Keem O. Muhammad: SPJ Member of Month for September

Keem Muhammad

Keem Muhammad

A rising young star in the SPJ firmament is a student and leader already – Keem Muhammad. Congratulations, Keem! 

He has just finished a year and a half on the SPJ National Board of Directors as Campus Representative. He was an active and committed member of the board during this time.

Dori Zinn, previous chair of the Diversity Committee, nominated Keem as Member of the Month in August. Dori says, “He helped update the Dori Maynard Diversity Fellowship application and qualifications, which saw the most applicants in the last 10 years. Even for his first year as a national board member, Keem is driven to make SPJ better for all.”

Muhammad is a full-time performance studies and art and public policy senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is from East St. Louis, Ill. While previously enrolled at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, Keem served as Editor-in-Chief of LEGACY Magazine, an award-winning publication of LSU Student Media. He has since worked as a Digital Media Consultant with the Associated Press and Global Editorial Director with Equality for HER, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit committed to global social equity and femme spectrum rights. 

While SPJ Campus Representative, he helped revitalize the diversity fellowship, assisted in the selection of scholarship winners, established new relationships with other associations, brainstormed new ways to include student members in SPJ governance, and began chartering an all-new student chapter in New York City. 

He is not finished. ‘’SPJ has demonstrated an inability to meet and maintain engagement with broader emerging audiences. What’s more — our response to this inability is concerning.’’ 

‘’The biggest opportunity SPJ faces is, in both the short and long term, in the future of Quill magazine. As the oldest and one of the largest journalism organizations of its kind, the less than stellar performance of SPJ’s official publication is also concerning. It is also energizing, as it presents a new chance for SPJ and SDX to reintroduce its journo-education efforts to members and the public at large. 

‘’I see the magazine as a vehicle through which other issues SPJ faces can be tamed (membership, diversity, engagement, sustainable revenue, etc.). In other words, Quill needs a major rebrand, and if the Society’s leadership gets it right, the fruits of that labor stretch far beyond quality content.’’ 

He also is concerned about media literacy. 

‘’Active and unbiased inclusivity is an integral part of 21st-century journalism and I care about SPJ because it has the resources necessary for increasing media literacy at all levels of the multimedia community.’’ 

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan S. Stevens, Membership Committee member, at Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why your nominee is worthy of recognition. Nominations are due the 5th of each month and announced by the 15th. 

SPJ Members of the Month: Hazel and Bob Becker

Bob and Hazel Becker

Bob and Hazel Becker

A class at George Washington University in 1965 brought together Robert and Hazel Becker, who you will undoubtedly see and probably learn from at Excellence in Journalism 2017 if you attend the national conference. Congratulations to the Beckers — SPJ members of the months for August!

The Beckers married in 1970 and have spent more than 30 of those years involved in the DC Pro Chapter. Plus, national organization work.

Bob has been SPJ Bylaws Committee chairman since 2007 “and I sort of hang out with the FOI Committee.” He also was involved in the International Committee before there was an International Community. “At the moment, I’m trying to figure out how to get a community interested in FOI and open government going. If it comes to pass, it will be called the Sunshine Community.”

Hazel started as a freelance journalist, spent 30 years at the Bureau of National Affairs, and then resumed freelancing. Bob was a reporter for 12 years, then went to law school, then joined the staff of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He has been a solo practitioner since 1992.

Hazel started training other freelancers eight years ago to help them understand the business side. In DC, she helps run a regular lunch group – sometimes a happy hour – for freelancers. “If someone comes in with a problem, there’s always someone to talk them through it.”

Out of this, came her involvement with SPJ’s Freelance Community, which she now chairs. The Community hosts about 700 in a Facebook group, that promotes SPJ to nonmembers, and its Twitter feed has 2,140 followers. And a freelance directory and freelance guide has new listings and content all the time.

At EIJ17, Bob will be the leader every time a meeting concerns bylaws and Hazel will be available to answer freelancers’ questions.

