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ICYMI: SPJ is moving forward

If you didn’t make the SPJ Board of Directors’ Zoom call of last Saturday, you may have missed some bits of big news for SPJ. Thus, a few ICYMIs, plus a hint of good news to come.

Karie Angell Luc’s state fair photo for the Lake County (Illinois) News-Sun is the SDX 2019 best feature photo winner.

ICYMI No. 1: EIJ2020 is canceled – but a virtual conference is springing up in its place. We finally reached the verdict that it was not possible to go forward with our 10th annual Excellence in Journalism conference, scheduled for Sept. 10-13 in Washington, D.C., in partnership with RTDNA. But the board fully endorsed a two-day SPJ-only virtual conference for Sept. 12-13, and has already begun working with staff to pivot to Zoom. Tomorrow, we get down to the nitty-gritty with a Conference Committee meeting. We’ll review earlier picks from program ideas submitted way back in January – and decide which are still feasible. (If you pitched one, you’ll hear back one way or another, very soon). We’ll settle on Super Session ideas and recruit those guests. We’ll determine price points. And we’ll book our 2020 Fellows for starring roles. (More on that below.)

ICYMI No. 2: SDX has its winners! The annual SDX Awards Dinner is second only to EIJ as a marque SPJ event. I was in Journalists’ Heaven the twice I attended at the National Press Club in D.C. That event, like our usual EIJ, was another COVID-19 victim. But the contest went forward – and the super-impressive winners were announced in a virtual ceremony last Friday. Our HQ staff put together a super show (now on YouTube)  and an impressive online announcement to celebrate the winners. If you need a shot of best-of-the-best journalism, take a few minutes to watch the video or read the list. We’ll be pressing some of our winners into service for future SPJ events.

ICYMI No. 3: SPJ is in the webinar business. By my count, we’ve produced about a dozen webinars from HQ since the start of the pandemic. Our International and Freelance Communities likewise have their own impressive line-ups, as do chapters around the country. The SPJ webinar archives now feature such big names as Jorge Ramos of Univision, Brian Stelter of CNN, Maria Ressa of Rappler, Dorothy Tucker of NABJ and Hugo Balta of NAHJ. Watch for the number to continue to rise as we bring on a new director of education around Aug. 1. And if you want some SPJ love for your online programming, be sure to include @spj_tweets when you promote via Twitter.

Next up: Watch for news, coming very soon, about the 2020 Fellows. I was thrilled to join SPJ Executive Director John Shertzer in calling our four picks for the year (plus a relative of a fifth, for post-humous recognition) to invite them to serve as Fellows. All graciously agreed to join the 214 other Fellows we’ve selected over the last 72 years, and agreed to “appear” twice on our behalf – once at the fall conference and a second time for a future SPJ event. Can’t wait to share their names and can’t wait to “meet” them during what promises to be the premiere virtual journalism conference of the fall.

To catch last weekend’s board meeting, you can watch on YouTube or read the full board packet. We moved forward on both existing topics (a strategic plan for SPJ, member awards and committee/community work) and new ones (press badges and our database among them).

Of note: Candidates are still needed for national board positions, along with Regions 7 and 9. Please write me ( or President-Elect Matt Hall ( to step up!





And now: #GeorgeFloyd

CNN’s Omar Jimenez and two colleagues were arrested in Minneapolis early last Friday and released after about an hour.

Last week, at this time, SPJ and all of journalism was laser-focused on COVID-19 and the loss of 100,000 lives.

Then a man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis, and SPJ once again pivoted with the world of journalism.

In the past week, we’ve devoted considerable energy on two fronts: pointing journalists to resources to help their coverage of Floyd-related events and defending – loudly and frequently – their right to cover the story without harassment and harm.

If you’ve been on Twitter – and who hasn’t? – you know that journalists around the country have been attacked or threatened by police and protesters as they’ve covered the unleashing of national pain over yet-another police-involved shooting of a black man.

