From committee to community

Nobody likes a committee, except maybe a camel. So when SPJ leadership asked the Freelance Committee to think about becoming a community, we threw off our chains and reveled.

Perhaps not. We are still a committee, after all. We did what committees do: discussed the pros and cons and took a vote. We decided to make the transition. That process starts in earnest at the Excellence in Journalism Conference, when the traditional one-hour freelance committee meeting will become a two-hour discussion of how to make this transition from committee to community effective, and perhaps a model for other SPJ committees that want to make a similar transition (there are other SPJ committees considering the same transition).

An SPJ community will share many things with SPJ’s chapters. Communities will:

• Elect officers.
• Have the ability to maintain bank accounts.
• Have the ability to conduct programs regionally, nationally or online.
• Have the option to charge dues.
• Generate resources that are specific to their audience, such as training
• Have communications vehicles that allow them to share information/content materials, networking opportunities, and member news with themselves and the larger SPJ/journalism audience, such as websites and electronic newsletters.

What communities won’t have are direct geographic ties. That’s already true of the Freelance Committee. Moving to a community structure should make our workings more transparent and also more able to engage with SPJ’s freelance membership. We hope it will make SPJ a more vibrant and useful organization for its freelance members.

We would like feedback on what SPJ’s freelance community might look like. If you’re in Anaheim for EIJ 2013, come to the meeting on Sunday, Aug. 25, from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. If you aren’t able to be there, post a comment, or send an email to a committee member. If you’re reading this after August 25, you can still make comments or send e-mails. We are just starting this process. The SPJ board of directors will have to approve our plan, and that won’t happen until its meeting in April 2014.

Before then, we need to do some things like attract 20 supporters from within SPJ’s membership, and set our priorities.

For priority-setting, below is the wish list the freelance committee put together for a freelance community.

• A discussion forum that will support multiple threads/topics.
• The option for email discussion groups/alerts.
• The ability to support an SPJ freelance newsletter
• Support for a jobs board.
• The ability to highlight a freelancer or freelance regions.
• The possibility of supporting a syndication service.
• Support for Google Hangouts.
• Support uploading of recent work or recent pieces (more than the three we have now).
• Ability to have an SPJ page include Twitter/etc. feeds
• Ability to stream SPJ Freelance twitter on our main community page
• SPJ freelance awards competition.

Tell us what you like, what you can live without and what’s missing.


Michael Fitzgerald
SPJ Freelance Committee Chair (for now)

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