Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

SPJ Region 7 launches 2016 SPJ fellowship for student/recently graduated SPJ members

For the past several months, a group of SPJ leaders has been working behind the scenes to develop an SPJ Region 7 fellowship exclusively for SPJ student members and members who have graduated recently.

That fellowship is becoming a reality thanks to a generous grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

I am thrilled to announce the SPJ Region 7 Fellowship will launch in summer 2016.

Fellowship recipients will help with the daily journalism tasks of two nonprofit news organizations (either the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, based at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, or Omaha Public Radio, based in Omaha, Nebraska). They will also work on larger capstone projects to be published at his/her host news organization’s discretion.

After the fellowship’s summer portion has ended, recipients will present sessions at the most convenient SPJ spring regional conference in 2017.

Thanks to a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the fellowships will include a stipend of $1,333.33 per month and funds for recipients to use for travel to present SPJ Spring regional conference sessions.

Our selection committee, composed of SPJ professionals from across the country, will choose two fellows who live in Region 7 or are students at/recent graduates of a university within the region. We’ll place one fellow at each organization for three months — beginning in mid-May 2016.

Fellows will meet weekly to discuss their capstone progress. These meetings will also serve as a brown-bag discussion series with journalism professionals to discuss the state of media, answer questions about the news business and more.

The organizing committee established four criteria for eligibility…

  • Fellows must be enrolled in or have graduated from an accredited university within Region 7 (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas) or be resident of a state within the region studying or have graduated from an accredited university outside Region 7.
  • Students who have earned or are earning undergraduate degrees AND graduate degrees will be considered.
  • Fellows must be members of the Society of Professional Journalists and in good standing with the organization. Applicants’ SPJ membership numbers from the national office will be required on the application form.
  • Fellow applicants who have graduated from their institution will be considered up to 18 months after commencement.

Applications and additional details will become available in the fall. Look for more information soon! Until then, feel free to email me any questions you have about the fellowship.

This fellowship would not be possible without the support of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. Visit to learn more about how you can support the foundation.

Drake University SPJ chapter set for another successful year

Drake University (via Picture Des Moines/Flickr)

Drake University (via Picture Des Moines/Flickr)


By Lauren Whan

Each month, Lauren Whan, Region 7 assistant for campus affairs, will take a look at a university chapter from across the region.

Tours, resume critiques and discussions are all in store for Society of Professional Journalists members at Drake University this year.

“It’s been the best recruitment that I’ve been a part of since becoming president,” said chapter president Stephanie Kocer.

The Drake University SPJ chapter has nearly 30 members recently inducted 20 new members.

Drake SPJ goes on tours, brings in speakers to its meetings and hold professional development sessions, such as resume workshops and activity fairs.

The chapter said Des Moines, Iowa, is a hub for media businesses and it has been fortunate to be able to tour a lot of news corporations.

“We’ve been to The Des Moines Register, Meredith Corporation and Iowa Public Radio just to name a few,” Kocer said. “Our members are always excited about the tours. We are also very lucky to have professionals from the Des Moines community come into our meetings to talk with us.”

Chapter members have had everyone from newspaper reporters to PR professionals come and talk with their members.

Kocer said the SPJ members benefit from the networking they do with the journalism community in Des Moines.

“Our chapter is always striving to give members opportunities and I think we succeed really well at it,” Kocer said. “For the last two or three years we have been awarded with a best chapter award.”

Drake SPJ said it hopes to start setting up tours for the rest of the semester and figure out who they might want to talk to in the community. One of its goals for this semester is to put together a resume workshop. Drake’s journalism school usually hosts Journalism Days, which is a week-long event. 

“I’m also hoping to get some new T-shirts ordered this semester, because who doesn’t love that?” Kocer said.

Kocer has been president for one year. She said she joined SPJ as a freshman because she wanted to get more involved with the J-school.

“I joined the executive board my sophomore year as a recruitment chair and really fell in love with how much people enjoy SPJ and how much networking and professionalism we get to practice,” Kocer said. “Being president of SPJ is one of my proudest accomplishments. Not just because it goes on my resume, but more importantly because I’ve been able to help fellow members connect with their community and become better journalists.”

As a senior, Kocer said she hopes to enjoy her last year at Drake to the fullest and continue to connect and form SPJ friendships.

To keep up with what’s happening at Drake University, follow Stephanie Kocer on Twitter at @StephKocer and Drake SPJ at @DrakeSPJ.

Passing the baton in Region 7

Passing the batonTwo years.

That’s the time it takes to obtain a community college education. It’s also the average lifespan of an iPad, the honeymoon period in a new marriage, the unofficial season length for a U.S. presidential campaign, and the sum of one term for an SPJ regional directorship.

Of course, options exist to extend the calendar on any of these things, though the rationale for that extension differs greatly from person to person.

Which is why on Saturday, my term as Region 7 director came to a quiet, satisfying conclusion during EIJ14 in Nashville, and I handed the baton to Rob McLean, Omaha-based digital managing editor for Hearst Television.

