Posts Tagged ‘SPJ4All’

#SPJ4All in action

One night in April 1986, Garrison Keillor stood on the stage of the World Theater (now the Fitzgerald Theater) in St. Paul, Minnesota, as part of celebrations for its grand reopening after years of renovation. His program, A Prairie Home Companion, was simulcast that evening on public radio and public television stations nationwide.

As the show’s association with the theater, and the timeline of events which led to the renovations were discussed, touching on a moment when things looked bleak, Keillor offered this remark: “Nobody likes to ask for help, but you find out about other people when you do.”

I know this feeling too well. This week marks the fourth month since I relocated to Minneapolis after 18 years in Chicago. I had a little family there and a couple of colleagues that I had worked with on SPJ matters, and I had been to Minneapolis twice in the five years since, but it was still relatively new territory to me. Despite being fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, I felt uneasy. Even to this day, I wonder what’s out there for me in this Midwestern metropolis.

Not a lot of people knew that I would be making the over 400 mile trek northwest, but in the couple of weeks since I made did, two people in this metropolis did something they didn’t have to do – they extended a hand to this early career journalist from Chicago.

It made an impact as I adjusted, and I consider their kindness not only to be a personal and professional joy, but a reminder that the ability to create something authentic and meaningful is being done every day. The desire and ability is out there, and it is something that I can contribute to.

This week, SPJ will run its 3rd #SPJ4All campaign. Robyn Davis Sekula, SPJ’s Membership Committee chair, came up with the idea in response to controversial legislation in Indiana that would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. For the record, SPJ itself is based in Indianapolis.

While #SPJ4All is designed to be a campaign to encourage the need for a diverse membership within SPJ, I think it goes one step further. It encourages the need for those who produce journalism either behind the scenes, on air or behind a byline, and those who support it, to be united as one.

This is not a time for us to compete against one another. This is a time to collaborate, to work together, and to champion each other – so we together can seek truth and report it. When we support each other and encourage each other to be at our best, journalism and media can be at its best for the people who depend on it most – our audience.

These are difficult times for journalism, and uncertainty is the norm, especially for early career journalists. But amid uncertainty come reminders that the ability to inform, educate and engage is available in vivacious abundance – that if you feel uneasy, you can be inspired, and when you are inspired, you can make a difference.

Every day, here in the Twin Cities, people respond to the calling of journalism. They believe in its mission and the impact it can have – whether its journalists like Jenna Ross, Briana Bierschbach and Laura Yuen, or bloggers and writers like Jade and Andrea Swensson.

Yet, it doesn’t apply solely to the people of the Twin Cities – it applies to people across the country and around the world – from Dhruti Shah at the BBC and Taylor Mirfendereski at KING-TV in Seattle (who also co-chairs the Digital Community, which oversees this blog), to Beth Francesco at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as my colleagues on the Ethics and Freedom of Information committees – and all who strive to seek the truth and report it.

The work we do collectively as one entity demonstrates why journalism continues to be important, day in and day out, and in difficult times, communities like these are essential things to have – not just for one’s own sake, but for journalism’s too.

Early career journalists may feel uneasy at first in asking for help, but take it from me – when you do ask, you find a community that is supportive and wants you to be at your best. You find people who listen to you, who value you and your contributions, and give you a sense of belonging.

It exists in a community that has your back. That community is found not just in one’s own newsroom or professional network, but within SPJ as a whole. Of all the reasons there are to be an SPJ member, the community aspect is the one I identify with the most, and really what #SPJ4All is all about.

These communities can only exist however when we work together. After all, we are stronger together when we collaborate and promote the exchange of ideas together. We are stronger together because we make journalism better together. We are stronger together making SPJ better together – because if we don’t do it, who will?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why it is truly #SPJ4All

My photo for #SPJ4All.

My photo for #SPJ4All.

Last May, I picked up the telephone at my desk and dialed into New Albany, Indiana. Situated on the Indiana-Kentucky border, it was the town that was home to an idea that is at the core of SPJ’s beliefs, principles and ideas.

The idea took root last year when Indiana lawmakers were considering legislation which would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. Membership Committee chair Robyn Davis Sekula then came up with the idea to do #SPJ4All, a social media campaign that emphasizes SPJ (which itself is based in Indianapolis) is welcome and accepting of all of its members, irrespective of their gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.

With the help of SPJ colleagues nationally, it developed into an event. After it launched, it got immediate reaction, not just through this blog, but also across social media. When I spoke to her about it last year, Sekula said she wanted to start a conversation.

“We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said.

Today, the SPJ is running the campaign once more, showing that we are truly welcoming and accepting. I recall the conversation for this post, as I believe these ideas make not just SPJ a better organization, but makes the industry stronger, and those who work in the industry better at what they do.

I have been an SPJ member for a little over two years. I joined shortly after my graduation from university, as I tried to figure out the next steps in my career. Since that time, I have been the beneficiary of hearing some wonderful ideas, ideas that are ubiquitous to the future of not just SPJ, but also this industry. I continue to benefit from these ideas not just through contributing to this network of blogs, but through my work as Community Coordinator and other initiatives I take part in for SPJ, as well as through my professional work.

Journalism is changing, and what continues to make this industry stronger and resilient are these ideas that come from a wide variety of people. In order for us to be a stronger industry, all ideas should be heard. You may not necessarily agree with an idea, but its worth hearing, for it may be the one that allows journalism to continue to be at its best.

What I like about SPJ is that all ideas can be heard without fear or vigorous disdain. No one will write you off, and no one will belittle you. Instead, you say your idea in a welcoming environment, and an open, lively conversation ensues, whether its on an issue of governance, an idea for an event, a resolution for the Excellence in Journalism conference, or indeed, journalism itself. It is conducted for all of our benefit.

We are stronger together when we collaborate and exchange ideas together. We are stronger together because we are making journalism better together. We are stronger together when we make your SPJ better together.

That is why we are truly #SPJ4All, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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

#SPJ4All: More than a hashtag


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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