Archive for the ‘SPJ chapters’ Category

SPJ in 2017: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for journalism. In 2017, journalists have been arrested, threatened and bullied. They’ve been harassed by sources – and each other. But more than anything, 2017 has been a year when journalists have proven they will continue to do their jobs no matter the obstacles they face.

That’s why SPJ has been hard at work fighting for journalists everywhere, but much of our work is done behind the scenes.

In 2017, SPJ has continued strong advocacy work in fighting for journalists’ rights; recognized amazing works of journalism with our Sigma Delta Chi Awards, Mark of Excellence Awards and many others; launched an Inauguration Day membership drive and continued to partner and support other journalism organizations.

Here are some of our highlights:


We signed onto at least 17 court briefs whose cases would have major effects on journalism this year. We wrote and signed onto a plethora of letters in support of issues that would affect free press, ethical journalism, net neutrality and more. We also committed thousands of dollars from the SPJ Legal Defense Fund this year to journalists facing legal issues.

SPJ spearheaded a letter, signed by 70 journalism and open government organizations, to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence requesting a meeting about government transparency. The groups seek to build on the meeting SPJ led in December 2015 with the Obama administration. To date, however, the Trump administration has not responded.

In February, SPJ – along with Committee to Protect Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, National Press Photographers Association and Online News Association – sent a letter to officials in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to allow journalists to cover the events at Standing Rock safely.

After speaking out against a judge’s actions regarding “prior restraint” in December 2016, SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee granted Isaac Avilucea, a reporter for the (Trenton, New Jersey) Trentonian, $5,000 in March to help with his legal fees. Avilucea obtained a confidential child custody report from the child’s mother. Without giving notice to the newspaper or Avilucea, a New Jersey judge issued an emergency order prohibiting him and the newspaper from publishing information obtained from the complaint. Avilucea won his case in March.

SPJ had its biggest and best Ethics Week in April – with the help of some friends in New York City, we displayed the Code of Ethics on billboards in Times Square. We also had our very first Day of Giving, where we raised $22,025.

Dan Heyman, a West Virginia Public News Service journalist, was arrested in May for questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. SPJ urged West Virginia officials to drop the charges. SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee later granted Heyman’s lawyer, Tim DiPiero, $5,000 to cover his fees. DiPiero, along with the law firm of Wilmer Hale, which worked on a pro bono basis, was instrumental in securing a complete and unconditional dismissal of the charges.

In June, SPJ headquarters staffers and leaders met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of journalism and explain what organizations like SPJ do to help the industry. We also joined a group of press freedom groups in filing a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking that Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) be disciplined after his assault charge for allegedly “body-slamming” a reporter for The Guardian.

SPJ and 32 other journalism and open government organizations sent a letter in July to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) urging the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the state of media in the United States.

Throughout the year, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman shared his thoughts on ethical journalism and the SPJ Code of Ethics, via the Code Words blog. He wrote about journalists speaking out against discrimination; the reasons why journalists are not the dishonest enemies of America like POTUS says; how to cover natural disasters and the situation in Puerto Rico; why journalism organizations and institutions should be held accountable and more.

SPJ joined Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation and 17 other press freedom organizations to launch the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. We also launched a website to continue fighting restrictions on information from Public Information Officers.

SPJ raised more than $10,000 for Giving News Day in support of the Legal Defense Fund, the First Amendment Forever Fund, the President’s Club and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

SPJ spoke out against the secretive new owners of LA Weekly and, most recently, compiled and released a list of resources for journalists combating sexual harassment in the newsroom.


SPJ received more than 3,500 entries for the Mark of Excellence collegiate awards. There were 51 national winners across 12 regions. This year, SPJ also introduced a new videography category for the 2017 awards.

SPJ had more than 1,300 entries for the Sigma Delta Chi awards for professional journalists, with 86 national winners. These awards recognize the best of the best in journalism, which truly makes a difference in people’s lives.