Rob’s recent work with the Society underscores his qualifications. He has been at the forefront to re-establish the Society of Professional Journalists in Nebraska, both at the professional and student levels. A few weeks ago, he started moonlighting as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Before landing in the Cornhusker State, Rob was a reporter for in suburban St. Louis and was an active member of the SPJ professional chapter there.

Rob is a good man with drive, determination, and a devotion to SPJ that few can match. The region is in good hands, no doubt.

So let me use the remaining space in my final Region 7 post to thank all the great journalism professionals and students in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri who assisted me, informed me, and enlightened me the past 24 months. Your contributions helped make SPJ stronger, wiser, and better positioned to effectively confront the challenges that journalists and educators strive to turn into opportunities.

For the next year at least, I will continue to work with my home chapter, St. Louis Pro, as well as help launch a new national community, SPJ Digital, which debuted last month, and broaden my continued engagement with SPJ’s Freelance Community. And Rob and I will be working together to plan the Region 7 Spring Conference in Omaha in March.

In the meantime, Rob has my full support and confidence as Region 7 director. I hope he has yours, too.

Convergence is the word at Region 7 conference


Convergence journalists at JCCC

Student backpack journalists at JCCC prepare to cover the day’s events at the Region 7 Spring Conference.

For three years, Johnson County Community College asked to host the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7 Spring Conference, and when the moment arrived the 20,000-student campus in Overland Park, Kansas, delivered a grand performance.

JCCC is among the leading higher education institutions in the region on convergence journalism. The school placed its print, TV, and radio journalism components under one roof in 2012, and has used the word “convergence” in almost every discussion about media since. Consequently, convergence dominated the day.

Among the highlights, co-organizer Molly Baumgardner, JCCC’s journalism coordinator, started off with a presentation on good taste in journalism, explaining how the Seven Deadly Sins can kill a career before it starts. Sara Smith of The Kansas City Star reinforced the need for the three R’s — research, research, and more research — in writing entertainment reviews. And Maj. Bill Hisle of the Shawnee (Kan.) Police Department revealed the secret to dealing with public information officers.

Johnson County Community College is just a few blocks from the site of the 2011 Region 7 Spring Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.

Johnson County Community College is just a few blocks from the site of the 2011 Region 7 Spring Conference in Overland Park, Kansas. (David Sheets)

Other presenters included Mary Schulte, a photo editor at The Star, and Susan McSpadden, chief photographer for JCCC’s media relations department, explaining how wordsmiths can acquire the wisdom to become visual storytellers; and former Wichita Star reporters Dan Close and Laura Kelly recounting how the BTK serial killings changed their lives and their approach to journalism.

Maria Antonia, communications director for the Kansas City-based Bishop Sullivan Center and before that a veteran TV reporter and anchor in Kansas City, gave the keynote address ahead of the Mark of Excellence Awards banquet, which was catered by JCCC culinary arts students.

JCCC backpack journalists rushed from one event to the next to cover the conference for class projects. Their reports were posted by day’s end on YouTube.

The 2015 Region 7 Spring Conference is tentatively scheduled for Omaha, Nebraska, next spring.





Jayson Blair’s story is told again in a new documentary

A Fragile TrustWhen reporter Jayson Blair was exposed as a serial plagiarist in 2003, his employer, The New York Times, regarded the admission as “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

The resulting crisis in confidence cast a long shadow over not just the Times, but also over all of newspaper journalism and the efficacy of affirmative action hiring.

Blair’s case and its impact re-enter the spotlight this weekend in the documentary “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at the New York Times,” a featured presentation at the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac cinema.

“A Fragile Trust” examines Blair’s case and the course he charted through journalism, which included attacks on his integrity going back to his college days, and the spectacle of his undoing in media nationwide. Woven through the narrative are tales of deception, drug abuse, mental illness, racism, and power struggles at the Times.

The documentary will be shown at 1:30 p.m. Among those interviewed are Blair and St. Louis-native Gerald Boyd, former Times managing editor, who with executive editor Howell Raines resigned in the wake of the Blair revelations. Film director Samantha Grant will answer questions from the audience after the showing.

Kansas’ student TV, newspaper now under one manager

University of Kansas logoFor the first time since their operations were consolidated, the student-run TV station and newspaper at the University of Kansas will have one manager.

Brett Akagi, a former assistant news director at KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Mo., fills a new role created by the merger of two positions: station general manager and newspaper faculty adviser, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

The move advances the School of Journalism’s effort to create a single multimedia newsroom. That effort began in 2010, when the station, KUJH, and newspaper, the Daily Kansan, came under one roof.

The Daily Kansan’s previous adviser, Malcolm Gibson, did not have a supervisory role with the station. Gibson retired this spring after teaching at KU for 17 years.

Ann Brill, dean of journalism, told the Journal-World that the consolidation addresses market and budgetary considerations. These days, journalists are expected to be proficient with more than one media platform, as they often report for print and digital at the same time.

