Archive for April, 2011

Notes from SPJ Spring Board Meeting

The SPJ Board of Directors met this past weekend for its annual spring board meeting in Indianapolis.  We had a great, spirited discussion on several key topics.

One of the big issues we tackled was whether to send the “one person, one vote” proposal back to the delegates to vote on at the National SPJ Convention this fall in New Orleans.  This is not a new issue; it was voted down by SPJ delegates in 2004 and 2006.  Here’s some of the background:

SPJ has always had a delegate system of voting for officers, bylaws changes, and other business items.  This voting has always taken place at the national convention.  Some feel the system works well, but others feels it disenfranchises SPJ members who may not have a chapter in their area and/or who are unable to attend the national convention.

This particular proposal would give “one person, one vote” power to SPJ members for officer elections, not bylaws or other society business.

Right now, chapters have to “earn” their right to vote by filing their annual report, proving they’re in good standing with SPJ.  A chapter gets one delegate vote for every 50 members it has: for example, chapters with 1-50 members gets one vote, 51-100 members get two, etc.

Another argument in favor of the proposal is that if more SPJ members have a say in who represents them in the society, they will become more involved in the organization, as a whole.  In addition, supporters argued there is better technology available today that would make it easier for all members to vote and for headquarters to implement and tally up votes.

We had a spirited debate about whether SPJ members really want this power, if its fair to members who’ve put in a lot of time and effort into SPJ versus members who are not active at all, and whether it would discourage members from attending the national convention.

Ultimately, the board voted 15-8 to not send the proposal to the delegates.  Many of us weren’t convinced that a majority of members really want this ability to vote on their own, rather than let their chapter delegates make those decisions.

However, in our discussion, we discovered several problems that need to be addressed, such as ways to make sure more chapters are getting to the convention in order to vote and make their voices heard.  One idea was to open up an absentee-voting system for chapter delegates unable to attend the convention.  These are some ideas we asked the bylaws committee to play around with and come up with ideas that could change our voting structure and make it more accessible to chapters who aren’t always able to attend the convention.

One note: although the board voted to not send “one person, one vote” to the delegates, it could still be brought up at the national convention business meeting if at least 10 chapters agree to support and make a motion on it.

What do you think? Should SPJ change its voting system to “one person, one vote” or keep it how it is now? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at

The board also approved sending a bylaws change to the delegates that would allow student members to join professional chapters, as long as a student chapter is not already established at that school.

We also had a lengthy discussion about the SPJ membership database.  Some of us RDs found chapter rosters that contained dead members, that pro members were still on student chapter rosters years after graduating, or pro members were listed on multiple chapter rosters as a result of moving from state to state.  I will be serving on a task force looking for ways to clean up the member database and establishing guidelines as to what rosters an SPJ member should be listed on.

The board also got updates on what should be an exciting national convention in New Orleans this fall.  I hope you will all start saving now and get ready to attend the Excellence in Journalism Convention, September 25-27. This is first time SPJ will host a joint convention with RTDNA.  We’re all looking forward to it!

If you have any other questions about this weekend’s spring board meeting, please contact me at

Until next time,




Three Region 6 Schools Celebrating the First Amendment

The First Amendment will be getting a lot of attention on three campuses in Region 6 in the next few weeks. I’d like to share details of those events with you here. If you’re near these areas, stop by and check them out!

St. Cloud State University SPJ Student Chapter: First Amendment Forum

SCSU has been hosting this annual forum for nearly 40 years.  This year’s event is entitled “Have the Watchdogs Lost Their Bark?” It focuses on the past, present, and future of investigative reporting.

The forum takes place Friday, April 15th at the Atwood Little Theatre on the SCSU campus.

The event begins at 9 a.m. with a welcome, followed by the panel discussion “The Way We Were”. An expert panel will look back at the history of investigative/watchdog journalism. Panelists include:

-Joe Rigert, former IRE president & retired Star Tribune reporter/author

-Maura Lerner, Star Tribune reporter

-Bob Cowan, WCCO-TV photojournalist

-Lee Rood, Des Moines Register project team leader

At 11:15 a.m., the Defense of the First Amendment Award will be presented to John Bodette, executive editor of the St. Cloud Times

At 1:30 p.m., the second panel of the program focuses on the future of investigative/watchdog journalism. Bodette will moderate with panelists:

-Devlyn Brooks, Forum Communications columnist

-Dave Unze, St. Cloud Times Reporter

-Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV reporter

-Lee Rood, Des Moines Register project team leader

First Amendment Free Food Festival at University of Minnesota and UW-Eau Claire

Two Region 6 SPJ chapters will host First Amendment Free Food Festivals this year.  The FAFFF is a program that has been put on by more than a dozen SPJ student chapters around the country.

