Highlights thru Nov. 18

It’s been about a month since I wrote my last “highlights” post. There is so much going on within SPJ, but also in the news industry that it is hard to keep up with it all…and to remember to keep you up to date. Here are some of the latest developments in our world, in no particular order:

– Today the national SPJ board approved a $32,000 expenditure (to be paid from surplus from the last fiscal year) for a much needed tech upgrade. Spearheaded by Tara Puckey and Billy O’Keefe after months of research, we have a thorough plan of action to update our database and website. We approved a three-phase plan that will take place over the course of the next year. We’ll keep you informed of our progress, changes that will impact you, etc. Bottom line: this is an exciting opportunity for SPJ to upgrade its technology to better serve our members and website visitors.

– Today we issued a statement, along with Region 4 SPJ leaders and the Ohio Newspaper Association, urging Ohio lawmakers to vote “no” to Ohio’s proposed HB663, legislation that is being shoved through to try to protect medical professionals who carry out executions and drug makers who make the drugs used in executions, as well as to make all information and records related to an execution or death sentence confidential.

If passed, the legislation will ignore sunshine laws, eliminate transparency in executions and make covering capital punishment that much more difficult for journalists.  This legislation is a travesty on a variety of levels. If you’d like to help fight the legislation, which could be voted on tomorrow, Nov. 19, see the bottom of the statement for ways to oppose the bill. A big thank you to regional director Patti Newberry for spearheading SPJ’s efforts on this!

– Last week I attended the sentencing of former regional director Scott Cooper who embezzled $43,220 from the Oklahoma Pro SPJ chapter. I made a statement about the sentencing on Friday, and posted my reaction to the hearing on Saturday.

– On Nov. 3, SPJ issued a statement about the FBI’s impersonation of an AP reporter and the alleged actions of the St. Louis County Police Department to get the FAA to impose a “no fly zone” in Ferguson, Missouri to keep the press out. These issues underscore the need for a broader conversation between journalists and law enforcement agencies across the country to figure out a way to better understand our respective roles and to ensure freedom of the press.

– SPJ leaders wrote about #Pointergate, Free Speech Week, Freedom of the Press and Freelancing in blogs over the last week.

Pashtana Usufzy of Las Vegas was named SPJ’s Volunteer of the Month for Nov. 2014. Congratulations!

– SPJ Announced a Free Webinar for Tues., Nov. 25 at 1 pm (ET) – Beyond Facebook and Twitter: Digital Tools for all Journalists taught by digital journalist Kim Bui (@kimbui) and co-founder of #WJCHAT. Register here.

Region 12 Director Tony Hernandez has accepted a position at The Oregonian. He will remain on the board up to six months after his move, as allowed by SPJ by-laws. In the spring, we’ll put a call out to accept nominations and applications for a replacement. If you have questions or are interested, contact Tony directly.

Nominations were opened for the Sigma Delta Chi and Mark of Excellence awards and for the national high school essay contest.

Gen J will become a community! Learn more here. Want to get involved? Contact Gen J chair Claudia Amezcua.

There is so much going on at SPJ HQ and around the country that I have undoubtedly forgotten some big news. If so, I apologize. It is unintentional. Please post your update in the comments or email me, and I can include it next time.

Thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers for their hard work and commitment to SPJ!

~ Dana Neuts, President

 

 

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Scott Cooper Sentencing: Justice Served, Lessons Learned

Thursday I did something I hope no other SPJ president will ever have to do. Testify against a former SPJ board member who embezzled money from a local SPJ chapter.

Scott Cooper sentenced to 10 years probation, 4 weekends in jail and additional work & community service to repay $43,000 debt to SPJ.I flew to Oklahoma on Wednesday to attend yesterday’s sentencing of Scott Cooper, former region 8 director and secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Pro SPJ chapter, in Cleveland County District Court. In 2012, Cooper confessed to stealing $43,220 from the chapter over a period of several years. According to Cooper, he used the money to cover gambling debts and pay personal bills.

In his court testimony, Cooper said a “slight gambling problem” escalated into a large gambling problem due to his own stupidity and bad judgment. His theft was discovered when a series of bad checks bounced following the chapter’s annual awards banquet. Once confronted, the former national board member confessed to falsifying the chapter’s financial records to cover up his crime. He offered the chapter $500 a month to repay his debt, but never followed through.