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan S. Stevens, Membership Committee member, at Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why your nominee is worthy of recognition. Nominations are due the 5th of each month and announced by the 15th.

Sarah Bauer Jackson: SPJ Member of the Month

Ever judged a journalism contest? If you have, thank you! Hundreds – probably thousands — of you deserve those thanks. The Sigma Delta Chi awards. Mark of Excellence awards. Local chapter competitions for the best journalism in their communities. We can’t thank you enough!

But we can deliver thanks to one member whose name pops up time after time when contests are mentioned and judges are sought. She is Sarah Bauer Jackson of Minneapolis. Congratulations, Sarah. You are SPJ’s Member of the Month!

Here is Sarah’s take on SPJ:

I have been involved with SPJ since I was a sophomore in college. I had just declared journalism as my major and wanted to get more involved. I became president of the University of Minnesota’s student chapter, and soon after graduation joined the board of the Minnesota Pro Chapter. In 2010, I was president of the Pro Chapter, and over the years, I’ve worn many different SPJ hats … local contest coordinator, chair of the national membership committee and today, I’m serving as co-chair of the national awards and honors committee. What first brought me to SPJ is what has kept me paying dues for more than a decade: its steadfast commitment to journalism, FOI and the First Amendment. Today, that mission is more important than ever before.

When I’m not busy “working” for SPJ, I am the Program Director for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, the trade association representing the interests of more than 325 daily and weekly newspapers across the state.

SPJ has provided me with lots of training, leadership development experience, friendships and countless memories. I’ve been able to travel across the country for Excellence in Journalism conventions, the Scripps Leadership Institute, and have had the opportunity to tour newsrooms and meet journalism heroes, all the while spreading the good news of the good work of SPJ. I’ve been honored to dedicate time and talent to SPJ over the years and commend others for doing the same. We wouldn’t be where we are today without our volunteers, members, leaders and staff!

Next time you are asked to be a judge, please say “yes” – just as Sarah does!

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan S. Stevens, Membership Committee member, at Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why your nominee is worthy of recognition. Nominations are due the 5th of each month and announced by the 15th.

Congratulations to Colin Donohue and Anthony Hatcher, SPJ’s Members of the Month for April and May

Colin Donohue and Anthony Hatcher at Elon University in North Carolina

Colin Donohue and Anthony Hatcher at Elon University in North Carolina

Colin Donohue, director of student media and instructor of Communications at Elon University in North Carolina, and Anthony Hatcher, associate professor of Communications and adviser to Elon’s campus SPJ chapter, are SPJ’s Members of the Month for April and May. Congratulations to Anthony and Colin!

They just wound up a successful Region 2 Conference at Elon, their second time around hosting the regional conference.

“I have been a staunch advocate of SPJ since I was a student at Elon,” Donohue said. “As a student, I served in a leadership role in our campus chapter. Since returning to work at Elon 10 years ago, I’ve supported our chapter whenever asked.”


Read the rest of this entry »

SPJ Member of the Month: Claire Regan

Claire Regan

Claire Regan

SPJ’s Member of the Month for March is New York Deadline Club mainstay Claire Regan, who in addition to numerous other things arranges awards dinners and now the Region 1 spring conference. Congratulations Claire!

Here’s what Claire has to say about herself:

They say journalism is all about connections.

One of my best connections has been Betsy Ashton, who inspired me to join SPJ’s New York City Deadline Club some 25 years ago.

Actually, it was her voice that drew me in. As I accompanied colleagues from the Staten Island Advance to my first Deadline Club awards dinner at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, Betsy stood out on the dais. I noticed how prepared and professional she was as she called up the winners.

She was well-rehearsed, pronouncing every name perfectly. No wonder, since Betsy’s successful career was in radio and television news.

I approached her at the dais and asked how I could get involved in the club. She was cordial and encouraging, and invited me to the next Deadline Club meeting.

A great connection had begun.