The premise is simple: are you willing to give up your first amendment rights in exchange for a free lunch? If you say “yes”, you have to sign away your rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.

The University of Minnesota Student Chapter will hold its first-ever FAFFF on Tuesday, April 19th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Coffman Plaza, outside Coffman Union. They’ll have food from Qdoba, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Raising Canes.

The UW-Eau Claire Student Chapter will hold its second-annual FAFF on Wednesday, April 20th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the campus mall.  Last year’s event even got national attention on Fox & Friends.

Check out the YouTube video of the Fox interview with two UWEC SPJ members.

So, are you willing to trade your first amendment rights to fill your belly?

Another Successful Midwest Journalism Conference in the Books!

It’s Monday and I’m still buzzing with excitement over the success of our Midwest Journalism Conference! If you were able to attend, I hope you had a great time and learned a lot! If you went and are an SPJ member, I hope you will use the MJC as an example of how our organization helps your fellow colleagues and/or classmates expand and improve their skills in this ever-changing industry.

Here are some of my personal highlights from the conference:

-Welcoming SPJ executive director Joe Skeel to the great state of Minnesota and to our fabulous conference. Throughout the conference, Joe kept telling me he was very impressed with all aspects of it, from the turnout to the panels to the people who organized it.

-Filling in for social media journalist Jeff Cutler at the last minute to do two Friday morning presentations on “Social Media and News” and “60 Websites in 60 Minutes”. Cutler was unable to come at the last minute due to a death in his family. But with thanks to JJ Murray and Derrick Hinds, we were able to fill Jeff’s enormous shoes on short notice.

(By the way, if you missed any of the sites in the 60 Websites presentation, you’ll find them at

-Giving out awards to some of the best student journalists in the region at the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards luncheon. Laurie Hertzel, books editor at the Star Tribune, also had some inspiring advice for our audience, of which many are young journalists. Click here to view the complete list of Region 6 winners on the SPJ website.

-Meeting RTDNA chairman-elect Kevin Benz and seeing his presentation on “New Media in the Newsroom”. As you know, RTDNA and SPJ are partnering to bring you the “Excellence in Journalism” convention in New Orleans this September. It was great to meet Benz and see how much energy he has!

-Meeting energetic student and professional leaders from the different Region 6 chapters in SPJ. We had a great turnout at our annual regional meeting Saturday. Chapters from Madison Pro, Minnesota Pro, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Eau Claire, St. Cloud State, and University of Minnesota were represented. I also had great conversations with people who may be interested in starting chapters in Duluth, North Dakota, at South Dakota State University, Winona State University, Minot State University, and Loras College (which is technically in Region 7).

-And last but not least, catching up with old friends and meeting new friends in this crazy business we call journalism!

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, you can log onto Twitter, follow @mwjournconf and check out tweets from the conference! Look for the hashtag #mwjournconf.

If you have suggestions for next year’s conference, such a program idea or a speaker you’d like to see, please send it to We’d love your input!

Midwest Journalism Conference is Almost Here!

Can you believe the Midwest Journalism Conference is just a few days away? Our organizers have been working incredibly hard to bring you two days of informative and enlightening sessions to improve your journalism skills and bring SPJ members from around the region together!

Dates: Friday, April 8th and Saturday, April 9th
Place: Crowne Plaza & Suites at Minneapolis Int’l Airport (3 Appletree Square, Bloomington, MN – off I-494 and 34th Ave.)

Here are some of the highlights:

-Jeff Cutler, a social media journalist based in Boston, will lead two great sessions on social media; one looks at how journalists have used social media to take their careers to the next level, while the other shows you new website and online tools to enhance your story gathering and online product.
-Laurie Hertzel, books editor at the Star Tribune, is the keynote speaker at the SPJ Mark of Excellence Award Luncheon Friday afternoon
-Two sessions for journalists interested in sports reporting
-get your work critiqued in front of an audience and a panel of seasoned veterans in the “Shark Tank”
-how the concept of dynamic publishing will impact the online journalism field
-how to get news managers/directors’ attention if you’re applying for an internship or a first job
-improving your interviewing techniques
-and much, much more!

You will also have the chance to meet Joe Skeel, executive director of SPJ, and Kevin Benz, chairman-elect of RTDNA.  We are honored to have both heads of these organization at this conference!

A note for chapter leaders and advisers: in order to remain in good standing with SPJ, at least one of your members is required to attend the conference. This includes the SPJ morning board meeting on Saturday at 7:30 a.m.

Click here to download a conference registration form and schedule:

You can also follow the conference on Facebook and on Twitter (@mwjournconf). Look for the hashtag #mwjournconf to follow the conference action.

Please email me at if you have any questions.  I hope to see you Friday and Saturday!


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