During his testimony, Cooper said, “I deeply, deeply want to repay what I have taken. My number one priority is to pay this money back.”

Despite that claim, in the 21 months since Cooper was caught, he had not repaid any of the stolen money until Thursday when he produced a check for $3,000. In addition, Cooper just started counseling and community service in October 2014, perhaps in an attempt to mitigate his punishment. Cooper said he attended Gambler’s Anonymous weekly for a while, but said it was too hard to make the meetings given his work schedule at the Farmers Insurance National Document Center in Oklahoma City where he is a document clerk making less than $20,000 a year. Cooper said he resumed the GA meetings three months ago.

Following closing arguments, Judge Greg Dixon deliberated and imposed the following sentence:

  • 10 year deferred probation, without a felony conviction
  • 4 consecutive weekends in county jail, beginning Nov. 14 (Fri., 6 pm to Sun., 6 pm)
  • Monthly payments of $350 beginning Dec. 15 for 10 years
  • Eight additional hours of work or community service every weekend, beginning Dec. 8
  • Prohibited from visiting any casinos
  • Payment of all court fees and service fees related to his sentence
  • Miscellaneous standard probation provisions (can’t leave the state without permission, possess a firearm, consume alcohol, etc.)

If Cooper violates any of those terms, he will return to court to face the consequences which could include prison time and a felony conviction. Some have asked why Cooper wasn’t charged with a felony. The rationale behind that decision is Cooper would be required to report a felony to his employer, likely resulting in his termination and making it difficult to find another job. Without employment, Cooper would be unable to repay his substantial debt to SPJ.

In his closing statement, Judge Greg Dixon told Cooper he was prepared to impose a harsher sentence, but changed his mind after hearing chapter attorney Bob Sheets’ statement that his main priority was repayment, not punishment. Sheets wanted to create an environment for Cooper to remain gainfully employed, so he could stick to a repayment plan to make the chapter whole.

Judge Dixon said he wouldn’t impose counseling on Cooper, because he was not convinced that Cooper had made the choice yet to turn his life around and, until he did, counseling would be of no value.

“You need to toughen up,” Judge Dixon said. “You’ve got a family to take care of.”

This is the official record of the case. I have also made an official statement on behalf of SPJ, much of which comes from the statement I gave during my court testimony. Formal statement aside, I’d like to share my observations.

It was a sad moment for SPJ. Cooper stole more than $43,000 from us. He damaged our reputation and wasted valuable time and resources that could have been better spent fulfilling our mission. He embarrassed an organization that fights for openness, transparency and accountability and damaged our credibility. While many members, volunteers and supporters stood behind us, our critics called us hypocrites.

I first met Cooper when we served as regional directors on the national board together in 2010 or 2011. I remember the first board meeting he missed because he’d been caught. With Cooper’s board seat ominously empty, the SPJ leadership team explained the theft, how it occurred and what SPJ could do about the situation. Imagine 20 jaws, give or take, drop in unison, shocked that a seemingly engaged, passionate journalist could steal from us – right under our noses. It was devastating and far reaching. SPJ went into damage control mode, and we began formulating best practices to prevent this type of incident from occurring again.

When I heard that a sentencing hearing for Cooper had been scheduled, I knew I had to attend. I wanted to support the local chapter, but I also wanted to look him in the eye and tell him how he’d violated his fiduciary responsibility to put SPJ first. When I testified before the court, I had that chance. I gave him my “don’t mess with Mom” stare that every parent reserves for such occasions. To his credit, Cooper made eye contact and seemed to listen.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half hearing, I felt a mix of emotions – anger, sadness, betrayal, disappointment and, surprisingly, pride. I was angry that Cooper could do this to SPJ, but also that he seemed smug and unremorseful. There was little evidence he had made any attempt to change his life and make this right. Instead, I heard a series of explanations and excuses, none of which helped to absolve his theft.