Bruce Sanford, longtime SPJ attorney and First Amendment advocate, was given the highest SPJ honor – the Wells Memorial Key. Jerry Seib, Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Shepard were named Fellows of the Society for their extraordinary contributions to journalism. Rochelle Riley was given the $75,000 Pulliam Fellowship in Editorial Writing. Riley plans to spend the next year studying the effect of trauma and a toxic environment on children’s learning.

Ohio University was named the best SPJ campus chapter, and the Press Club of Long Island, Florida Pro Chapter and Cincinnati Pro Chapter were named the best professional chapters of SPJ.


SPJ gained 219 members in response to an Inauguration Day special membership promotion for professional members. Thanks to the “Fight Back” campaign, we’re trending up in membership compared to this time last year, finally reversing a multi-year decline.


More than 1,800 people attended this year’s journalism conference in Anaheim, California. At EIJ17, more than $5,500 was raised for the Legal Defense Fund through the LDF auction, and #EIJ17 was tweeted more than 11,600 times during the three-day conference.


SPJ’s partnerships with other journalism organizations also grew in 2017. Now, SPJ provides association management services such as bookkeeping, communications and conference planning to the American Copy Editors Society, Journalism and Women Symposium, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Society of Environmental Journalists and Radio Television Digital News Association, to name a few. Our work with the “boring office stuff” allows them to focus heavily on their mission, which continues to improve journalism across the board.

SPJ regularly partners with more than 100 other journalism and open government organizations across the country on letters, statements, court briefs, etc. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

We know 2018 will bring more challenges for all of us to fight for the First Amendment, freedom of the press and journalists everywhere. It will also bring more opportunities to share with the public who we are, what we do and how and why we do it.

From all of us at SPJ to all of you, best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive 2018.

Discuss the proposed “One Member, One Vote” amendment

All SPJ members are invited and encouraged to discuss the One Member, One Vote amendment that chapter delegates will vote on during the Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference, Sept. 24-27 in New Orleans. Please contribute to the discussion in the comments of this post.

If you would like to discuss the other amendments, we have set up a separate thread for that discussion here.

Discuss the proposed bylaws amendments

All SPJ members are invited and encouraged to discuss the proposed bylaws amendments that chapter delegates will vote on during the Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference, Sept. 24-27 in New Orleans. Please contribute to the discussion in the comments of this post.

If you would like to discuss the proposed One Member, One Vote amendment, we have set up a thread specifically for that discussion here.

SPJ goes international: A student chapter is born in Qatar

When Richard Roth and I sat down for our Skype meet-and-greet, he was finishing his work day. I was just about to grab lunch.

There are seven hours separating Indianapolis and Qatar, but SPJ has nestled into the journalism fabric of both places now that Northwestern University in Qatar is starting up the first international student chapter.

It’s pretty exciting: They are one of the fastest-growing student chapters already, with 55 four-year members and counting.

“Going from zero to 55, you can’t do that in a Maserati,” joked Roth, who serves as senior associate dean at the NU Medill School of Journalism.

He also will serve as the Qatar chapter adviser (he has been an SPJ member since 1968) and hopes that their first meeting will be in October while school is in full-swing. Why later in the fall? Well, they’re waiting until after Ramadan, when some students fast for 15 hours a day.

His goal is to have a past SPJ president or newly elected president Hagit Limor attend their first meeting. The university even hopes to send some students to the 2011 SPJ Convention.

Something also brought up in conversation is how the journalism culture is different over there. It’s hard for students to report when people are wary of being interviewed, he said.

“Doing journalism here is a hard thing to do,” Roth said. “There’s no history here of free speech. When they go out, people don’t talk to them.”

Northwestern recently sent 12 Qatar students to New Orleans on a documentary trip. They examined the area and how it was rebuilding five years after Hurricane Katrina. One thing students noticed was that it was easy to report in the U.S., Roth said.

Students in Qatar are interested in learning about western journalism and staying connected to it, he said. To get students revved up about starting a chapter, he visited journalism classes and spoke about SPJ, saying that the organization began with students 100 years ago and that if NU Qatar students were interested, they should continue on with the tradition.

And an international chapter is no doubt going to add different perspectives to SPJ. They have students from Palestine, Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia, to name a few places.

