Posts Tagged ‘committees’

What do communities say about SPJ’s future?

In this Net Worked guest post, SPJ national president Dana Neuts looks at the role of the communities, including SPJ Digital, the community where this blog operates, and what these communities mean for the future of SPJ.

It’s an exciting time to be an SPJ member!

What started out as a borrowed idea several years ago has turned into an exciting reason to be an SPJ member – SPJ communities. This new community structure has created opportunities for more people to be involved in areas of mutual interest and to have a say in SPJ’s future. The concept began with the formation of the SPJ Freelance Community in the summer of 2013.

A year and a half later, we have five communities: Freelance, Digital, International, Generation J and Students.

Here’s how it works. Each community is self-governing, choosing its own mission, goals, tools and leaders. This differs dramatically from the committee structure where some of these communities originated. Committees and committee chairs are selected by the SPJ president who also provides direction as to what he or she wishes the committee to accomplish for the year.

The committees by their very nature are restricted in size with an average of half a dozen to a dozen members. The communities, on the other hand, are unlimited in size and are in control of their own future with support and guidance from the president, the community coordinator (volunteer Alex Veeneman), and SPJ staff (primarily Tara Puckey and Billy O’Keefe).

For some groups, the committee structure works well and remains in place (e.g., FOI, Ethics, Journalism Education Committees), but some members are better served by the community structure. So far, the communities have been a success generating interest among members and nonmembers, providing additional leadership opportunities, as well as opportunities for community members to learn from each other, share ideas and resources, and network with each other.

This fundamental shift also helps SPJ adapt to our rapidly changing industry, react more quickly to relevant news, and provide resources and input on areas of interest. For example, following the Charlie Hebdo attack, International Community Chair Carlos Restrepo wrote a blog post about press freedom, including quotes from a community member based in France. While I made a statement on behalf of the organization, Restrepo was able to provide a different perspective, complementing my statement.

SPJ’s new communities allow us to expand our reach beyond our members and to become more diverse in terms of age, race, culture, background, discipline, etc. The more voices we have, the better we can collectively fulfill SPJ’s mission which ultimately benefits us all. It is encouraging to see the enthusiasm of our community members, and I am eager to see our communities grow.

Want to learn more? Contact me at or community coordinator Alex Veeneman at We’d love to tell you how the communities can help you!

Based in Seattle, Dana Neuts is a full-time freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of, a hyperlocal blog focused on community news and events in Kent, Washington. She is currently serving as the national president of SPJ. You can learn more about Neuts at or follow her on Twitter at or


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