8 things you should know about SPJ, or how to get free money for programs

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This past weekend was our regional conference and the national board meeting. Most of you headed to San Francisco for a super weekend of programs and networking and that amazing San Francisco food. I went to Indianapolis for the full-day board meeting and a lot of Starbucks. Sad face emoji. I wish I could have been in both places at once. Below are some of the highlights from both events, and here again are all the winners from the Region 11 Mark of Excellence college journalism awards.

First, a HUGE thank you to SPJ NorCal for putting on such an amazing conference, to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Audrey Cooper and KQED’s Holly Kernan for a terrific keynote conversation and to all the panelists and attendees for creating such energy in each session. And a HUGE thank you to SPJ President Dana Neuts and the national board for a thoughtful day of deliberation and progress in the name of journalism. And for drinks after.

Here are a few scenes from the regional conference, courtesy of Twitter.

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No wait. That last one’s not right…

Now here are eight things you should know.

1) Our regional leaders’ meeting in San Francisco had representation from San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas and the Sacramento State student chapter. Part of the discussion was that San Quentin (!) wants to start a chapter. This prompted some jokes about lifetime SPJ membership and the Society of Prison Journalists, but all kidding aside, I was happy to hear the prisoners are occupying their time by exploring our industry. More info on that as it develops.

2) There is interest in a regular presidents’ conference call or better yet Skype conversation. I’ll try to start that in May. Our likely first order of business will be discussing how and when SPJ chooses annual convention cities. Our lineup the next three years is Orlando for EIJ15, New Orleans for EIJ16 and Anaheim for EIJ17. Future sites have yet to be chosen but the board directed staff in Indianapolis this weekend to broaden its search criteria to include host cities with hotel room rates of up to $250 or $260 a night and to continue moving the convention around the country. The thought behind the increased room rates is that bigger cities, even at greater costs, might attract more convention-goers and a wider, more electric mix of panelists. The board stressed that since a third of our national conference attendees are students, there must be an effort to control costs and pick dates that work best for students (i.e. not summer or early September.) Because of TV sweeps months, Jewish holidays and factors such as the timing of  regional conferences and chapter awards banquets, our national conventions will likely continue to be held in mid- to late September, but staff is exploring options there, too. I’d like to hear from each chapter — and unaffiliated Region 11 members — about preferences for convention cities, room rates, times and more. So let’s discuss that in our first president’s conversation. SPJ staff expects to make a recommendation for EIJ2018 prior to our convention in Orlando in September so I figured it’s best not to wait to discuss it. [Another great idea: Register for that convention now! It takes place Sept. 18-20. And it’s going to be awesome.]

3) Speaking of unaffiliated members, the board directed SPJ president-elect Paul Fletcher to explore how to give the 41 percent of our members nationally who are not in chapters a stronger voice at the annual convention and throughout the year. (Coincidentally, Region 11 also breaks down 59 percent chapter members and 41 percent unaffiliated members.) Fletcher is forming a task force and will examine a range of options on how to address this issue. Speaking of chapters, please join me in welcoming Region 11’s newest: the student chapter at California State Polytechnic University, which the SPJ board added this weekend.

4)  Looking ahead, the Valley of the Sun chapter in Phoenix is already planning NEXT YEAR’S regional conference. The board has dates picked out (April 1-2, 2016), a likely venue (the Heard Museum, on light rail with its own stop from the airport and plenty of hotels within walking/rail distance!) and half the programming plotted out already. Nice work, Phoenix! Looking further ahead, Las Vegas is the likely location for the 2017 regional conference and San Diego is gearing up to host the 2018 gathering. Great planning, everyone. You have your work cut out for you to top the excellent effort that San Francisco put into planning and throwing such a great party.

5) The names of some candidates for the next SPJ board cycle were announced in Indianapolis. New candidates have until about a week before EIJ15 to announce their candidacy. So far, there are only two contested elections (secretary-treasurer and at-large director). Yes, I intend on running again, but I encourage anyone interested in being a candidate to contact Sonny Albarado, past president of SPJ and this year’s nominations chair, or click here for more info.

6) Chapter grants, which SPJ has doled out in the past (in our region, for instance, to Phoenix and Hawaii), are changing. The good news is the regional directors have $1,000 for chapter grants (so if you have a great program you believe would benefit from a cash infusion, please email me the details and your pitch). But the bad news is that conventional chapter grants were removed from the FY2016 budget because of staff concerns they were difficult to manage and too few chapters made requests. I tried to get the regional directors to advocate for retaining them at a regional directors meeting Saturday, but the suggestion didn’t catch on because other directors figured we should see how requests (and awards) go for the pot of money we control. So apply today!

7) SPJ updated and expanded its job bank! Good luck finding work, if you’re looking!

8) For more about the national board meeting, please read SPJ President Dana Neuts’ thorough recap. Of note in Dana’s post is this section about our 2016 national convention destination:

The board discussed how to handle the proposed Marriage & Conscience Act now in committee in Louisiana. The board will send a letter to the Louisiana legislature citing its concern about the bill which addresses religious and moral beliefs, unlike other religious freedom legislation being considered in other states. Our hope is that the bill will be defeated. If not, SPJ will have to reconsider hosting its 2016 spring board meeting, and SPJ and its partner RTDNA will have to discuss the implications for EIJ16, both scheduled for New Orleans next year. President-elect Paul Fletcher and secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh will work on the letter to the legislature and share it with the board for input by the end of this month. We will also share it with RTDNA, and they will vote on whether or not they wish to sign the letter as well.

Board member Bill McCloskey noted at the national board meeting that the Louisiana Legislature’s final day of the session is in June so we’ll know before too long the bill’s fate.

That’s a wrap. Go out and do good work.


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