Best of the Best

In Connecticut, journalists took to a firing range to learn about guns.

The Florida SPJ chapter has hosted Death Race at funeral homes since 2013.

In Florida, SPJers staged a fake death in a funeral home in service to good obit writing.

In California, student members wrote an open letter to decry the administration’s anti-press rhetoric.

In San Antonio, students chalked up sidewalks to support the First Amendment.

In Michigan SPJers staged a Q&A with a new mayor. In Utah, they produced PSAs about the dangers of fake news. In Arkansas, they networked in ugly sweaters. And in New Mexico, they used GoFundMe dollars to send student journalists on a reporting trip.

All across the country, both professional and student chapters are producing amazing programs and fundraisers to serve their members and promote good journalism.

Over the years, as I judged chapter of the year competitions, I’d read about these accomplishments and wish every member could read about them too.

Now, thanks to the ever-energetic Andy Schotz, you can.

As a regional director and chair of the Awards and Honors Committee from 2013-2019, Andy’s work included reading the reports, too. After EIJ19, he took up the task of compiling some of the best of the best, mostly from 2019 chapter reports.

That’s where you’ll find the examples I cite with lots and lots more. Many include links; all include the sponsoring chapter so you can follow up.

Going forward, you’ll find them on’s Tools for Leaders pages – under “One-Stop Shop,” along with resources like Programs in a Box, a chapter grant application form, PDFs to the SPJ Code of Ethics and a member directory search.

Next time you gather to brainstorm – pondering what you can do to wow current members and attract new ones – I hope you’ll return to the list and borrow liberally.

And I haven’t asked Andy yet – but I’m sure he’d be happy to add your best programs to the next version of the list.

Speaking of great programming, I’ve been happy to participate in some since EIJ19.

Jan Leach staged an impressive Poytner/Kent State University Ethics Workshop in September.

  • In September, I joined a line-up of terrific guests at the 15th annual Poynter/Kent State University Media Ethics Workshop. Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner recounted the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and how they balanced their duty to protect their students with helping them cover the biggest story of their lives. Poynter Institute ethics guru Kelly McBride, in her remarks, provided thoughtful argument that journalism and advocacy are not such strange bedfellows. And I led a “what would you do session” related to the Covington Catholic case of this past January – with smart Kent State students considering what they would have reported from the Lincoln Memorial mall that day.
  • Closer to home, I stopped at a day-long workshop for student media leaders in the Greater Cincinnati market. A Cincinnati Enquirer editor, Michael Perry, organized the first-time event, with SPJ as a sponsor, to share common problems and solutions. My own students’ chapter, meanwhile, celebrated summer news interns last month, while it works on its next program, about coverage of the mass shooting in Dayton in August.
  • And just this week, I joined SPJ staff members at DePauw University, where SPJ was founded 110 years ago, for an event featuring investigative journalist Brandon Smith, while preparing to head to Fort Worth, Texas, at week’s end for the traditional “first chapter visit” of my term.

When it comes to best of the best, SPJ delivers. Happy to share that news and hope you’ll help spread it too.

Reminder: The 2019-20 board hosts its first online meeting of the year Saturday, Oct. 19, noon-2 p.m. ET, with agenda soon to come. Look for the link and join us!


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