SPJ Region 8 launches freelance network

Freelancers, unite.

Whether you freelance out of choice, to keep working after a layoff or to reinvent yourself, SPJ can help you get discovered by editors and connect with other freelancers. Just sign up for the new Region 8 Freelance Network.

Some years ago a group of independent journalists affiliated with the Association for Women Journalists created a freelance network in Dallas-Fort Worth that was quite successful. We met for lunch each month, discussed opportunities and challenges, shared industry news and enjoyed a sense of camaraderie.

We also referred assignments to each other. If an editor needed a specific person for an assignment and contacted a freelance journalist who wasn’t available or interested, that journalist could refer someone in the network for the job. Some people got magazine assignments that way; one person even got a book deal.

We’d like to reprise the network under the auspices of SPJ Region 8 and expand it all over Texas and Oklahoma. During the Region 8 conference in March, several people indicated interest in joining a network. As a member of SPJ, you can join for no additional cost, of course.

The network will evolve over time, but the first step will be to compile a list of freelance journalists (writers, graphic artists, videographers, photographers), their contact information, skills and kinds of assignments desired. We’ll create our own regional freelance directory and message list. The more people who sign up, the more we can help each other.

Members of the network also can share information about publications looking for freelancers, specific assignments up for grabs, tips and helpful articles. We’re up for suggestions about the best way to do that — perhaps a Slack group or a closed Facebook group.

Freelancers represent SPJ’s largest community, so resources already are available at the national level. Check out the SPJ website’s page “SPJ Freelance Community” at https://www.spj.org/freelance.asp, as well as the Freelance Community Facebook group. The blog “The Independent Journalist” also covers topics of interest to freelancers.

The SPJ Freelance Community’s guide to freelance writing is available online, as well as a calendar of events and on-demand sessions on freelancing and personal branding. You also can create an entry in the national SPJ Freelance Directory to connect with editors and network with other freelancers.

To join the SPJ Region 8 Freelancers Group, contact longtime freelancer and Region 8 Coordinator Kathryn Jones at kathrynjones1956@gmail.com. We welcome any suggestions as we get this network started.

More transparency demanded, leadership questioned after SPJ board conference call

A SPJ national board meeting on June 1 became contentious during a discussion about appointing a committee to conduct a search for a new national executive director. Afterward, board member Michael Koretzky called for the president’s impeachment on his blog.

The SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter led an ad hoc group to write a letter to the national board calling for transparency throughout the process of selecting an executive director, but not for impeachment of President J. Alex Tarquinio. The letter also expressed concern that the board meeting was not conducted in “a collegial, collaborative or open way.”

Here’s the link to the letter:

SPJ Local Leaders Tell National Board of Transparency, Leadership Concerns

Alison Bethel McKenzie resigned as SPJ executive director in late April. The SPJ website posted a brief, unattributed statement that did not explain the circumstances of her resignation. Tarquinio later posted about the resignation on her blog, but some chapters — including some in Region 8 — did not think SPJ members were told about the resignation with the transparency that is a key principle of SPJ”s own code of ethics.

Tarquinio yesterday posted on her blog about the board’s approval of an executive director transition plan: 

Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Review has posted an article about the controversy that includes a video clip from the board meeting:


The Red River Report will post more details as they become available.

Early registration open for EIJ19 in San Antonio

ABC NEWS – John Quinones

Early registration is open for the annual Excellence in Journalism national SPJ convention, to be held this year in our Region 8, San Antonio, from Sept. 5 to 7. The convention hotel is the Grand Hyatt downtown.

EIJ19 workshops and breakout sessions are posted at https://excellenceinjournalism.org/programs/. They include sessions on becoming a better data sleuth, telling climate stories, minimizing harm while reporting on suicide, freelancing and grants, staying safe when covering natural disasters and civic unrest, managing newsroom stress and trauma, and much more.

