost their jobs and anchor Dan Rather left the network a short time later.

Rather still maintains that the information in the report was solid, even if “60 Minutes II” made mistakes in gathering and sharing the information. That’s illustrated in this follow-up report with a secretary who says she didn’t type the documents in questions, but the information in them was correct. (That exchange didn’t get into the movie.)

After the screening, Rather and director James Vanderbilt talked about the movie, which is largely sympathetic to Rather, but doesn’t gloss over the missteps. They answered questions from moderator Brian Stelter of CNN.

IMG_2252

Rather is convinced that CBS only apologized for the the report — again, not its substance – because of business interests. He said “a very big corporate power got in bed with a very big political power.”

Rather acknowledges that there were flaws. “We didn’t do this perfectly,” he said. “We made mistakes and I made mistakes.”

Here’s Rather commenting on facts and mistakes:

But he wouldn’t speculate on what should have been done differently, asserting that news organizations don’t have the luxury of redoing their decisions. He used a colorful analogy to describe it as a pointless exercise: If a camel didn’t have a hump, would it run faster?

I had trouble accepting Rather’s idea that the means can be overlooked if the final conclusion is solid. I wondered how he would have felt about a journalism professor failing a student who misspells a name in a story.

Accuracy matters not just in the final product, but in the steps along the way. It doesn’t take much for the public to stop trusting what you do.

 


Three board meetings, one election, one business session

Several weeks have passed since the SPJ board held its two fall meetings, but it’s still worth summarizing those actions and discussions.

In the meantime, the board met again — almost two weeks ago, electronically. We used a teleconferencing system called Zoom.

First, highlights of the two meetings from Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando.

 

Sept. 18:

From Executive Director Joe Skeel’s roundup of news from headquarters:

• “Our cash position remains strong,” Skeel wrote. “We have about $530,000 in unrestricted cash reserve investments.”

• Income from managing certain tasks for other journalism organizations continues to grow and could be on the verge of becoming SPJ’s second-largest revenue stream — behind membership dues, ahead of contest entry fees.

• SPJ is going to talk further with other journalism organizations to make it easier to join more than one group at the same time.

• From September 2014, to August 11, 2015, SPJ distributed 90 news releases and statements.

• This year, a task force came up with ideas for training delegates before the business meeting. [I helped lobby for this. It went well this year.]

 

Other business:

• Eight campus chapters were inactivated this year. One was in Region 2 — Regent University, which requested the change.

• The National Association of Hispanic Journalists plans to join SPJ again for the national conferences in 2017 and 2019.

• The board approved policies that include members of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board for hiring and evaluating the executive director.

• The board approved a 4-percent raise for Skeel. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky was the only board member to vote no.

• The board went into executive session to discuss Skeel’s evaluation and for an unrelated matter.

 

Sept. 21:

• The board approved President Paul Fletcher’s choices for committee chairs (including me as chair of the Awards and Honors Committee). The only new chair since last year is Jonathan Anderson on the FOI Committee.

• The board approved an application for a new community for Community Journalism. The organizer is Al Cross.

• Fletcher announced that a change in the selection process for the Wells Memorial Key was voluntarily put in a place this year — a year early. The change, as approved by the board, was to have the full Executive Committee (five people) select the recipient rather than just the officers (three people). The board voted to have the change start in 2016.

• At the request of at-large director Bill McCloskey, the board approved a directive that all governance meetings (the SPJ board, the SDX board) be publicized in all print and video national convention materials.

• Some board members said they prefer that the tongue-in-cheek resolutions at the national convention business meeting — usually to thank the president and the headquarters — either be moved to the end of the session or eliminated, particularly since they often are filled with inside jokes.

• I asked for a clarification of the policy for SPJ national board members getting involved in or refraining from campaigning in national elections. The current guideline is: “Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.” This became an issue this year during a debate on the national convention app, when an SDX board member advocated for an SPJ candidate. Skeel will research the policy and report back to the board.

• The board went into executive session to discuss one matter and to talk to its new attorney.

 

Oct. 27:

The national board’s electronic meeting was to discuss three topics on the agenda, but a few other items came up:

• President Paul Fletcher talked about the emphasis SPJ will have in the coming year on membership. There probably will be a retreat on the topic after the Executive Committee meets in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January.

• SPJ’s communities were expected to hold their elections in late October and early November.

• The board briefly went into executive session to discuss one topic.

The items on the regular agenda were:

• The board picked Jane Primerano of the New Jersey Pro chapter as the new Region 1 director. She replaces Rebecca Baker, who was elected national secretary-treasurer in September.

