Posts Tagged ‘region 7’

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.

Region 7 Career Connection, 10.13.14

Each week, The Heartland Beat will post four journalism jobs from within the region.

Check back next week for a new list of journalism jobs from around the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7!

Following in the footsteps of giants

After I tweeted my thanks to Region 7 SPJ members for electing me to serve as director, former SPJ Region 7 Director Holly Edgell — who was my boss a few years ago — tweeted in response…

The tweet reminded me that I’m filling some big shoes. The amazing journalists who have previously served as SPJ Region 7 Director contributed a lot to SPJ and to the journalism industry. David Sheets, my immediate predecessor, worked tirelessly on issues facing freelance journalists. He encouraged students and professionals across the region to join SPJ and to think critically about the journalism they produce.

David has been an amazing leader for the region. I will do my best to follow his efforts to serve journalists in our slice of the map.

In the coming weeks, I will announce details for the 2015 Spring Conference, to be held in Omaha, Neb.

Additionally, I’m beginning the legwork to connect journalists with employers within the region and freelancers with editors. More on that soon.

Finally, per the SPJ bylaws, I have appointed Lauren Whan regional assistant for campus affairs.

According to the SPJ bylaws, “each regional director shall appoint a student member as his regional assistant for campus affairs. The latter shall advise the regional director on campus problems and activities, shall act in a liaison capacity with campus chapters in developing programs, and shall assist the regional director in any other ways desired or requested.”

I met Lauren at the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Kansas City earlier this year and have been impressed with her dedication to journalism and leadership skills. She’s going to help me work with campus chapters across the region to bolster their chapters and encourage students to pursue their journalism aspirations.

Here’s a little bit about Lauren:

“Lauren Whan is a junior at Lindenwood University where she is majoring in journalism, with a minor in mass communications. She is a founder of the Lindenwood SPJ student chapter and is involved with the university’s student newspaper, television station and online news publications.

“Lauren is also Lindenwood’s student public relations officer for the Lindenwood Student Government Association. She is an animal lover, a racing fan and an avid traveler. She looks forward to serving the students within Region 7 and helping Rob McLean plan the regional conference in Nebraska.”

Stay tuned to the blog for regular updates on Region 7 news, events and opportunities!

Conference site extends deadline on discounts

SPJ in STL 2013The special hotel rate reserved for attendees of the Region 5&7 conference next month in St. Louis has been extended by one week.

Management at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch agreed this week to extend the conference rate after seeing a spike in registrations through March. The conference is scheduled for April 26-28 at the hotel.

Besides several programs, there will be Mark of Excellence awards handed out during dual luncheons at the conference.

But the hotel says just a few rooms remain in the block reserved for conference attendees, so anyone interested in an overnight stay needs to book reservations right away.

A happy-hour mixer with free drinks for hotel patrons is Friday, April 26, and a meeting of region leaders is slated for Sunday, April 28, starting at 9 a.m. The conference events take place from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. that Saturday.

Drury management also urges those attendees who drive to the conference to arrive early for parking, as the baseball Cardinals will host the Pittsburgh Pirates a couple blocks away on Saturday and the hotel shares parking space with Busch Stadium.

Former Missouri politician starts news website, looks to hire a reporter

When the Missouri General Assembly gavels open its session next month, a new media company based in Jefferson City plans to go live right along with it.

Rod Jetton

Rod Jetton

Leading the company is a man who drew attention to himself inside and outside the General Assembly.

The Missouri Times, a free online publication still taking shape, intends to “get real answers on the serious issues of the day” and do it devoid of partisan slant, said Rod Jetton, former Missouri House speaker and president of the Times, in a news release.

Jetton served in the House from 2001 to 2009, the last four as speaker. But blowback from a 2009 assault charge scuttled his legislative career and the campaign consultancy he ran concurrent to his speakership. He says he’s no longer involved in either politics or consulting.

Jetton believes the souring economics of major media, resulting in staff cuts and diminished resources, make it harder for traditional news operations to achieve journalistic objectivity, and that a project such as the Times can accomplish what other media can’t.

“I feel my campaign experience as well as my legislative background has prepared me to know what questions to ask and who to ask them to,” he said.