During Betsy’s terms as Deadline Club president, I served as newsletter editor and designer. She was the perfect mentor, tapping the talents of new members like me. I quickly earned an elected position and haven’t left the board since.

For the past three years, I’ve served as vice president of the awards dinner – the event that first attracted me to SPJ.

I design items for club events, including invitations, flyers, save-the-date cards, program books and Hall of Fame medals. I’m a longtime newspaper designer – I have two Deadline Club “Rube” awards for best page design to show for it — so these projects are pleasures rather than challenges.

I also chair the scholarship committee, which gives up to four $2,500 prizes to metro area college students each year. My experience as an assistant professor at Wagner College on Staten Island helps me here. Thanks to SPJ, these young journalists get an extra boost.

By far the biggest project I’ve handled for the club is chairing the Region 1 Conference, scheduled for April 7 and 8 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. We’ve got a great line-up of speakers under the theme, “Practicing Journalism in Dangerous Times.”

I’ve been tapping all my connections to make the conference a success. As with every SPJ event, it will give journalists an opportunity to dialogue about critical issues.

My 35-year career at my hometown newspaper was recently impacted by a reorganization. As I transition out of the newsroom, I appreciate the camaraderie – and connections — of the Deadline Club more than ever.

I salute SPJ for keeping us all connected.

Region 1 Director Jane Primerano nominated Claire.

Says Jane: “A conference in Manhattan is complicated. Claire has successfully brought in presented and panels representing the wide variety of New York media, creating a schedule that works around the lives of busy professionals. She is also using her exemplary graphics skills to create the program book. Anyone who has ever worked on a conference knows the million little details that must be attended to and the incessant fires that must be doused. Claire is doing all this while teaching at Wagner College on Staten Island and writing for the Staten Island Advance.”

Do you know an outstanding SPJ volunteer? Nominate that person for Volunteer of the Month by contacting Susan S. Stevens, Membership Committee member, at Please tell us briefly why you are nominating the person and why your nominee is worthy of recognition. Nominations are due the 5th of each month and announced by the 15th.

SPJ Member of the Month: Kathryn Foxhall

Kathryn Foxhall

Kathryn Foxhall

A longtime battler for government transparency, Kathryn Foxhall, is SPJ’s Member of the Month. Congratulations Kathryn!

Kathryn has covered health in Washington for 40 years, including 14 years (1978-1992) as editor of the American Public Health Association’s newspaper. After years of getting a dynamic education by speaking frankly with sources on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies, she became alarmed when, 20 to 25 years ago, federal workers gradually came under rules prohibiting them from communicating with journalists without the oversight of public relations offices—in reality, censorship coming down from the people in power.

“As SPJ surveys would later show, these restrictions have become entrenched through much of the U.S. culture with government staff, teachers, scientists, police officers and many other employees under coercion either to never speak to the press, or to never speak without notifying the authorities,” she said.

Kathryn approached SPJ about it and the society responded although many in the press just said nothing can be done about it. Among other things, that led to a 2015 letter to President Obama from over 50 journalism and other groups. It then led to a meeting of an SPJ-led delegation at the White House with Obama’s Press Secretary, Josh Earnest.

Read the rest of this entry »

SPJ Member of the Month: Emil Dansker

Older members are the backbone of SPJ, but they don’t often get the recognition year in and year out. We’re going to remedy that – for one person – this month by declaring Emil Dansker our SPJ Member of the Month. Congratulations, Emil!

A fixture at national and regional conferences, you might know Emil for his sharp commentaries on the state of our profession. Or, you might have purchased one of his ceramic paperboys at a silent auction. Or, if you live in Ohio, Kentucky or Illinois, you might know him for unceasing work in your chapter.

We’re grateful for the nomination of Emil from the Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter. Read on:

Read the rest of this entry »

SPJ Member of the Month: Gideon Grudo

Gideon Grudo

Gideon Grudo

A hard-working SPJ member in Florida who relocated to Washington, D.C., and now serves as SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee chairman, Gideon Grudo, is SPJ’s Member of the Month for December. Congratulations Gideon!

