And now: SPJ2020

It’s all SPJ2020, all the time, for your SPJ board and HQ staff!

Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer for her “1619 Project” for The New York Times earlier this year. — Photos by New York Times

Since the board’s OK on June 27, we’ve been in a hard pivot from our usual in-person four-day Excellence in Journalism conference to a tight, two-day virtual iteration now called SPJ2020.

Here’s what you’ll get Sept. 12-13 for the very affordable ticket price — $45 for professional members and $25 for student members:

  • Five Fellows of the Society. We’re bringing on Marty Baron of the Washington Post, Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times, Jorge Ramos from Univision and Les Zaitz from Oregon’s Malheur Enterprise, with combined live and recorded sessions. And we’re working on a presentation to honor our fifth Fellow, Gwen Ifill, posthumously.
  • Three Super Sessions. We’ll hone in on the Three Ps – the pandemic, the protests and politics – with panels of high-level journalists deeply engaged in each topic. One of the benefits of the virtual environment: Big names are more inclined to say “yes” given the limited time commitment and lack of expense.
  • About 20 breakout sessions and workshops. There’ll be something for everyone – from upping your freelance game, to building inclusive newsrooms and audience trust, to serving as a government watchdog, to increasing your writing chops. All that, plus how-to sessions on using Census data, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and mobile tools.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated Conference Planning Committee — me, President-Elect Matt Hall, board member Mike Reilley, SPJ Foundation member April Bethea, Dee Ann Divis of the DC chapter and AmyJo Brown of the Pittsburgh chapter, plus Executive Director John Shertzer and Development Director Larry Messing – SPJ2020 will be a highly relevant, on-point gathering, well worth a few hours of your September calendar. SPJ Web Adminstrator Billy O’Keefe is hard at work on the conference site, which we’re aiming to open for registrations around Aug. 1.

By the way, we’ll strip out some of the usual “business of SPJ” from the conference to stage at other times. That includes meetings of the SPJ and SPJ Foundation boards and our annual celebration of student Mark of Excellence awards. Other business matters will be incorporated in new ways. Candidates for board and RC positions, for instance, will submit pre-recorded speeches, as will winners of various awards. We’re working on how to handle voting on candidates (open to all members) and resolutions (open to chapter delegates).

Speaking of the next board meeting (the last one of my term!), that is set for Saturday, Sept. 5, noon-3 p.m. ET. The board will consider Year 1 of a long-awaited strategic plan; an update on the finances and database of SPJ; and future conference locations, among other topics. Watch future Leads newsletters for the meeting packet.

A few other shoutouts:

  • Thanks to our nine partners in News Media for Open Government (NMOG) for solid work to endorse the Journalists Protection Act earlier today. The proposed legislation would make it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury or threaten a journalist in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from gathering news or reporting it. (Thanks, too, to SPJ Communications Director Jennifer Royer for taking the lead on the news release.)
  • A second kudos is due Mike Reilley and Billy O’Keefe for a significant upgrade to the Journalist’s Toolbox. It’s got a slick new front page, a new YouTube page and a new twice-monthly newsletter. As part of the redesign, Reilley, the site’s editor and creator, has built out more than 400 resources for covering COVID-19, expanded info on public records and data visualization, and added a page on covering protests.
  • Tip-of-the-hat to Rod Hicks, the SPJ Journalist on Call, for organizing a free five-part webinar series for college journalists. Beginning July 28, students are invited to the weekly Media Trust series to consider such weighty topics as bias, credibility and coverage of communities of color, with guests from the New York Times, Fox News, PBS, regional news outlets, universities and other pro-press groups.
  • Final shoutout to any and all newsrooms recommitting themselves to building newsrooms that reflect their communities. The death of George Floyd has ignited so many important conversations around race in America. It’s heartening to see newsrooms once again asking whether the composition of their staffs are accurate and adequate representations of the towns and cities they cover. It’s overdue and much needed.


Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.

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