And he insists the result won’t be tinted red or blue, or lean left or right.

“This publication will be nonpartisan and solely focused on providing objective reporting on the politics and the public policy process,” Jetton said. “Our overriding goal will be to report on all sides of each issue so that our readers have a clear and honest picture of what happened, who made it happen, why it happened and how it will affect them.”

Scott Faughn

Scott Faughn

Joining Jetton to shape the Times’ editorial content is Scott Faughn, a former mayor of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and publisher of the SEMO Times, an alternative weekly in that town. For the record, Faughn also has crossed paths with the law; he was convicted and fined $1,500 in 2007 for forging checks related to a highway construction project in southeastern Missouri.

“I believe there are readers who want more in-depth coverage of state issues,” Faughn said in the same news release. “Our staff of professional journalists will be in the state capitol every day to serve those readers.”

According to marketing material about the Times, the publication will contain advertising, and subscriptions will be offered at $325 annually for a companion print version that’s scheduled for weekly distribution.

Ideally, the Times will launch Jan. 9, the same day as the new legislative session, and have two reporters on staff. Faughn, the publisher, said the Times hopes to fill one of those staff positions before then.

Faughn said in an email that the reporters are expected to have experience with social media as a news-gathering tool, an understanding of video blogging, and knowledge of the content management system WordPress. He asks interested candidates to email him their resumes and at least two examples of their work to Hard copy submissions should go to Post Office Box 416, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901.


Joint regional conference to be held near the Gateway Arch

When Region 7 and Region 5 have their joint spring conference in St. Louis next April, the event will take place in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

The Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch has graciously agreed to host the conference on the weekend of April 26-28, setting aside a large block of rooms reserved for conference attendees and preparing two luncheon banquets for each region’s Mark of Excellence awards. The tentative conference schedule includes an informal welcome gathering on Friday, sessions on Saturday, and a regional strategy meeting Sunday morning.

The location not only has fine amenities and fabulous views, but also is close to downtown historic sites, sports venues, shopping, and nightlife.

This is the first time St. Louis has hosted a regional conference in three years. At the suggestion of Region 5 leadership, the Gateway City’s proximity to south central Indiana and western Kentucky also proved an optimum location for that region’s burgeoning membership in those areas.

Details about the conference sessions are pending, but anyone interested in making individual or group reservations now can do so at this link at a reduced rate for SPJ attendees. This special rate and availability are guaranteed up to March 26.


Two fledgling chapters take first steps forward

As fall descends on Region 7, interest in SPJ continues to rise, and two prospective chapters are rising as well to meet that interest.

The society finally is gaining traction again in the Cornhusker State, a place where it once was prominent, as the fledgling Omaha-Lincoln chapter reintroduced the society by hosting last month in Omaha a get-to-know-you happy hour for media types, resplendent with swag bags and complementary chili con queso.

Nebraska does not have either a pro or student chapter, and is the only state in the region without them.

Though attendance at the event was modest, co-organizer Rob McLean said “it was a good beginning step to restart the chapter. People are interested, they see we’re here, and that’s the first step.”

“There’s professional interest” in SPJ “in Omaha, and we’ve got students from (the University of) Nebraska who are working with us, too,” Rob said.

To keep it going, Rob, of Hearst Television, and Katie Knapp Schubert, of Omaha Public Radio, are hosting an “election prep” study session at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at NuVibe Juice and Java in Lincoln. Besides refreshments, SPJ will provide election “cheat sheets” with contact information for candidates, as well as other election information and resources.

(Editor’s note: I campaigned for region director in part on the promise to bring SPJ back to Nebraska, and Rob is a former member of the award-winning St. Louis Pro chapter.)

Meanwhile, another fledgling chapter debuts next week at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., with its first function: an Ethics Hold ‘em card tournament, led off by a presentation on professional ethics by Rob Schneider, a Truman State alumnus and presentation director for the Dallas Morning News.

The card tournament features poker matches with cards incorporating ethical ideas and situations, and pits students against each other on their knowledge and understanding of both. Ashley Jost, who’s organizing the tournament and leading the drive for a new chapter, says local businesses are donating prizes to the event.