• The board approved Fletcher’s appointment of Sonny Albarado as SPJ’s new representative on the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications for three years. Washington, D.C., Pro chapter member Steve Geimann filled that position for 19 years, but recently moved to London for his job. On a separate motion to set a policy that the president make the appointment in the future, subject to ratification by the board, President-elect Lynn Walsh voted no. She said the board should consider applications for the position, particularly since the president only serves one year but the appointment is for three years.

• The board discussed a proposal by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky to create a new SPJ contest for gaming journalism, at a cost of up to $1,500. There was debate about whether SPJ should get involved or steer clear of the controversy surrounding gaming news coverage and whether a niche should get its own contest. The board voted in favor of the proposal, although I’m not sure what the exact vote was. I know that four people who participated by phone voted yes — me, at-large director Alex Tarquinio, Region 6 Director Joe Radske and Region 9 Director Tom Johnson. Two others voted no — Vice President for Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen Katcef and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Baker. I don’t know what all of the digital votes were.

 

Finally, some news from the national election and the business meeting at Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando:

The election results were:

• President-elect: Lynn Walsh, unopposed, 682 votes

• Secretary-treasurer: Rebecca Baker had 508 votes, defeating Jason Parsley, who had 215 votes

• Vice president of campus chapter affairs: Sue Kopen Katcef, unopposed, 660 votes

• At-large director: Bill McCloskey had 459 votes, defeating Alex Veeneman, who had 260 votes

• Campus adviser at large: Rebecca Tallent, unopposed, 638 votes

• Student representatives (two seats): Kate Hiller, with 545 votes, and Monica Dottage, with 336 votes, were elected. Dustin Ginsberg was third with 35 votes.

• Region 2 director: I (Andy Schotz) was unopposed, 103 votes

• Region 3 director: Michael Koretzky, unopposed, 61 votes

• Region 6 director: Joe Radske, unopposed, 32 votes

• Region 10 director: Ethan Chung had 34 votes, defeating Don Meyers, who had 28 votes

• Region 11 director: Matt Hall, unopposed, 82 votes

• Region 12 director: Amanda Womac, unopposed, 32 votes.

More than 770 SPJ members voted, or 11 percent. This was the highest voter turnout under the one member, one vote system.

 

At the business meeting, delegates passed resolutions:

• Commemorating the lives of WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were fatally shot during an assignment.

• Commemorating slain journalists worldwide

• Supporting the need for legal protection for student journalists and advisers

• Urging Congress to reform the Freedom of Information Act

• Advocating for the release of police body-worn camera footage

• Criticizing excessive information control by public information officers

• Criticizing free-speech zones and speech codes, which are common on some college campuses.

Delegates also debated a resolution submitted by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky, calling for the Society of Professional Journalists to be renamed the Society for Professional Journalism. Delegates voted 54-47 to send the proposal back to the Resolutions Committee to be redrafted and reintroduced next year.


Annual report tidbits (campus edition)

Wednesday afternoon, I posted highlights of the interesting and impressive things that SPJ’s pro chapters in Region 2 did in the past journo-fiscal year. Those details came from the annual reports that chapters were required to submit several weeks ago.

Now, the campus chapters. There are details I picked out from the eight campus chapter reports turned in this year.

Elon University: The chapter participated in the “Race and the Modern Newsroom” program with the North Carolina Pro chapter, talking about race relations and diversity. It worked with the North Carolina Sunshine Center on a discussion of open records requests and laws. Other programs were with the author of a book about SEAL Team 6, a former Associated Press who was featured in the book “Boys on the Bus,” and a panel knowledgeable about freelancing.

George Mason University: This chapter went dormant several years ago, but a core group has done a great job of reviving it. Its programs included a session on digitizing a resume, two separate media panel discussions, a talk by a former USA Today editor, and a tour of the NBC station in D.C. Its idea of fundraising with a contest to guess how many jelly beans was different. I liked the idea of creating a 30-second video to promote the journalism program and the SPJ chapter, a supplement to several recruiting efforts it had.

Georgetown University: The chapter, only four years old, has grown strong. It hosted and did most of the work on the 2014 Region 2 conference and is the host chapter for a journalism job fair with five other organizations, including the Washington, D.C., Pro SPJ chapter. Other activities were a “Powerful Women in the Media” program that built off the Netflix series “House of Cards” and volunteer work with the Washington Association of Black Journalists’ annual Urban Journalism Workshop for high school students. An FOI program had a clever addition: an FOI quiz for anyone on campus who was interested.

 High Point University: The First Amendment Free Food Festival — a fun, thought-provoking event that has been held on numerous campuses — drew the biggest crowd of any High Point U. chapter program did this year. Students get a free meal in exchange for giving up their First Amendment rights. In other programs, a TV investigative reporter talked about trying to get information that other people are trying to hide, Time Warner Cable staff showed their 24/7/365 news operation, and a newspaper publisher and reporter led a discussion on the use of anonymous sources.