He is the digital platforms editor at Air Force Magazine, an independent monthly, in Washington. He was previously the editor of South Florida Gay News. When he moved from the SPJ Florida chapter in 2013, he joined the D.C. chapter board, then took up as the national FOI Committee’s chair in September. He previously served on SPJ National Board and as VP for SPJ Florida.

Here’s what Gideon has to say about our organization: “SPJ has always given me the strangest opportunities to get involved with journalism in the strangest ways, from interviewing zombies to pretending I’m dead. It’s also given me opportunities to fight obsolete bureaucracy in an aging organization that only sometimes wants to modernize, and I’ve even won some of those fights. Can’t help myself anymore with the society. Couldn’t drop it even if I wanted to. I feel compelled to help other budding journos know they have a home and can have a real effect on this metaphysical thing we call journalism.”

Read the rest of this entry »

John Ensslin: SPJ helped me get my new job

This month, as SPJ gathered in New Orleans for our annual Excellence in Journalism conference, I had a chance to have lunch with John Ensslin. He is a former president of SPJ and a long-time journalist. His current job is at The Record, a New Jersey publication where he has worked for just under five years. 

John shared with me and past president Dana Neuts that his publication eliminated jobs through a round of layoffs. He’s getting a new job at the same publication, and this is largely due to the training and learning opportunities he’s had through SPJ. 

I asked John to write a short piece explaining how SPJ had helped him gain skills, stay employed and enjoy his journalism career more, and he was happy to do so. Thanks, John! Read his thoughts below. 

By John Ensslin

John Ensslin

John Ensslin

For years, I’ve been touting the merits of SPJ membership.

I’ve told people how we are a leader within the profession when it comes to ethics. How we fight day in and day out for access to public records.  How we advocate for diversity in newsrooms.  How we help defend journalists who’ve gotten in trouble with law just because they did their job.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the value of the job training that SPJ routinely offers its members. And in many ways, I’ve become the poster guy over the last decade for the ways in which SPJ can transform your career.
I’m starting a new assignment this fall at The Record, the paper where I’ve worked for just over five years. I’ll be working on the paper’s digital team, using all the multimedia tools available to augment my reporting and story telling skills. I previously served as a statehouse reporter, covering the New Jersey Legislature.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I owe my ability to take on this new work to the training I received from SPJ colleagues over the last decade.
I think of how Jeff South first opened my ears to the potential for using audio as an offshoot of my print stories. I recall those jammed-packed session that Ron Sylvester and Jeff Cutler offered on their 60 apps in 60 seconds programs.
I remember how Carl Corry taught me the right way to shooting video on a breaking news story with my iPhone. I remember how Holly Fisher first got me involved with Podcasting through Studio SPJ. I think about all that Sree Sreenivisan told me about using social media as a reporting tool. I credit Cindy Rodriguez for teaching me how to create short videos with Videolicious. I can list all the programs that Kevin Smith showed me during his Kiplinger/JournCamp presentation.
And at our most recent convention, I learned how to do audio story telling through an day-long NPR workshop.
In other words, pretty much everything I’ve learned through SPJ over the last decade has prepared me to be the journalist I am today.
None of the newspapers where I worked during that time could have afforded to provide that kind of training.
So when it comes to the benefits of becoming an SPJ member, I’m living proof of one of them: You can learn what you need to know to become a better journalist by taking advantage of all the training that SPJ has to offer.
Ready to join? You can do that right here. Got questions? Ask me, Robyn Davis Sekula, at

How to get involved in SPJ: Transitioning from student to pro

Editor’s note: We’ve asked members of SPJ to write blog posts for us about how exactly to get involved in SPJ. Sometimes, people don’t know where to start. Some join as students, some as pros, and others somewhere in the middle. Kathleen Devaney of the Florida Pro chapter writes about why she first joined SPJ and how she transitioned from student chapter to pro chapter. Read her full story below.

