Posts Tagged ‘Society of Professional Journalists’

Applying for a journalism or communications position? (Don’t) do this.

Here at SPJ HQ, we have been sifting through scores of internship applications for our two summer positions and the yearlong communications internship.

Based on what we received, we compiled advice for job-seekers. Here are some application dos and don’ts, based on this year’s applicant pool. (Kudos to those of you whose materials included the dos.)

When applying for journalism or communications positions:

  • DO include a cover letter. DON’T misspell the name of the person you’re addressing. Also, DON’T mistype the name of the organization you want to work for.
  • DO read and follow all directions. DON’T forget to send all required materials.
  • DO include links to your website, relevant online profiles and anything that helps an employer learn more about you. DO include your twitter handle alongside your name, email address and phone number. In this industry, it’s just as relevant as the standard contact information.
  • DON’T mess up your own contact information.
  • DO carefully choose relevant writing samples. DON’T send a college term paper as a writing sample. If you don’t have clips, consider starting a blog about topics related to the position.
  • DON’T apply for a position that you are not interested in. DO clearly articulate your interest in the position by citing related experiences.
  • DO tailor your résumé and cover letter to the job you seek.
  • DO research your potential employer. DON’T repeatedly tweet at him or her.
  • DO find the “about” tab on the organization’s website.
  • DO whatever you must to send a legible application. You may look at your application and think, “That’s great penmanship!” but next to typed applications, it looks sloppy.
  • DO structure your letter like a letter. DON’T send a one-paragraph essay for the one-page essay portion of the application. DON’T send a three-page essay for the same requirement.
  • DO follow up. Once.

There is plenty of job-application and résumé advice out there, so take advantage of it. This is a small list of tips based on the more than 100 applications that have come across our desks so far.

Here’s a final thought for you from Tara Puckey, SPJ’s chapter coordinator who is also processing internship applications.

“This is a large stack. If you want me to notice you, you have to do something different.”

No matter what job you want, keep that advice in mind.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Messy SCOTUS coverage is damaging for media

Today, I am disappointed in journalism.

Not everyone botched the announcement of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, but plenty of trusted media outlets did a disservice to their audiences by prioritizing speed instead of accuracy.

Like half a million others, I turned to SCOTUSblog at 10 a.m. today, toggling between that and my Twitter feed. At 10:08, the explosion began: The Associated Press said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. CNN said it was ruled unconstitutional. The Daily Beast said it was struck down at 10:08 but retweeted The AP at 10:09. Confused, I went back to SCOTUSblog to read their measured reports.

twitter feed

My Twitter feed in the seconds following the ruling announcement.

From the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

Many of the erroneous tweets and headlines have disappeared from their primary sources, though those blunders live on, thanks to screen shots and the copy-paste function. But the confusion was costly from a future credibility standpoint. The networks and publications that got it right should take note of the ridicule and criticism raining down on their Twitter-happy peers.

Most of my frustration came from seeing the incorrect reports retweeted. As the minutes after the announcement passed, I continued to read posts of misguided happiness and anger, all because a friend of a follower of a follower of a news organization perpetuated the seemingly reliable information.

(Jeff Sonderman of Poynter has a good roundup of and reaction to the inaccurate reports/tweets.)

The social media response to the blunders proves that people would rather get correct information as it becomes available, rather than quickly receive an imperfect report. The point of engaging with a news outlet is to stay informed.

I don’t want to have to congratulate the journalists who waited to verify the ruling to publish the result. They just did their jobs correctly, which I expect of them. I am disappointed that this expectation was not met by others.

The winner in this brawl to break news is SCOTUSblog — it’s a non-traditional outlet started by law professionals, and they presented reliable coverage of the complicated ruling. By 10:22, they had 866,000 people tracking their live blog.

But for the millions who referenced Twitter, breaking news alerts, live TV and 24-hour-news-cycle websites, the day was one of defeat. Regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation, news consumers were exposed to a slew of unreliable reports before being corrected.

I hope health care isn’t the only industry that sees reform after today’s ruling.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

HOORAY FOR US! SPJ reached 9,000 Twitter ‘followers’! (Why we or you shouldn’t care)

Yesterday SPJ reached 9,000 “followers” on Twitter. (And there’s a reason “followers” is in quotes. Hang on for that.)

A nice amount, sure, considering it’s roughly the number of members SPJ had for much of the past 10 years. (Membership is closer to 8,000 now.)

It’s also, as it happens, completely arbitrary. I don’t care about it, and it’s kind of my job to care.

Don’t get me wrong: SPJ is always striving to broaden its audience in all media – whether that audience is composed of members, other journalists, or just interested citizens and organizations. And, of course, we do hope people will continually seek information and training from SPJ – through Twitter or whatever means.

But focusing on pure numbers is odd, distracting and silly. It’s a fool’s errand to use “follower” and “like” counts as true metrics of an organization’s (news outlet or otherwise) reach, influence or value. Klout score be damned.

I admit to writing a somewhat snarky tweet to mark our 9,000th “follower”:

The intended lesson was twofold:

1) An obsession with attracting more “followers” (and related verbiage for Facebook and other social platforms) is overblown and overdone – by news outlets and individuals.

2) “Followers” is a condescending, obtuse term (unfortunately the default word used by Twitter).

The subsequent tweet (less snarky, I hope) was this:


The link in that tweet led to a December 2010 post titled “Can you really engage a community by telling them to ‘follow’ and ‘like’ you?”

A set-up question, for sure. The presupposed answer: No, absolutely not.

If SPJ had an official social media policy, that would be it. (Along with the simple yet critical “Don’t be stupid” advice others have recommended as the guiding light for social media usage at news organizations.)

If not our official policy, it’s a cornerstone philosophy.