“This is probably the most diverse student body you can imagine,” Roth said.

Since its creation, the chapter has had to deal with small challenges because of its long-distance relationship with SPJ, such as converting Qatari riyals to U.S. dollars and delivering checks from around the world, Roth said.

In two years, their first group of journalism students will graduate (the Qatari journalism program is two years old). Ten years from now, they hope to change the media landscape in Qatar.

And SPJ will be a part of that mission.

“So far, everyone has jumped to fill out the paperwork,” Roth said, “and I hope it continues that way.”

April Dudash is the summer 2010 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and does the bidding of SPJ Headquarters. She graduated from the University of Florida in May and has been an SPJ member since 2006.

When to throw out a stale chapter and bake a new one / Pt. 2

Yesterday, we took a look at some problems SPJ chapters are currently facing. Today, we’re offering some tips that can make the chapter revamping process run more smoothly:

Examine your leadership.

It may be time to take the reins again and restructure your executive board.

Are there officers currently in place that, gulp, don’t do anything? Talk with them. See if they are willing to put in the work and the hours needed to make your SPJ chapter a great one. If not, perhaps it’s time they stepped down to a less-demanding role. Being tactful and professional about this goes without saying.

How many officer positions do you have? You can’t expect to restructure an entire chapter alone. You need people by your side and putting in a fair share of work. Examine how many officers you have right now. You may want to look for a few more enthusiastic people to hold a leadership position. (For campus chapters, a lot of that enthusiasm comes from underclassmen.)

Examples of officer positions: President, Vice Prez, Treasurer, Secretary, Historian, Webmaster, Fundraising Chair, Social Chair, Publicity Chair, Membership Coordinator

Each person has their role within the organization, but you’re always lending a hand to one another. SPJ togetherness!

Come up with a programming game plan. Think fun! Think flashy!

Once you have a solid exec board in place, now it’s time to sit down before things get crazy and come up with a six-month plan. This includes speakers you want, panels, social events and fundraising events. Put everything down on a calendar with tentative dates. That way, you can start contacting speakers early and getting the details together.

For campus chapters, think fun and flashy. You want interactive programs. Colorful, modern fliers. FREE FOOD. Enthralling speakers. And did I mention free food? Perfect examples of fun and flashy programming can be found on SPJ national board member Michael Koretzky’s website. He has created such events as the First Amendment Free Food Festival and Ethics Hold ‘Em. This kind of programming usually sends campus SPJ involvement through the roof. Contact national SPJ headquarters if you need help finding speakers.

Make sure to meet on a regular basis with your exec board in order to discuss the calendar you guys come up with. This makes sure jobs get done. And if someone is struggling with their SPJ duties, it’s up to everyone else to lend a hand.

Tell people about SPJ!

How do you communicate with SPJ members and potential members? If people have been apathetic before, then it’s time to be really aggressive when it comes to making your chapter’s mission public. Come up with a publicity strategy that you can stick to each time a meeting or event rolls around.


  • Design fun fliers you can post in the journalism/communications college.
  • Send e-mails out over your chapter listserv/the JOU college’s listserv.
  • Send a PowerPoint slide or PDF to all journalism professors (whether they’re in print, broadcast or online) so they can show it during class time.
  • Update your Facebook and Twitter regularly.
  • Set up a table in a high-traffic area with SPJ information, flashy fliers and candy.


  • Send out information over your updated chapter listserv.
  • Update your Facebook and Twitter regularly.
  • Find local news organizations that you can mass e-mail about SPJ events and meetings.
  • Hang up fliers at local libraries when you have events for the public.

Is there a way for people to routinely check in with your chapter? Set up a website. Get a webmaster to routinely update it for you. Make sure all your social media avenues remain updated, or people won’t trust them anymore.

Last but not least…Be the life of the SPJ party.

Once people come out to your events, engage them! Make them feel like they’re part of something great. Camaraderie is a big deal here, so when that person walks through your door, make them feel welcome. Campus chapters especially need to be good at this…students want to make friends, and if they make SPJ friends, they’ll have one more reason to attend meetings.

