SPJ’s inside baseball: a hit!

Star ranking systems.

Annual report requirements.

Inactive chapters vs. deactivated chapters.

If you don’t know what any of this means, you haven’t served on SPJ’s national board of directors. I have – twice. And even with a year in between my terms, these same boring topics have been discussed to death both times.

SPJ is obsessed with its own inside baseball. I realize every organization – especially one as large and as old (and yes, as lovable) as SPJ – needs to handle its mundane logistics. But SPJ tends to debate this stuff without truly resolving it.

It’s no one’s fault, really. It just sorta happens with a 23-member board. But now I can proudly report: One officer is fixing one problem, and that might show SPJ how to hit others out of the park.


The pros and contests

If you’ve ever organized an SPJ chapter’s contest, you know the agony of buying the easiest/cheapest software and recruiting the fastest/bestest judges. But SPJ’s secretary-treasurer has devised a way to lessen the pain.

Dana Neuts personally interviewed executives at three companies that sell software for contests. She tried to negotiate package deals, which didn’t work this year but might next. (I don’t know Neuts very well, but she strikes me as stubborn in all the right ways.)

More importantly – and more successfully – she’s created a centralized, organized system for finding contest judges. The old way was for each chapter hosting a contest to beg other chapters to swap entries – because you certainly can’t judge your own stuff.

But that led to all kinds of disasters. I’m the past president of SPJ South Florida, and I remember a few years ago when some other chapters judged nothing we sent them. And they wouldn’t return our calls or emails, either. (No names, but you know who you are.)

If you’ve suffered through the same thing, join Neuts for a free webinar at noon EST on Thursday, Dec. 20. She’ll explain how the judging swap works, give you a plain-English rundown of the software that’s out there, and answer your contest-related questions.


Neuts is nuts

So why am I shilling for Neuts? Because I’m helping her any way I can and she wants. I like Neuts for two reasons…

First, she doesn’t just ponder problems, she attacks them.

Second, we got in a big fight a few months ago.

Neuts was upset about my coverage of this summer’s controversy at the University of Georgia student newspaper. She publicly accused me of insulting SPJ’s president. (Peruse the post under this one to see what I mean.)

So we talked, found common ground on some stuff, agreed to disagree on other stuff, and kept working on her contest plans.

(Even after the blog posts about him, that SPJ president showed up at an annual program I help organize called Will Write For Food – and he worked his ass off.)

To me, those are the ingredients SPJ should be cooking with – strong arguments, thick skins, and real work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing more hypocritical than a thin-skinned journalist. So Neuts and the SPJ president she accused me of disrespecting are currently the two SPJ leaders I respect the most.

Whether that’s philosophically consistent or psychologically unhinged, I leave it for you to decide.


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