The tournament goes from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in the Barnett Hall Atrium. Anyone interested in playing a hand or two for a very good cause can contact Ashley for more details.


Tell us what you want to see at the regional conference

Sure, it’s only October, and spring seems too far down the calendar to contemplate.

But time ticks down faster than you think, and soon you’ll have to consider making travel plans for the annual Region 7 conference.

In fact, the foundation is being laid for that conference right now, with help from the leaders of neighboring Region 5 (Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana). Because St. Louis is central to both regions, we decided to convene there, and very soon we expect to announce a venue.

After that, we’ll hammer out the smaller details, such as sponsors and costs.

But the whole show isn’t up to just us: Your input is important, too. Tell us now what kinds of programs you’d like to see included at the dual regional, and maybe also mention the speakers you’d like to see present them.

Last spring, the conference in Ames, Iowa, included sessions on multimedia and mobility, social media and document searches, and helpful tips for freelancers as well as news staffs. The one-day, all-day conference even helped lay the foundations for stronger chapters in Iowa, and a new chapter in Nebraska.

Next spring, journalists from Region 7 are sure to face a host of new issues and challenges, some of which already may be taking shape. What better place then to discuss them and get valuable advice from learned SPJ colleagues and other professionals than the annual conference?

So, take a few moments to let us know now your ideas for program sessions at next spring’s conference. Send those ideas to me, David Sheets, Region 7 director, at If you want to discuss ideas directly, include a contact number.

Springtime may seem a long way off, but it’s really just around the corner. Help the regional conference’s planners get a jump on the calendar by adding your input to our efforts today.


New director takes over in the Heartland

There’s a new face in this space.

It belongs to me, David Sheets, the new director of Region 7 and immediate past-president of the St. Louis Pro chapter.

If the face itself doesn’t turn up here regularly, at least words will over the next two years of my term, because there’s a lot going on in the Heartland region of SPJ that deserves notice. In just the past few months, Region 7 hosted an excellent convention at Iowa State in Ames, St. Louis Pro won top honors in the small-chapter category, yours truly received the Howard S. Dubin award for service to SPJ, and the seeds of a new chapter have begun taking root in the Omaha-Lincoln area of Nebraska — a state that, as of now, has no SPJ chapter of any kind.

That last item is particularly heartening for the Heartland; it demonstrates that the energy and wisdom of SPJ still motivate the region’s journalists and give the society new hope for expansion at a time when costs and constriction make quality journalism increasingly difficult to pursue. Leaders Rob McLean, of Hearst Television, and Katie Knapp Schubert, of Omaha Public Radio, are working hard to put the Cornhusker State back on our map, and hope to have their chapter formally on SPJ’s books by January.

I urge every established and aspiring journalist in Region 7 to reach out to Rob and Katie and lend a hand with the heavy lifting. Nebraska has too great a journalism tradition to not have SPJ there fighting for it.

And I urge everyone to help bolster our efforts across the region by signing up now and getting familiar with video chat — whether it’s through Google Hangout, Skype, GoToMeeting, or a host of others — the tool I consider essential for closing the wide distances between chapters. Region 7’s sprawling size no doubt has created difficulty  for SPJ members to interact, but with practice and application of video chat I hope to minimize that sprawl by encouraging regular virtual meetings between members.

In the coming months, I’ll lay out plans for those virtual meetings and ask many of you to take part, as well as implore for patience. Surely, there will be bugs and glitches at the beginning. Over time though, those should diminish, and the distances between each of us should shrink as well.

I’ll also announce details regarding the next regional convention in spring, tentatively scheduled for St. Louis and, in a unique twist, held in partnership with Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky).

In the meantime, I ask Region 7 members to please convey their thanks to outgoing director Kelsey Volkmann for her two years of extraordinary service; to follow Region 7’s Facebook page for regular planning updates; to follow the region’s new Twitter feed, @SPJRegion7, for up-to-the-minute information on regional events and interaction; and to put Region 7’s new email,, in your address book.

A journalist’s work never ends, and neither will our efforts in Region 7 to spread SPJ’s message and bring its members closer together.