One of the sessions spotlights a development from our own Region 8 — how NPR and public radio stations in Texas are building a prototype “regional news hub” with the “Texas Standard” news program and other collaborations. The session is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 6, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

ABC News anchor and San Antonio native John Quiñones will receive this year’s RTDNA John F. Hogan Award on Friday, Sept. 6, during a “super session.” A reception will follow. Tickets to the event cost $45.

Other highlights include two excursions, a 35-minute boat tour of the Riverwalk and a tour of the Alamo. The boat tour begins Thursday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. and costs $5. The Alamo tour is the same day from 10 to 11 a.m. and costs $20.

Purchase tickets for the special events and register at https://www.spj.org/eij-register.asp. Early registration ends June 27.

Chapter annual reports due May 24

The SPJ national office has been sending out email reminders that annual reports for all SPJ pro and student chapters are due May 24.

You can access the annual report form on the SPJ website: https://www.spj.org/annualreports.asp

Some chapter presidents and treasurers have asked about the new SPJ financial regulations that were approved last year and why additional reporting is required.

Unfortunately, there have been several cases – including one involving a region director and others involving pro chapters – of unauthorized fund withdrawals from SPJ accounts and/or admitted embezzling.

These cases of misappropriation of funds prompted the national board to adopt the new rules for regional accounts to “further enhance the organization’s accountability measures.” That’s the reason for the additional financial reporting.

I’ve received emails from some chapter treasurers about the required list of income and expenses. This doesn’t have to be tediously detailed since chapter checking account statements will show a lot of this information. A simple format for income might include membership dues, fundraiser proceeds, donations and a total; expenses might include office supplies, catering fees for dinner meetings, printing costs, etc. and a total.

We journalists sometimes procrastinate, but this isn’t a report that can be done at the last minute. So please don’t wait until the day before the deadline to review the form. You also may not be aware that SPJ now requires three members to do a financial audit. That will take some time. So if you haven’t started the annual report, start now.

Advisers to student chapters, please make sure someone in the chapter knows about the report deadline since it’s coming after the end of most spring semesters.

These reports can be a pain, but preparing them can be helpful because you can see what your chapter accomplished during the year and any areas you want to strengthen. It also can help you plan for the year ahead.

If you have questions or concerns, please let me know at kathrynjones1956@gmail.com or call or text me at 254/974-0326. If I don’t know the answer — and I may not since I’m new — I’ll find someone who can answer it for you. Thanks!

SPJ board promises more transparency after SA, other chapters protest handling of exec director resignation

All 450 members on SPJ Region 8’s membership roll should have received an email from me  the day before the SPJ national board met on Monday, May 6, to discuss next steps after Alison Bethel McKenzie resigned as executive director. (If you didn’t receive it, please let me know at kathrynjones1956@gmail.com; some member emails bounced back.)

I apologize for not giving members and chapter leaders more time to comment, but I did not learn of the resignation directly from the national office. I found out when a regional director emailed the other regional directors and coordinators with the news.

You may have missed the original two-sentence announcement of Bethel McKenzie’s resignation on the SPJ website: https://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1645

Many members also didn’t see SPJ President Alex Tarquinio’s post about Bethel McKenzie’s departure on her blog:


The national office’s handling of the resignation prompted the Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter to draft a letter criticizing the board for lack of transparency. Other SPJ chapters– including the San Antonio Pro Chapter — also signed the letter.

I heard from two other Region 8 members who wanted their names included on the letter — John Brewer, president and publisher of The Examiner in Hugo, Oklahoma, and Wayne DeSmoot, an attorney and journalist in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I also signed as an individual since I didn’t have time to poll the entire region. You can read the letter here: http://spjdc.org/2019/05/spj-dc-letter-national-transparency-concerns/

My reason for joining the protest boiled down to this: how can SPJ members expect to hold others accountable if our own professional organization is not fully transparent? That violates SPJ’s own Code of Ethics. We are supposed to be examples and practice what we preach.

During the board meeting, Tarquinio pledged that the national office would do a better job of keeping members informed. Here’s the D.C. Pro Chapter’s summary of the meeting: http://spjdc.org/2019/05/recapping-yesterdays-contentious-national-spj-board-meeting/

The search is on now for a new executive director. We’ll post updates on the Red River Report as they become available.