With pro chapters, you’ll have a group of people you can share journalism stories and woes with! It’s invaluable, especially during tumultuous times such as these. Set up a network of people who respect each other.

We hope you’re pumped like we are. And if you need any resources or advice, don’t hesitate to contact your handy-dandy SPJ headquarters. If you have advice to add or want to bring up chapter issues that weren’t mentioned, post them below!

April Dudash is the summer 2010 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and does the bidding of SPJ Headquarters. She graduated from the University of Florida in May and has been an SPJ member since 2006.

When to throw out a stale chapter and bake a new one / Pt. 1

When I became a new member of the University of Florida chapter more than four years ago, there were 10 active members…if that. The chapter maybe held two meetings a semester. The officers would meet in the student union every once in a while to discuss little things here and there while we scarfed down Subway, but there was no direction or focus.

People were bored. Worse yet, they were apathetic about being in SPJ.

My mushy freshman brain figured that was just how college organizations operated (I was UF SPJ historian at the time), that college students were way too busy studying for biophysics and trying to become America’s No. 1 party school. But sophomore year, I became part of an SPJ revamping process that completely transformed our chapter to a national leader in membership recruitment and programming.

At the SPJ Ted Scripps Leadership Institute last weekend, some student and pro members laid their SPJ worries on the table like a card player that’s been dealt a bad hand. Some were frustrated. Others were overwhelmed. And with good reason! It’s a huge responsibility (and a big pain in the you-know-what) to completely start over and rework a chapter from the inside out, especially if it has been inactive for months or years.

If you bleed for SPJ, you know there’s sweat involved. And tears. And a lot of heavy-lifting. But better yet, you also get that warm fuzzy feeling at night knowing you’re helping lead the future of journalism in the right direction. No warm milk required.

I brought up chapter woes briefly in my last blog post, but I really wanted to delve deeper here. Creating healthy chapters is something very near and dear to my heart, and the conversations I had with Scripps participants were ones full of stress and excitement for what’s to come.

So what are the issues?


  • “Not many people want to get involved, especially as leaders.”
  • “The chapter’s inactive.”
  • “The journalism program’s in shambles…or hard to communicate with.”
  • “People aren’t interested in our programming.”
  • “It’s hard to find people who want to speak at our meetings.”
  • “We don’t have a Pro chapter close enough to us that can help.”


  • “We have to scrounge for leaders and members who want to help plan activities.”
  • “The chapter’s inactive.”
  • “Professionals are too busy with jobs and too tired to come out to programs.”

A lot of the issues between campus and pro are similar, if not the same exact thing.

[We’d love to hear from you: Comment below if you have faced any challenges with your chapter.] Stay tuned for Pt. 2 this week!

April Dudash is the summer 2010 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and does the bidding of SPJ Headquarters. She graduated from the University of Florida in May and has been an SPJ member since 2006.

Congrats to our 2010 Ted Scripps leaders

Break out the bubbly and blare “Pomp and Circumstance”…our 2010 Ted Scripps leaders graduated over the weekend!

Nineteen pro leaders, 24 student leaders and six facilitators from around the country got together for three intense training days and brainstormed new ideas for their SPJ chapters. They learned a lot about themselves, their leadership styles and how to make improvements on the SPJ home front.

There was a lot of SPJ bonding going on. People seemed to feel more connected to SPJ’s missions after the program, and meeting others from different chapters was extremely unifying.

Executive Director Joe Skeel, President-Elect Hagit Limor and President Kevin Smith at the duckpin bowling alley. Everyone's a winner in SPJ!

Plus, there was duckpin bowling on Friday night…a Midwest experience that people couldn’t pass up. Despite the frequent gutter balls, spirits remained high.

Saturday, participants worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on setting goals for their SPJ chapters and visiting different roundtable discussions about programming, the newly renovated SPJ website and fundraising ideas.

The campus chapters had an interesting dynamic with one another. Some students were representing journalism programs that enrolled thousands of students. Others had 50 people in their entire program.

Despite the huge chapter differences, many leaders were facing the same problems. Apathy from students who had too much on their plates. A weak system of communication within the journalism college. Problems retaining members and keeping them coming to meetings and events.