Akagi’s title is media director and content strategist, according to his LinkedIn page. Before landing at KSHB, he was senior video producer at the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis and taught print journalists there how to convert their stories to multimedia.

At KU, Akagi must balance control with oversight. KUJH is funded by the university. The Daily Kansan, meanwhile, is able to pay student workers and allows more editorial autonomy in the students’ hands than the station does. So, while Akagi may have the last word at KUJH, he only advises the Daily Kansan staff.

Trevor Graff, editor-in-chief of the Daily Kansan this fall, told the Journal-World he and Akagi already have discussed ways the two operations can work closer together on reporting projects. Although occupying the same building, KUJH and the Daily Kansan have separate work spaces.


Muslim group works to reduce stereotypes in St. Louis media

A Muslim advocacy group is taking steps to curtail stereotypes about the faith among St. Louis area media.

But the group also urged media to do their part and research Islam well before running up against a news deadline.

Faizan Syed speaks during media breakfast in St. Louis

Faizan Syed discuses Muslim stereotypes in media Wednesday in St. Louis.

The St. Louis-based Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced it soon will release a media guide containing contact information for Muslims with knowledge of the issues and cultures around St. Louis and who have experience or training to deal with the media.

CAIR-St. Louis’s outreach began in earnest Wednesday during a special breakfast with invited media at Grbic Restaurant and Banquet Center in south St. Louis. CAIR also promises more media meetings like this one.

“The only time the media really try to cover the Muslim community … is when there’s an incident,” then the media leap to conclusions, explained Faizan Syed, the CAIR chapter’s executive director and leader of the breakfast discussion.

“Something happens like the protests in Egypt, then they want to contact the Egyptian Muslim community because (they think) they obviously they have connections with what’s going on in Egypt,” he said. “Or, if something happens in Pakistan, they want to cover the Pakistani community because obviously all of us have a say in how the Pakistani government works. But that’s not the case, and we want to make the experience better.”

Another problem lies in the broad belief that each Muslim can speak for every other Muslim. Syed said the city has large Albanian, Bosnian, Somali and Turkish populations that hew closely to their own cultures, while there are also large Arab, Bangladeshi, Nigerian and Pakistani populations stretching into the suburbs.

Adil Imdad, a Muslim chaplain and funeral director, underscored the importance in understanding these cultures as well as the faith.

“Because the culture of a Pakistani is very different from the culture of a Bosnian versus the culture of an African,” he said. “These are very different people joined by a single faith.”

Syed said estimates of the number of Muslims living around St. Louis range from 80,000 to 100,000, though the precise number is not known. CAIR wants to raise money for a census to answer that question.

Syed said he recalled a news conference where he asked who among the journalists knew the tenets of Islam and was answered with silence.

“This is the fundamental problem, is that you’re covering a religious community without really knowing what the religion stands for,” he said.

Indeed, the Muslim community can do more itself to meet the media’s needs, said Dr. Noor Ahmed, who’s affiliated with the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.

“I think it’s up to us Muslims to reach out to these people and help them understand us,” he said. “We have failed in that objective.”

But it helps for media to take initiative and recognize stereotypes before advancing them, especially regarding terrorist or extremist acts by Muslims.

Dr. Anjum Hassan, a professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University, explained that “people practice their faith different. People have different understandings of their faith. And that’s why people’s actions are different. … People should judge the action by the action itself and not in the context of Islam.”

Syed underscored this with the media’s persistent use of the word “Islamist” as a blanket descriptor for all Muslims no matter their behavior. He said that using the term without nuance attaches suspicion to people who are not deserving of it.

“Our first recommendation is to get rid of this word altogether,” Syed said. “Rather, if you are covering a story of terrorism or a story of extremism, you should refer to that specific person or group responsible, like ‘al-Qaeda ideology,’ or whatever the group, instead of saying ‘Islamist.’”

Doing this goes a long way toward putting a crisis in context, he continued.

“What happens after an incident is that there is no discussion among the media about what is the political reasoning or underlying factors creating these terrorists and extremists,” Syed said. “If you don’t mention the political reason, the logical assumption Americans make is that it’s the religion” that’s responsible.

St. Louis Media History Foundation awards first Pollack scholarship

Tabitha Williams, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis University student is the first recipient of the Joe Pollack Scholarship established by the St. Louis Media History Foundation.

Tabitha Williams, a 2012 graduate of Mehlville High, studies occupational therapy. The $4,000 award she will receive honors the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer, critic, labor advocate and local radio commentator who died in 2012.

Pollack was also a lifetime member of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter.

Despite its focus on preserving local media history, and Pollack’s media prominence, the Foundation elected not to restrict the scholarship to just media students.

“Joe wouldn’t have wanted it that way,” said Dave Garino, Foundation president, speaking at the time the scholarship was established. “He was for every student getting an equal chance.”


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