Posts Tagged ‘Holly Edgell’

SPJ launches month-long membership drive

I’m in an SPJ membership state of mind.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the SPJ membership drive.

This month-long effort is aimed at enlisting folks like yourself across the county to help grow SPJ one member at a time.

The main component of the drive is a simple one. We’re asking each and every one of our 8,000 members across the country to reach out to someone and try to convince them to join SPJ.

Think of someone within your own circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who has the qualities that would make for a good member our Society.

We’re looking for folks who are passionate about journalism and for whom our core values of diversity, ethics, freedom of information and training are a way of life.

How you go about doing this is entirely up to you. Do what you think will work best, whether it’s an email, a hand-written note, a phone call or conversation over a cup of coffee.

One method that has worked well for me is to invite the person you have in mind to an upcoming SPJ event. Convincing people to join is not a hard sell when they can see the kind of work SPJ does on a regular basis.

I’ve found writing a personal note is effective, particularly in an Internet-driven era when it’s nearly impossible to cut through the clutter of email.

The best argument for joining SPJ varies depending upon the person. (Some suggestions on the SPJ site.)

For some, the most compelling argument to join is the work SPJ does in promoting ethical journalism or defending journalists who are in trouble for simply doing their job.

For others, the main draw are the networking and training benefits that come with membership.

Or perhaps your best pitch is a combination of these benefits. (There are also a number of “business” benefits and other affinity services/discounts available to members.)

Try whatever works best. All I ask is that you make an effort sometime this month.

There are no prizes, gimmicks or special deals to this drive. All I can offer is my gratitude for helping make SPJ stronger by finding a few good people, one member at a time.

And a special thank you here to national Membership Committee Chairwoman Holly Edgell and her committee for making this drive happen.




SPJ committees at work: The year ahead

This post is an expanded version of my forthcoming first column for Quill (for the Nov/Dec issue). Think of this as a roadmap for the year ahead and a lineup of who is doing what.

It’s a bit long, but it will give you a good idea of the scope and breadth of the work SPJ has taken on this year.

The unsung heroes of our Society are the volunteers who log countless hours working on various national committees.

As your new president, I’ve been blessed to inherit a very strong set of committees. I’ve added some people and created some new committees, but for the most part there’s a fair number of folks who agreed to continue on this year.

In my view, committees are working laboratories where SPJ policies are drafted and vetted. I’ve tasked these folks with testing out several new initiatives. Here are brief descriptions of some of the assignments they are working on.

– The Programming Committee, chaired by Jeremy Steele, is a new panel aimed at helping professional and student chapters increase the level of SPJ activities. One project they are working on is to create a “speakers’ bureau” of various experts within SPJ who would be willing to travel at minimal cost to talk to chapters across the country.

As part of the programming committee, Holly Fisher will continue to produce chapter-hosted programs for Studio SPJ.

– The expanded Membership Committee, chaired by Holly Edgell, will be forming a team of volunteers to reach out to lapsed members to encourage them to re-up. The group is also working on coordinating a month-long national membership drive in March 2012. They are also studying the feasibility of creating an institutional membership for news organizations.

-This year Membership also has a new subcommittee chaired by Tara Puckey. This group will focus their efforts on building collegiate membership.

– The Ethics Committee, chaired by Kevin Smith, plans to begin the long and deliberate process of reviewing our Code of Ethics for possible revisions in the light of the challenges posed by a digital age. The committee also hopes to author some position papers on topics such as political coverage, checkbook journalism, plagiarism, etc.

-The Diversity Committee, chaired by Curtis Lawrence, is at work on reviving the Rainbow Source Book, working to strengthen ties with other journalism organizations and partnering with chapters and other journalism groups to monitor content and hiring in media.

– The Freedom of Information Committee, chaired by Linda Petersen, will be working on an encore production of the highly popular “Access Across America Tour” that Secretary-Treasurer Dave Cuillier created two years ago. This year, we’re hoping to have more than one trainer making regional tours to newsrooms and chapters across the nation.

The FOI Committee also is doing an update on prison media access, and for Sunshine Week they will be surveying Washington, D.C.-area reporters on their relationship with federal government PIOs to gain insight into source relationships and the role that public relations professionals play in the free flow of information between government and the media.

– The Government Relations Committee, chaired by Al Cross, will work with SPJ leaders and the FOI Committee to advocate for open government at all levels from localities to Washington, D.C. One special emphasis will be fighting efforts to repeal or curtail public notice advertising by state and local government.

Government Relations also will be working closely with the FOI Committee. Al and Linda will each serve as members of the other committee.

– The Communications Committee, chaired by Lauren Bartlett, is working on a strategic communications plan aimed at creating unified messaging and ideas for key initiatives on our core missions. The committee also is working on a plan to position SPJ national leaders as experts on various media topics.

-Lauren also is chairing a subcommittee whose purpose will be to produce a white paper on where our industry is headed and that will list some innovative best practices by media organizations.

