#SPJ4All: More than a hashtag

spjselfie

My selfie for #spj4all. (Photo by the author.)

A year ago this week, an email appeared in my inbox confirming my membership with the SPJ. I had just graduated from university, and I was trying to figure out the next steps. The journalism industry was changing, and I knew there was still more to do. But little did I know what would come since that email arrived, and how my thinking would change when I became a member.

Today, the SPJ is doing a social media campaign called #SPJ4All, a measure to promote diversity within our membership, not just within the United States, but internationally. As my SPJ colleague Robyn Davis Sekula notes over on the Membership blog, the SPJ wants to encourage diversity and acceptance, and no matter who you are and what your background is, “if you’re a journalist, you’re welcome here, and always will be.”

The SPJ has more than 100 international members, and has a vast membership network within the US.

Sekula got the idea from the recent legislation in Indiana, which some suggested could be discriminatory against gay and lesbian couples, and in a telephone interview with me, said she wanted to send the right message. SPJ is headquartered in Indianapolis.

“It was important for us to send the message very clearly, that we are open, affirming and welcoming of all journalists,” Sekula said. “I don’t want people to confuse the state with the organization.”

Sekula hopes the initiative will be the start of a conversation not just within the SPJ but in the wider industry. “We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said, noting that people in the newsroom can learn from other colleagues about social media from those who have experience using its various platforms, and others can learn about approaching subjects that can be controversial from those with experience covering them.

The same is true when it comes to the future of the journalism industry. As it continues to change, and as more digital innovations come to support it, the core of its future starts with ideas. I believe in the ability to educate, and the ability for ideas to be at the core of education on the future of journalism, a view that has shaped my work for not just this blog, but elsewhere.

These ideas can come from anyone, no matter what race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality, and with as many ideas as possible from a variety of backgrounds, the industry will continue to thrive, especially in the digital age.

A diverse industry results in a better informed industry, and a better informed industry will serve those who work in it and strive to work in it well. We must champion it for the benefit of not just us as individuals, but for our industry colleagues near and far.

#SPJ4All reminds us of that, and Sekula is hopeful it can continue.

“I want this to be the start of something,” Sekula said. “How it will take shape, I’m not sure. I feel certain if nothing else it has engaged people in a positive way.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs on social media for the web site ChicagoNowYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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