Look what’s cooking

Meet the new assistant director for SPJ’s Region 3.

Her name is Lindsey Cook. And I’m conflicted – I like Cook, but I hate bureaucracy. Yet I’m creating another layer of it. And I’m sticking her with it.

SPJ encourages its regional directors (and I’m one of 12) to “appoint a deputy or assistant regional director if possible.” Why? Because…

It’s very difficult to serve as a regional director with no support and assistance. A good deputy director can be invaluable. Divide the work, and it’s much easier to accomplish the tasks.

Of course, these assistants/deputies don’t get paid. Or acknowledged in any way. SPJ has a Regional Director of the Year award, but none for these underlings. That might explain why I can’t find any mention of other assistant/deputy RDs on SPJ’s website.

So why did Cook say yes? Because she’s a journalism fanatic. And because I promised her carte blanche – whatever journalism she wants to tout or taunt, I’ll make sure she gets all the logistics she needs. Time, money, guns, meth, lawyers. Whatever.

“Even this early in my journalism career, I’ve been told no a lot – a response I don’t take well to,” Cook says. “I’m excited to be in a position where I can run wild with online journalism, and I think the region will be ahead of the curve because of it.”

Based on what she’s done in the past, our region’s future looks promising…

Last year, Cook was multimedia editor at The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia.

Last summer, she was also one of the editors who walked off the job to protest attempts of censorship by the board of directors and professional staff. She helped create a website called Red and Dead, which got national media coverage. (Scroll down one post to read more.)

I’ve met Cook only once: When she was accepted into Will Write For Food, which is the toughest SPJ program of all time (and thus, my favorite). More than 50 students apply for less than 25 slots, and the winners spend 36 hours in a homeless shelter, where they take over the shelter’s street newspaper. Except Cook refused to work on the paper. She was the first student in four years who wanted to work exclusively online. And she kicked ass. She built this.

Cook has also interned for Voice of America, produced coverage for the Online News Association, interned for her local newspaper’s website, and managed a team of seven writers for a now-defunct national site called College Style.

Cook is the only computer science and journalism major at UGA. She runs a blog, Digitize Me, Captain, with tutorials and posts on computer science applications to journalism. A post she wrote recently about digital journalism trends for 2013 was featured on Jim Romenesko.

Obviously, with a resume like that, there’s no way Cook is going to be my indentured servant. “Divide the work”? Screw that. She’ll create her own work.

She’s already got big plans for making the 2013 regional conference, MediAtlanta, much more cutting edge than it would otherwise be.

“I’d like to encourage online and data skills in SPJ members, both professional and college students, and help journalists prepare for a new and exciting landscape in the world of journalism,” Cook says. “My biggest gripe about journalism is resistance to change. Now is the time for big ideas. We should be supporting the weirdos in the journalism world.”

Journalism weirdos, you’ve found a friend.

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