Extra editor’s note: If you’re a student or recent graduate (or anyone, really!) and you want to get involved in a pro chapter, you can find listings of chapters by state here. If you’d like some other kind of SPJ volunteer role, contact me, Robyn Davis Sekula, at I’ll be glad to talk to you.


By Kathleen Devaney


Kathleen Devaney

Kathleen Devaney

I went to college at Florida International University, a unique institution in sunny Miami with a soft spot for cafe con leche and the concept of living at home until you’re 25.

But I attended the docile Biscayne Bay Campus, a subset of the main school, which probably matched my then-meek persona.

When I decided that I wanted to switch over from studying English to Journalism at the beginning of my junior year, I gained some help from an unexpected place.

Embarrassingly enough, I’ll admit that I applied for an internship at The Miami Herald without having much experience under my belt. So I received a call from a woman named Chris Delboni, an instructor at FIU who was the director of The South Florida News Service, a classroom-run wire service which produced stories for local mainstream media outlets.

The truth stings at first, but she told me I wasn’t ready to intern at The Herald just yet, but if I started writing for the SFNS, she might be able to recommend me someday in the future. But most importantly, she also told me to join SPJ, an organization that I had never heard about, which she advised.

So I took her word for it and showed up at SPJ FIU’s first meeting. And in no time, I was overstepping my bounds as usual. I found myself sitting in on the executive board meetings, when I was just a regular member, chiming in with my opinions and ideas for events they were planning.

That’s why the next semester, I got voted in to be the events coordinator, a position which I held with so much pride.

Quickly, I found myself planning roundtable discussions and building the framework for our first ever Listen, Learn, Connect conference, which has since become an annual event. I even helped plan zany events like how to write an obituary from within a funeral home. (In fact, I credit our kooky ideas in helping us win best collegiate chapter in Region 3 for the past four years.)

And once again I was promoted, this time to chapter president. Things were sailing full force for me as I was beginning my senior year and now interning at The Miami Herald. None of this would have been made possible without the guidance of Chris Delboni, who helped give me a pep in my step and shaped me into being a poised female journalist.

During my last year, most of my efforts in SPJ FIU were focused on creating two mentorship programs with a local middle school and high school.

But when it was time for me to graduate, I felt so sad to leave behind SPJ. That chapter gave me wonderful friendships on a campus that can sometimes feel community-less and it provided me with a foundation for leadership, a trait I hope I never give up.

After seven long months of searching for a job and searching for myself, I finally got a job as a Social Media Producer for The Palm Beach Post, two counties up from my FIU campus. In addition, I also nerved up to join SPJ Florida. (By the way, it should be noted that I was able to move out of the house before 25.)

The idea of joining a professional chapter was something I had played around with for a while, and lucky for me, I joined the perfect one with prestige and a whole lot of gusto. SPJ Florida was voted as best large chapter of the year in 2010, 2014 and again in 2016.

I was quickly voted in as the VP of Programming, as I had already formed connections with some of the chapter’s members throughout the past couple years.

Currently, I’m working on planning Muslimedia alongside Region 3 Director, Michael Koretzky. This semi-controversial event will bring together Florida journalists with Muslim leaders from Boca Raton to debate the media’s best and worst practices when reporting about the Muslim community in America.

I also recently attended this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. Most of the panels I attended expanded my mind on how to be culturally sensitive when covering different communities. But they have something for everybody, whether it be tech, ethics, journalism education, and more. I’ve found the most rewarding part of attending EIJ over the past few years is getting to network with fellow journos. SPJ and the array of alphabet soup journalism organizations that participate in the conference are all there for the same reason – our love for journalism. And just when you’ve thought the newsroom as we’ve known it is headed down a dark path, the passion and drive for learning new skills at EIJ makes the future seem brighter.


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