Region 7 Spring Regional Conference March 30-31 at Iowa State

From reporting for mobile devices, to crowd sourcing on Twitter, to writing for magazines in the digital age and finding your way as a freelancer, this year’s Region 7 Spring Regional Conference has something for everyone.

The conference kicks off with a welcome reception from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Olde Main Brewing Co. and Restaurant in the heart of downtown Ames, Iowa.

Saturday is packed full of sessions that will help inspire and energize student reporters, early- and mid-career journalists and seasoned veterans. The workshops, Mark of Excellence Awards ceremony and keynote luncheon will all conveniently take place at Iowa State’s Memorial Union, where a block of hotel rooms has also been reserved, with room rates starting at $80. Call 515- 296-6848 to book your room and mention SPJ to get the conference discount.

Register for the conference here.

Follow the Twitter hashtag #SPJRegion7 for updates.

The sessions and speakers include:
Keynote Speaker “Covering Politics in Iowa, the Presidential Battleground,” with Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register: In a presidential election year, Obradovich has a front row seat to all the drama of the Iowa caucuses, campaign trail and candidates. Hear how this Iowa State alum helps lead the Register’s award-winning political coverage and how her job as a political journalist has evolved in the age of Twitter.

Reporting for (and with) Mobile Devices,” with Jenn Jarvis, Internet director, KWWL Channel 7 in Waterloo, Iowa: Tablet and eReader ownership doubled just over Christmas, new Pew research shows. How does this change the way we do our jobs as journalists and storytellers?


“Using Social Media to Find Sources, Break News and Attract Attention,” with Dave Sheets, sports editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Learn how to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to spot trends, establish sources, share stories and build your brand.


“Basics of Multimedia Storytelling,” with Mary Cox, newsroom coach: Want to boost your storytelling skills using multimedia? Cox, an Iowa State alum, will show you how to write web-optimized headlines and provocative abstracts, shoot better videos, gather strong sound and look and sound better on camera.

“Creating a Data and Document-Driven Newsroom,” with Joel Campbell, assistant professor in the Department of Communications at Brigham Young University and former reporter and editor at the (Salt Lake City) Deseret News: This session teaches journalists how to effectively integrate public data and documents into their reporting. Walk away with dozens of ideas for document-based stories, an understanding of state and federal freedom of information laws, and strategies for acquiring records, overcoming illegal denials and lowering outrageous copy fees. The session is useful for beginners and FOI veterans.

“Ethics in the Real World,” with Elizabeth Donald, reporter, Belleville News-Democrat in Belleville, Ill.: Donald, a newspaper reporter for 15 years, knows first-hand that personal ethics statements should not be crafted on the spot during a difficult assignment. It’s something we should all consider ahead of time to decide what we will do, what we don’t do and what we will hold our noses and do.

“Learn from Oprah’s Boss,” with Eileen Solomon, journalism professor at Webster University in St. Louis: Name a job in journalism and Solomon’s had it. The Emmy-award-winning producer spent 12 years in television and radio news in St. Louis, Miami, Tucson and Baltimore, where she was Oprah’s boss. Solomon knows how to produce the producers.

“Magazines in the Digital Age,” with Lori Blachford, journalism professor, Drake University: Who says magazines are dead? Blachford, who’s worked for The Des Moines Register, Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications and Country Home, knows hows magazines are evolving and adapting to the world of online publications, tablets and smartphones.

“Taking the Plunge into Freelancing,” with David Sheets, president, St. Louis Pro Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists: As more journalists switch from staff positions at big media outlets to solo work, what do they need to do to get started, stand out among the increased competition and keep work steadily coming in?

Conference Schedule at a Glance

8:30 a.m.: Registration & Check In
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast/Regional Meeting
9-10:15 a.m.: Sessions
10:30-11:45 a.m.: Sessions
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon, Keynote
1:45-3 p.m.: Sessions
3:15-4:30 p.m.: Sessions

4:45-5:15 p.m.: How Can We Revive the Iowa Pro Chapter?

This conference is made possible with support from our sponsors, which include the Iowa Newspaper Foundation and the Leo Mores Chapter of SPJ at Iowa State.


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