– The International Journalism Committee, chaired by Ricardo Sandoval Palos,  is evaluating what our policy should be when individuals or groups of journalists apply to join SPJ or to start their own chapter, as a group of journalism students in Qatar did two years ago.

– The Awards Committee, chaired by Ginny Frizzi, is weighing whether it would make sense to honor some of our recently deceased SPJ leaders by naming some of our awards after them.

– The Freelance Committee’s special project this year will be to develop a freelancers’ resource guide. Dana Neuts chairs this group.

-The Legal Defense Fund, chaired by Hagit Limor, will continue assisting journalists by funding court battles for their First Amendment rights while working with staff to explore new options for fundraising.

– The Professional Development Committee, chaired by Deb Wenger, will continue producing online tutorials for our members and will try this year to offer some webinars.

-The Journalism Education Committee, chaired by Rebecca Talent,  is looking at ways to support high school journalism programs that are facing elimination because of budget cuts. The committee also is sharing syllabi and best practices with new faculty and encouraging more minority applicants for the Mark of Excellence awards.

– The Digital Media Committee, chaired by Jennifer Peebles, will be working on a special project aimed at creating an interactive digital timeline that will allow visitors to our website to explore SPJ’s rich, 103-year history.

-The GenJ Committee, chaired by Lynn Walsh, is continuing to blog on its excellent site on the SPJ blogs network. They are also trying to come up with a more contemporary and less retro name for the “Liner Notes” blog.

-I have also appointed a special committee, chaired by past president Irwin Gratz, to study whether it’s feasible and desirable to create virtual chapters or affinity groups that would consist of members who share a common professional interest, such as freelancing or a specialty beat like religion or court reporting.

– And last but not least, I’ve asked Mike Koretzky to lead a “Blue Sky” Committee. I’ve asked this group if we had $10,000 or $50,000 or $100,000, how could we best spend it? There’s no money in the budget for this, but let’s first see what this panel recommends.

Will all of these initiatives be adopted? Not necessarily. Where there are policy questions involved, the SPJ board of directors will ultimately decide.

But thanks to the efforts of all these volunteers, I feel like our SPJ year is off to a good start.

Nobody asked me but…updates from the president

Nobody asked me but*…Honesty still seems like the best policy.

That’s something U.S. Department of Justice officials ought to keep in mind while evaluating a new policy proposal that would enable agency spokespeople to be less than honest in answering inquiries about the existence of public records in national security matters.

I understand there are some things that a government needs to keep secret when it comes to national security.

But the Justice Department has the ability to classify documents as secret and deny access. What it does not need is the ability to depart from the truth when a reporter simply asks if a document exists.

Our Freedom of Information Committee is drafting a response to this proposed policy. I was glad to see Utah Sen. Mike Lee weigh in on it as well.

Bad Doc Databank Update

Along with representatives from several journalism groups, I took part last week in a conference call with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We were doing our best to convince them to restore the public use file of the National Practitioners Databank file, which keeps track of malpractice and disciplinary cases involving physicians.

The physicians are not identified in the databank, but by using other public files, reporters in several cities have been able to write highly useful public service stories about cases involving doctors in their area.

That is until recently when the agency shut down the public use file. Along with several other groups, SPJ has been urging HHS officials to restore the public file.

We made what I thought was a very strong and cogent case in the conference call. I wished it were possible to tell you that we changed the government’s position in this matter. That remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Help for Endangered Advisers

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, once quipped that there are two occupations in America that are more dangerous the better you are at them: suicide bomber and student journalism adviser.

With that peril in mind, the SPLC recently set up a new blog called FACT (Fired Adviser Comfort Team.) It has a kind of edgy, kind of gallows sense of humor about a very serious problem: censorship of student media. Check it out.

It will make you appreciate the often difficult position that student media advisers undertake every working day. If you know of someone who is experiencing similar difficulty, pass along the link.

A Tip of the Fedora

Kudos to longtime SPJ member David McHam, who was honored at Baylor University recently with the first ever Legacy in Journalism Education Award.

Also a shout out to my friends in our Rio Grande SPJ chapter for continuing the conversation on the language we use in immigration stories by co-sponsoring a discussion at the University of New Mexico.

And here’s one of the more creative ways I’ve ever seen of a chapter keeping track of its meeting minutes. The SPJ chapter at my alma mater, Columbia University, posted a video with their singing minutes. These guys look like they are having fun.

A Sad Note

SPJ notes with sorrow the death of Josephine Varnier Stone, an aspiring journalist who died recently after she was hit by a motor vehicle in Richmond, Va.

Josephine was one of the the student journalists on our Working Press team at the 2009 SPJ National Convention in Indianapolis. Read more about her.

Our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Call for Volunteers

A group of volunteers assembled by the Membership Committee will be making calls soon to lapsed members in the hope of convincing them to re-up. This valuable effort helped us retain members when we first tried it last year.

We could always use a few more people willing to make phone calls. I’m going to be making calls. If you would like to join us in this effort, please contact membership chair Holly Edgell at

*The title of this blog is a nod to Jimmy Cannon, one of my favorite sportswriters when I was growing up in New York City.



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