Salisbury University: The chapter has been so successful in raising money, it sent 12 students to the 2014 Region 2 conference at Georgetown University. Working with local restaurants that donate 10 to 20 percent of sales during a certain period, the chapter raises $120 to $200 at a time. The money also supports workshops the chapter has done on video journalism, photojournalism, interviewing and other topics. The chapter also raised $300 for the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life.

 University of Maryland: The list of activities on the annual report was long. The chapter is good at outreach, through a fall “welcome back barbecue” for the journalism school and exam goodie baskets, which are a fundraiser, too. The chapter — which hosted the 2015 Region 2 conference — is the only one in the region with programs in FOI (a Region 2 conference session), ethics (a session on the First Amendment and free speech), diversity (a talk by the Washington Post’s first black female reporter) and service (two blood drives). There was a debate watching party, a resume workshop and some journalism field trips, too.

Virginia Commonwealth University: VCU’s chapter organized a panel discussion on diversity in the media, helped organize a ceremony to celebrate the changing of the journalism school’s name and hosted a “journalism and a movie” evening. The chapter was part of several broader programs, such as a student organization fair and a media center mixer. The most unusual activity (and probably the most fun) was a “Battle of the Masses” dodgeball competition with other mass communications groups.

Western Carolina University: Chapter members opened their workshops to the entire communications department, including one on building a multimedia portfolio and another (that was held three times) on verification on social media. On the social front, the chapter jointly held a Christmas social with two other groups and organized a bowling night. To celebrate Constitution Day in September, chapter members created a Free Speech Wall on campus. The chapter raised about $120 through a bake sale.

I found these reports enlightening and inspiring. A great deal of work and thought went into creating many worthwhile professional development and social events, including several things that I never would have thought of. Well done, Region 2.


Annual report tidbits (pro edition)

As journos know, the first time is interesting, the second indicates a trend.

In that vein, we continue the annual tradition of sharing intriguing nuggets from the annual reports SPJ chapters are required to file. It started with last year’s pro and campus chapter reports.

There are six SPJ professional chapters in Region 2. Here are highlights of what they did in the past journo-fiscal year.

Washington, D.C., Pro (my home chapter): Two of the more unusual programs this year were about net neutrality and obituary writing. For the second year, the chapter was a co-sponsor of a successful job fair held at Georgetown University (210 job seekers, 19 recruiters). It’s a good example of journalism organizations working together. The other co-sponsors are the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the Washington Association of Black Journalists. When the chapter did a direct-mail campaign to retain people with expiring memberships, 10 to 12 percent responded with renewal checks.

Virginia Pro: The chapter was instrumental in College Media Day, which also was held for the second time. For $10, students hear from pros on topics such as jobs and internships, covering campus crime, drones, FOI, interviewing and much more. There’s also a Virginia Pro tradition of honoring George Mason, who wrote Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, the forerunner of the Bill of Rights. The chapter lays a wreath at the Mason Memorial in D.C., reads the Declaration of Rights and visits his home, which is now a museum.

Delaware Pro: Just like the D.C. effort, Delaware Pro contacts people to let them know their membership is expiring. It’s important to hold onto the existing members as you also try to attract new one. There was a “tweet up” and holiday happy hour, in which journos and Delaware PR people had some face-to-face time. The chapter was the first organization in the state to organize a debate for the Democratic candidates for state treasurer. The chapter has a mentoring program in which journalism students can connect with a pro.

Maryland Pro: The chapter’s leaders did a lot of the planning work for this year’s regional conference at the University of Maryland, College Park. One of the programs this year, through a collaboration with the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association, was a lively panel discussion in Annapolis on social media. The chapter built a new website. It had the most detailed financial records accompanying its annual report, with dozens of pages of bank statements, receipts and membership dues payments.

Charlotte Pro: By the numbers, this was the most active chapter in Region 2, listing 12 programs on its annual report. Of course, quality matters, too; there was good stuff on the list. Professional development programs included effective videography, skillful interviewing and social media for reporting, podcasting and coverage of religion. Programs looked ahead and back at significant events. Journalism movie night – “Absence of Malice,” with an ethics discussion – was a good idea. This year, the chapter started a contest for journalism excellence.

North Carolina Pro: The chapter was right up there with the Charlotte Pro chapter in terms of activity; it had 11 programs listed on its report. It touched on an SPJ core value with a program on race relations coverage and diversity in the newsroom. The chapter scored points for creativity for some of its other activities, including a Thanksgiving social (guests shared what journalistic things they were thankful for) and two community service programs – answering phones at a telethon and volunteering at the Duke University campus farm.

To all: Keep up the good work. Your time and efforts are much appreciated.



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Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
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