From coast to coast, journalists reported being doused with tear gas, pepper spray or paint balls; returning to news vehicles marked with graffiti; facing arrest or the threat of it.

In all, journalists have reported 233 “press freedom incidents” while covering Floyd news, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The site, created by the Committee to Protect Journalists and supported by SPJ and multiple other partner groups – has been updating the list daily on Twitter. Today’s update showed:

  • 41 arrests/detainments.
  • 153 assaults — 125 by police, 27 by others.
  • 39 equipment/newsroom damage.
  • 53 physical assaults, 33 by police.
  • 35 tear gassings.
  • 21 pepper sprayings.
  • 55 rubber bullet/projectiles.

These attacks are unjustified.  Journalists are doing their jobs, for their communities, as allowed by the First Amendment. They are literally putting their lives on the line — in the midst of a pandemic, from understaffed newsrooms, in the face of daily denigration from a press-hating president.

If you are among the journalists harmed in any way as you’ve covered this most critical story, please know that we at SPJ stand with you and for you:

  • Last Friday, we asked the Minnesota State Patrol to explain why it arrested the CNN journalists.
  • On Saturday, we released an open letter to police officers and protesters. We offered our empathy for their roles – but implored them to treat journalists with the same respect and dignity they expect.
  • We then joined more than 100 other pro-press groups in a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, decrying attacks on journalists and calling for Minnesota authorities to clean up their act.
  • We were also among 29 signers of a National Press Club letter to law enforcement nationwide, asking them “to halt the deliberate and devastating targeting of journalists in the field.”
  • We’ve also put a tremendous number of helpful resources in front of members and non-members alike, through our Journalist Toolbox site. Toolbox founder/editor and SPJ Board Member Mike Reilley has been updating the “covering protests” page frequently – with info about how to estimate crowd sizes, what to do if your phone is seized, whether you are free to take photos and videos in public places and much, much more.
  • Speaking of your right to work in public spaces, Ethics Committee Chair Lynn Walsh has been fielding calls on that. Her take: “The answer is not to stop recording, reporting or taking photos.”

We’ll continue the conversation on Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., when we host an online panel titled “Stories from the Frontlines: Journalists and Protests with Brian Stelter.” Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” will talk with journalists covering the Floyd protests to explore why members of the press have faced such unprecedented harassment, intimidation and detainment; and how they can protect themselves and maintain access going forward.

Joining him will be Errin Haines, editor-at-large of; and Jesse J. Holland, author/scholar and former Associated Press journalist; Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio reporter; Mike Trautmann, news director and director of investigations, Louisville Courier-Journal; Dorothy Tucker, investigative reporter at CBS-Chicago and president of the National Association of Black Journalists; and Haisten Willis, freelance journalist, Washington Post and other outlets.

We appreciate all of them taking time from their work to join us. We invite you to join the event by registering for the Zoom session.

Finally, we appreciate all of you – whether covering #GeorgeFloyd news, returning to COVID-19 stories, or tracking everyday stories of the newsmakers and news events in your communities.

Stay safe out there.

Good News, SPJ-style

John Krasinski isn’t the only one with Some Good News.

SPJ’s got some, too, and I couldn’t be happier to share it.

First up: A new director of education. The SPJ Foundation on Saturday voted to fund the position for the first year, as SPJ builds out its digital offerings. In bringing back this position, we’ll be able to identify, create and deliver more training and education to help journalists, journalism students and journalism educators do their jobs. We’ll also be able to resume more training and education for SPJers, especially those in or seeking leadership positions.

As envisioned, the director of education will deliver digital (and, eventually, again, in-person) programming for several audiences: college students, early-career journalists, college faculty and media advisers, independent publishers, freelancers and mid- and late-career journalists.

He or she might, for instance, produce forums on journalism news of the moment. Or TED-style talks featuring thought-leaders in journalism. Or high-impact lessons ready for the classroom.