Also a part of that philosophy: Don’t use social media “engagement” in a veiled attempt to boost your counts on Twitter, Facebook or the like.

I won’t drag anyone or any outlet through the mud, but you’ve likely seen the appeals. Something to the tune of: “PLEASE HELP US REACH 10,000 FOLLOWERS. WE’RE ALMOST THERE! AND DON’T FORGET TO ‘LIKE’ US ON FACEBOOK.”

Two observations:
1) Preach to the choir much?

2) Get over yourself.

Take a moment to answer this: If you beg people to interact with or pay attention to you, is that an even relationship? Have you truly built a community?

Without an engaged community, how much value does your message really have?

Answer: Zero.

Now that’s a number you should take to heart.

Note: Thanks to Joe Skeel and Abby Henkel for input on this post.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. Interact with him on Twitter: @scottleadingham.

Happy Earth Day. When is Journalism Day?

Today, on Earth Day, we’re all thinking about the planet, apparently, whether how to be more “green,” how to antagonize those who preach being more “green,” or how to cover one of the two. But at SPJ, we’re always thinking about the journalism industry and the journalists who drive it.

That got me wondering: When is Journalism Day? We need one.

Stay with me.

I’ve got a habit of walking around the neighborhood during lunch. Nothing fancy, and certainly no power walking or sweat suits. And only a sweatband in truly dire circumstances. Normally I try to pick up stray litter and pieces of garbage that won’t cause bodily harm, at least in the short run. But today, Earth Day, I took a little more time and expended a little more energy – call it the product of National Parks-loving parents and being an Eagle Scout. (It’s true … on my honor.) Normally I wouldn’t pick up empty beer bottles, especially in the middle of an overgrown lawn.

A sample of litter from the SPJ neighborhood. Who's drinking all the Bud? (Not it!)

 ‘But hey,’ I thought, ‘it’s Earth Day. I earned that Environmental Science merit badge for a reason!’

What would prompt the public to have a similar thought for journalism? When people walk past a news stand or go online, what would make them say, “I need to read the news today because I recognize the importance of a free and independent press and the news journalists report.”?

Who’s planning that event? What do we have to do to get that message across? Where’s the trending topic on Twitter for Journalism Day? Why aren’t there rallies supporting the fourth estate? When is journalism’s day?

I’d like to think it’s every day. But I also like to think people don’t toss empty beer bottles in yards for strangers to pick up.

No one is planning the event FOR the industry. Journalists have to do it themselves, every day, through their honest, fair, accurate reporting.

And SPJ is there to help. If we’re out of the office, don’t worry. We’re just on a quick stroll. We’ll be right back.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. He didn’t earn the Journalism merit badge. Twitter: @scottleadingham

Clarifying questions from a recent membership mailing

20/20 isn’t just an ABC News program. It has something to do with hindsight, and perhaps it’s applicable here.

We’ve received some constructive feedback and questions about a recent membership mailing sent to past SPJ members whose memberships had lapsed. The purpose of this mailing, paid for by a generous individual donor, was to tout SPJ’s efforts and encourage past members to rejoin. In this capacity, it was part of a membership campaign, not strictly a fundraising letter in the traditional sense of the term. (Rather, a fundraising appeal would more appropriately come from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, SPJ’s associated 501(c)(3) educational foundation, contributions to which are tax deductible.)

Click to enlarge

The feedback has not been against the idea of the mailing, but rather a perceived omission. The card included a box that people could check if they wished to rejoin, along with preferred contact information. People could then detach the information, seal it and send back to us. We would then follow up with a phone call about SPJ membership.

However, there was no price for membership listed (though there is the option to donate a specified amount without becoming an actual member, for those who support our mission but don’t wish to formally join).

This omission of membership prices may have been taken at best as a glaring oversight, and we thank those who contacted us and expressed concern. However, the omission was intended and practical for several reasons. Specifically:

1)      SPJ has several individual membership categories: student, post-graduate, professional, associate, retired. With space limitations, we decided not to list all of them and their corresponding category definitions and yearly dues structure. Click here to see that information at

2)      We honestly hoped that if you indicated a desire to rejoin and sent back the information card, it would spur a personal contact that is somewhat lacking in this age of text messages and smart phones (not that there’s anything wrong with those technologies). Thus, after receiving your card, we would call you, discuss SPJ membership and why it would help you, and talk about the industry, the profession and your desire to join SPJ.

In hindsight, that great 20/20 equalizer that everyone experiences with amazing clarity at some point, we should have mentioned this idea to call you and discuss SPJ membership (including dues) in greater depth. For that, and for any confusion, we apologize.

And to all who gave feedback: Thanks for letting us know. And thanks for reading your mail!


Joe Skeel

Executive Director

Society of Professional Journalists

Sigma Delta Chi Foundation

Twitter List: News About the News

If you’re anything like us at SPJ headquarters, you probably have a mildly unhealthy obsession with “Glee”  …  er … journalism industry news. Ah, then what better way to follow the news about the news than with a handy Twitter list?

Here’s a useful (and admittedly unfinished) list of real-time tweets from those who discuss journalism industry issues. Specifically, you’ll see groups such as the National Association of Black Journalists (@nabj); a digital journalism blog with tips from Mark Luckie (@10000words); updates from venerable media reporters like CJR’s Megan Garber (@megangarber) and former E & P writer Joe Strupp (@joestrupp); and much more.

Of course, the list isn’t exhaustive, as there are seemingly more people in the Twittersphere discussing and dissecting journalism than there are rabid fans of “Glee.” (And, hey, sometimes people do both.) If you have a suggestion to add, drop us a line at @spj_tweets.

So, here you go. Oh, and click here for a similar list of tweets from SPJ chapters and instructions on how to get a Twitter list working for you.


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Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
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