Others were trying to revitalize stagnant chapters, whether they were campus or pro.

Despite having a lot of work ahead of them, the graduates left with pages of notes and overwhelming support from the SPJ community. Their awesome dedication will continue moving the national organization in the right direction.

Congrats again, 2010 Ted Scripps leaders. You guys rock.

Getting lost in Indy and a roadmap for new college chapters

It has been a full week here in Indianapolis, and I have already gotten lost a handful of times in the city. Instead of viewing it as an adventure, I start to sweat and irrationally think that I’m never going to make it home. Might as well call my folks, say some dramatic last words and then park my car somewhere in the void. Maybe it would be best that from here on out, if I’m going to explore a new town, I better pack a few boxes of Cheez-Its, a First Aid kit and flare gun.

Now that I’m at SPJ Headquarters, I have to admit that one of the things I’ve wanted to do after college is help students set up campus chapters, a process that may seem like an intimidating, winding road. However, Headquarters staff members are like the GPS of the organization: they can lead you down the right path (sometimes with an overdone British accent).

Right now, there are 129 campus chapters in SPJ, but there’s always room for more. A friend of mine over at the University of North Florida is in the process of beginning a chapter, and she is currently looking for an adviser. She’s got spunk and initiative, which is something that SPJ needs to continue thriving.

Don’t have an SPJ chapter on your campus? Start one. You have Headquarters backing you 100 percent (the people over here don’t bite), and the start-up process is going to quadruple your leadership skills. If you join this national organization as someone who had the drive to start up their college chapter, can you imagine how many professional contacts you’re going to make while in school? Don’t pass up that opportunity.

Here’s how to start:

1)      Let SPJ Headquarters know you’ve made the decision to start a chapter by calling 317-927-8000. You can start a chapter if you’re at a two-year or four-year university or college that has a school or department of journalism or that offers courses in journalism. At least 10 students need to back you up.

2)      Seek out professional SPJ members near you, whether they’re faculty or in a local Pro SPJ chapter. They’ll help you out and offer guidance.

3)      You have to send in some paperwork to Headquarters in order to become a provisional campus chapter, which means you have a year to work toward becoming a “formally recognized” SPJ chapter.

To look at the details on how to start up a campus chapter, visit the SPJ site. It includes paperwork information, programming ideas and tips on how to set up the chapter framework. If you have any questions about anything, call us at Headquarters at 317-927-8000.

Or e-mail me for campus chapter tips at I was an officer in the University of Florida chapter for four years, which included being president for two. I helped lead an almost dormant chapter to becoming the 2009 Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year. Revving up a chapter is a lot of work, but we certainly had fun with all our programming.

I assure you, we’re not going to let you get lost in the process. So set aside that emergency box of Cheez-Its and flare gun, and start up your chapter this summer.

Coming soon: When to throw out a stale chapter and bake a new one

April Dudash is the summer 2010 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and does the bidding of SPJ Headquarters. She graduated from the University of Florida in May and has been an SPJ member since 2006.

Get the most out of your Twitter list (here’s one of SPJ chapters)

Sometimes random minutes “wasted” scrolling through Twitter updates can produce valuable results.

That was the case today when I stumbled across something from SPJ member and reporter/social media guru Monica Guzman (@moniguzman).

Here’s what I think is the easiest way to follow Seattle news. I do it every day, & trust me: I’ve got a full plate 😉

She addressed an issue I’ve been mulling for a while for @spj_tweets: how to make better use of Twitter lists.

Without stealing all of her thunder, I’ll let you check out what she has to say in greater detail.

But the gist is getting easy access to a Twitter list and using it in locations other than Twitter, namely your blog, news Web site, etc. The neat thing is people who aren’t down with Twitter can get feeds (read news and information) from a diverse range of sources due to the construct of the list.

So, without further adieu, here is a real-time (and constantly updated) list of news and tweets from SPJ chapters (student and professional):

Don’t see your chapter here? Follow @spj_tweets with your chapter account and we’ll add you.

See Monica’s Guzman’s post for easy instructions on how to do this with your lists.


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