SPJ already swims in these waters, of course. We train multitudes each year through our  Facebook and Google programs. We’ve beefed up our Journalism Education Committee’s #Press4Education program, with great video support. (Thanks, Kym Fox and Gary Boyer!) In a normal year – think, pre-COVID-19 – education and training is a key takeaway from our local, regional and national conferences and other meetings. And the front page of is chock full of great tools for journalists covering or otherwise impacted by the pandemic.

So our new director of education will have a strong foundation from which to build new digital depth for SPJ.

Executive Director John Shertzer is working on the job ad now, which we’ll soon share widely.

Thanks, by the way, to John for crafting the proposal; to President-Elect Matt Hall and members of the SPJ Strategic Planning Task Force, for providing valuable input; and to our friends on the Foundation board for backing the idea. Special thanks to Board Member Mike Reilley, an early advocate for this addition to the staff, for contributing key insights.

Speaking of good news, here’s even more:

  • We are giving away money! OK, we’re calling them grants, but still. Thanks to generous giving on our April 30 Day of Giving Back, we’ve got about $40,000 to disperse through our new Journalism Emergency Fund. If you’ve found yourself under-employed or unemployed because of COVID-19, please put in for a grant of up to $500. It’s easy, it’s quick and, we hope it will be helpful.
  • We’ve got more winners. Yes, SPJ does love its contests! This week, we’re celebrating students named national Mark of Excellence winners – that is, selected as No. 1 from No. 1s from each of our 12 regional MOE competitions. So, pretty darn good. Take a read (or look or listen) on our MOE page.
  • We’ve got even more winners. Last week, we selected the final winners in our Collegiate Coronavirus Coverage contest – and reported some amazing numbers: 19 first-place winners over seven weeks; 995 entries from 238 student media orgs and 20 professional media groups where students are interns. This week, the 11 participating judges will pick the Winner of Winners – one “best of show” pick. A final number: Two, for the members who made CCC go. One is Michael Koretzky, an SPJ regional coordinator who created and directed the contest and brought in four co-sponsors. The other is Andy Schotz, a former RC now on the SPJ Foundation board, who served as lead judge, running the process all seven rounds.

That’s a lot of good SPJ news at a time when good news can be hard to find. Whaddaya think, Krasinski? We’re ready for our YouTube moment.



Thank you, from SPJ

Thank you.

That’s my message today to SPJ members.

Thanks for turning to us in the midst of a pandemic that is demanding heroic efforts from you.

Thanks for using SPJ resources to help you report, help you edit, help you design, help you research, or, in too many cases, help you find work (or more work) to support yourself.

Thanks for trusting SPJ leaders to make hard decisions that impact your SPJ involvement – from canceling spring events, to keeping contests rolling, to processing member requests, to looking to a near-term and longer-out future that is being shaped by COVID-19.

Over the weekend, the SPJ Board met (via Zoom) to consider a number of such decisions:

First, we are determined to deliver more digital programming. Our staff has done a yeoman’s job of repurposing the front page of  in response to the coronavirus crisis. We’ve got dozens of resources – from our robust “Journalist’s Toolbox” to our comprehensive calendar of events to our own online discussions. Expect to see more, soon. In concert with the SPJ Foundation Board, we are working on plans to build our digital depth.

Second, we know those of you who have suddenly found yourself unemployed or underemployed may find it hard to pay for your SPJ membership. Accordingly, we expanded our “hardship waiver” from six months to a year. And on April 30, we’ll rebrand our annual “Day of Giving” as “Day of Giving Back” – to encourage members to help members.

Third, we are deep in conversation about our annual SDX dinner and our annual Excellence in Journalism conference. If those events cannot go forward, we’ll pivot quickly to a Plan B for both, and keep you up to speed.

Fourth, as a board, we are concerned about the Society’s short-term financial health. If you tuned into the meeting (or want to watch it now) you know we spent considerable time talking about our current operating budget. We ended up approving a FY2020 budget (which now aligns with the calendar year) that is nearly $130,000 in the red.

