SPJ’s year ahead – communication, ethics, communities, advocacy

These are exciting – and unnerving – times for journalism. It’s not dead, it’s evolving. Journalism matters.

I’m glad SPJ can play a role, and during this next year I will need your help. During my speech Monday I laid out some priorities that we are working on. Here is a summary:

  • Updating the code of ethics. It’s been nearly two decades since a revision, and while the core principles are solid, it’s time to look at how the code might continue to stay relevant with emerging issues in the digital environment. I doubt we will see a major overhaul – it’s really just updating and staying current with the times. The Ethics Committee, led by Kevin Smith, will be asking for feedback and involving members at the chapter and regional levels. It’s my goal to have a specific proposal to delegates before EIJ14 Sept. 4-6, 2014, in Nashville.


  • Advocating for First Amendment rights, including a federal shield law. The current proposed language for a federal shield law is not perfect, and defining “journalist” is a quagmire (I think we should apply the functional test – focus on defining “journalism,” not “journalist”). But we need a shield law, plain and simple. Hundreds of journalists are forced by government every year to cough up their notes or sources. Some are threatened with jail or bankruptcy. We can’t have that. We also must push back against excessive secrecy and PIO controls to manage the message.
  • Starting communities. We are testing out the idea of creating divisions, or “communities,” within SPJ to allow members to network, share resources, and build camaraderie within their specialties. The Freelance Committee is morphing this year into the Freelance Community, which is exciting. More will likely follow. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Improving communication. Face it, ironically journalists can be really bad at communicating. We assume everyone understands the value of the First Amendment and of journalists. So I have formed a task force to put together a plan of action by this winter to improve our methods for responding quickly to breaking journalism news, better communicating with members, non-member journalists, and the public, and bolstering advocacy. SPJ is unique among journalism organizations because it is a 501c6 – it has the legal authority, and I think the responsibility, to lobby and advocate on behalf of journalism and the First Amendment – not only for the benefit of journalists, but for everyone.

We’ll have a lot of other work to do this year, including development of new resources to foster diversity in journalism, creating new practical training platforms online and in-person to help journalist improve their skills, continue discussion about whether to change the name to the “Society for Professional Journalism,” and help build scholastic journalism to nurture future journalists. I will blog about all of this more in the weeks and months to come.

So please, let me know what you think, and how SPJ can better serve members, chapters, and journalism as a whole. Because it matters!

– Dave

Email: spjdave@yahoo.com; Twitter: @DavidCuillier

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