Welcome to Region 8’s first blog!

We hope the Red River Report will become a valuable resource for keeping our vast Oklahoma-Texas region informed about what chapters are doing, what we can learn from each other, professional development opportunities, and ways we can mentor students and keep our profession growing and viable at a time when it’s under attack from so many directions – financial, societal and political.

It’s been a busy spring with judging for the Mark of Excellence student journalism awards and preparations for the annual Region 8 conference held March 22-23 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. The regional conference drew about 100 professionals and student journalists from Oklahoma and Texas. The informative sessions, lively panel discussions and an inspiring keynote address by Beth Frerking, vertical editor of The Dallas Morning News, connected those attending with a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that, yes, we are engaged in work that matters to our communities and to the world. And, of course, it’s so exciting to see enthusiastic student journalists recognized for doing outstanding work.

A giant THANK YOU to the 23 journalists and journalism educators who judged MOE categories for Region 12, which encompasses Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. (Out of fairness, we don’t judge entries from our own region.) Those who graciously gave of their time were Robert Barowski, Lorynne Benavides, Bob Booth, Linda Campbell, Quanecia Fraser, Ashley Ford, Eddye Gallagher, Saul Garza, Lee Goddard, Robert Hart, Ashley Inge, Kathryn Jones, Dan Malone, Susan McFarland, Lance McFarlin, Forrest Murphy, Gayle Reaves, Katelyn Rivera, Jason Sickles, Travis Smith, Arynn Tomson, Chris Whitley and Kirk Wise.

Texas State University has volunteered to host the 2020 regional conference in San Marcos. Due to conflicts with other journalism-related conferences, it will be held a bit later than usual. Tentative dates right now are April 24-25. Check out the Red River Report for updates.

Scroll down to find important news about our national organization and regional chapters. Several deadlines are coming up: each chapter must file an annual report by May 24. See the separate post for more information about that. Also, apply for SPJ chapter grants by July 15 at https://www.spj.org/chaptergrants.asp.

Pro or student chapters can apply for grants of up to $500 “for innovative programs and events that help build membership.” See more about the criteria and application process at the link above.

Please email news about your chapter to me at kathrynjones1956@gmail.com. New positions, events of interest, awards, available internships, job opportunities – we’re interested in them all!

Is there a journalism-related issue you’re passionate about? Or something that happened professionally that you want others to know about? Write about it. We’d love to run “guest columns” by members on a range of topics of interest to the regional membership. We’re aiming to update the blog the first week of each month, so please send submissions by the end of the previous month.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for reporting. We’re all in this together. Journalism matters.



Kathryn Jones

Region 8 coordinator

Freelance writer, author and journalism instructor



SPJ board to hold meeting on executive director resignation

I did not want or expect this to be the topic of the first blog post of the new Region 8 Red River Report, but as journalists we know that our best-laid plans often get derailed by breaking news.

By now you should have heard by email from me or from your chapter presidents that Alison Bethel McKenzie last week resigned as executive director of SPJ. The national board will hold an electronic meeting today at 3 p.m. Eastern time at SPJ headquarters in Indianapolis to talk about the next steps.

Here is a link to the agenda and the call-in info:


There will be a public comment period. But the main topic on the agenda will be discussed in executive session.

This is what SPJ President Alex Tarquinio posted:


The SPJ Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter has prepared a letter to be presented to the board. It criticizes SPJ’s handling of news about Bethel McKenzie’s resignation. Region 8’s San Antonio Pro Chapter is among other SPJ chapters signing the letter.

“SPJ’s leaders made no initial effort to inform members about this sudden and still unexplained resignation, beyond a short and unpublicized posting on spj.org,” SA Pro
Chapter President Michael Drudge said. “A few days later, SPJ President Alex Tarquinio issued a blog post but details were scant.”
I will post a recap of the meeting for those who cannot call in today and listen.
–Kathryn Jones, Region 8 Coordinator


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