  • On the revenue side, we were happy to bring our Google and Facebook contracts from the Foundation budget to the SPJ budget. We were happy, too, that conference registration dollars grew and awards revenue fell only modestly. But we lost some of the work we do for other journalism associations, membership income dipped and we brought in less in sponsorship/grant dollars than we predicted.
  • On the expense side, we had new costs related to the Google and Facebook work (offset, of course, by the new revenue). But we had unexpected costs, too: HVAC repairs to our headquarters building, contractor fees for hiring our new executive director, increases in employee health insurance costs and new costs related to our database system.
  • Speaking of the database, we are beyond thrilled to be moving forward to a new system called Impexium. This decision has been a long time in the making and should address many long-standing issues with our current system. We expect to complete the transition by late summer or early fall.

Be assured that your board leaders are working closely with Executive Director John Shertzer and the staff to balance the budget. We have the reserves to cover the current deficit and we are optimistic that it will be lower than projected. We believe FY2021 will see considerable improvement, given that several expenses were one-time hits.

But we know, too, that this is an uncertain time for the news industry and therefore for SPJ. We are moving quickly to consider all of our options to return to fiscal health – even as we seek to serve members in new and different ways in the short-term.

So thanks, from all of us at SPJ, for your support at this challenging time.

SPJ in the COVID-19 Age

SPJ remains in COVID-19 mode, along with the rest of the world.

But even in lockdown, with staff and board members mostly working from home, we’re focused on serving members:

  • We’ve hosted two online discussions with the next one tomorrow. If your schedule allows, please join SPJ Executive Director John Shertzer and IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix, with a panel of four health reporting pros, at 2 p.m. ET for “Fact-Checking Coronavirus Stories.”
  • We launched the Collegiate Coronavirus Coverage contest, attracting nearly 500 entries from about 160 news organizations in our first two weeks. If you’re a student or work with students covering the story, we’d love to have your entries. It’s free with a weekly 11:59 p.m. Friday deadline.
  • We’ve released results of seven of our regions’ Mark of Excellence competitions. With 11 of our 12 regional conferences canceled, we are missing in-person celebrations of our students – but are happy to share news of their MOE wins with the world.
  • We’re accepting nominations for most of our big national member awards (among others) through this coming Monday.
  • We’re continuing to feed the special COVID-19 front page on – with dozens of helpful resources. Of note: a full, frequently updated calendar of online seminars related to virus coverage; our  “Journalist’s Toolbox” page with dozens of resources to enrich your reporting; and a jobs page if you are on the hunt for a new position.
  • We’re staying on top of dramatic and disheartening changes in the industry – mostly via our Twitter feed and the weekly SPJ Leads newsletter – as news orgs close or cut jobs from coast to coast. This Poynter Institute update is crushing to read, but important to know.
  • We’re tracking conversations about what might be ahead for journalism – with renewed interest in the possibility of government funding.
  • Soon, we’ll join other pro-press groups and launch an initiative for members to help members who are finding themselves under- or unemployed because of the pandemic.

At present, your boards (SPJ and its foundation) are prepping for their April 18 online meetings. Both will be livestreamed with a link coming soon on our board meetings page. The foundation board will meet 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, with the SPJ board following, 3-6 p.m. We’ll get out the agendas, with supporting documentation, next week at this time. The SPJ meeting will include time for public comment and questions.

Among our topics: good news on SPJ’s database needs; less good news on the financial  front as we continue to grapple with a deficit position in our operating budget.

The boards will also talk about two of our largest annual priorities – the awards dinner for our annual Sigma Delta Chi competition in June, and the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, set for Sept. 10-12. Both are still on the calendar. But as with everything in this COVID-19 climate, it’s hard to predict the near-term future.

We’ll let you know, of course, if those plans change.

Wishing you and yours good health and fortune in these most unsettling of times.



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