Cooper complained that he’d lost his career in journalism, and he was in a job that didn’t utilize his education and that required an hour commute each way. He blamed the state for allowing casinos, he complained he had other bills to pay besides SPJ (though his wife had bought a car since he pled guilty), and he brought up his autistic daughter’s need for stability several times. Cooper even recounted a story of having to cancel his family’s plans to attend a holiday party last year, because someone affiliated with the local chapter would also be in attendance. One of his daughters had bought a new dress for the party and was devastated she couldn’t attend the party because of her father. Looking past the complaints, I didn’t see a man willing to take responsibility for his behavior; I saw someone who wanted to place the blame elsewhere.

Based on both fact and emotion, I agree with the judge. I don’t see that Cooper has made a real attempt to transform his life, to show remorse or to make this situation right. Prior to yesterday, he made no attempt to repay the chapter and blamed the chapter’s lack of a response to his offer of monthly payments as his excuse for not having paid them anything. Despite his words, I saw no sign of remorse…fear maybe, but he wasn’t even resigned to the fact he was going to jail or would spend the next 10 years of his life working hard to pay the chapter back. He is sitting in jail this morning as I post this. Perhaps this will be the wake-up call he needs.

On the plus side, I was so proud to be an SPJ member and to serve the organization as president. Seeing how the local chapter worked together to right a wrong was inspiring. Accepting responsibility for their part in Cooper’s deception, board members combed through the bank records, check book and falsified treasurer’s reports to calculate the extent of the damage. They banded together to get through a difficult situation. Chapter president Jaclyn Cosgrove testified on the chapter’s behalf, and past and present board members including M. Scott Carter and Carol Cole-Frowe were in attendance.

I was also proud when the assistant DA, the chapter attorney and the judge all commented on the good work that SPJ does and how it is important to repay the money so the chapter can continue to provide education and training, offer scholarships and do journalism advocacy work.

Though a harsher sentence could have been imposed, I feel justice was done. For the next 10 years, Cooper will have to work incredibly hard to meet the court’s conditions or risk even harsher punishments. He will have to face himself every day and remind himself that this was a choice – his choice.

At the same time, the Oklahoma Pro SPJ chapter can rebuild and other SPJ chapters can learn from this experience. I hope Cooper can do the same with the second chance he has been given. It is up to him to decide what he does with it.

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Gen J to become a community!

I’m excited to share that Generation J, one of SPJ’s active committees, has decided to become a community. We are working out the details for the launch, but committee chair Claudia Amezcua shared the news with me last week. Claudia made the announcement on the Gen J blog last week. She also shared Gen J’s goals for the coming year which include broadening their reach to journalists at all levels of their career and to partner with other committees and communities. You can read about their goals here.

If you are interested in becoming part of the community or learning more, you can reach Claudia via email or on Twitter.

This brings our community count to four:  Freelance, Digital, International and Gen J! The SPJ family is growing. Want to be a part of it? Contact me for details.

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Highlights thru Oct. 22

It’s been three weeks since my last post, and a lot has happened in SPJ and the journalism world in that short time. Here are a few highlights:

Earlier this week, we lost journalism legend Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post. He inspired an entire generation of journalists and took editing to a new level. He will be missed. Here is a nice piece in The Washington Post remembering his contributions.

SPJ Georgia and regional director Michael Koretzky fought for and supported George Chidi, a freelance journalist in Georgia, after Thomas Owens, a candidate for DeKalb County commissioner, sought a temporary protective order and filed an application for a warrant on stalking charges against the journalist. The protective order and application were both dismissed, upholding the First Amendment and helping to protect Chidi’s right to do his job. Thanks to SPJ Georgia and Koretzky for fighting on Chidi’s behalf.

SPJ, the Student Press Law Center and 18 other organizations sent a letter to education leaders to renounce the actions of the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for punishing student journalists and their adviser for refusing to use the term “redskins” in the Playwickian, a school publication. Principal Rob McGee suspended the journalism adviser for two days without pay, removed the Playwickian editor from her position for a month, and the newspaper was fined $1,200, the cost of the June edition which omitted the Native American mascot name.

In other SPJ news:

The membership committee, led by Robyn Sekula, is working on a master plan to outline its goals and strategies for the coming year. The committee also named its October Volunteer of the Month – Lee Anne Peck of the University of Northern Colorado. Congratulations, Lee Anne!

The SPJ international journalism community, led by Carlos Restrepo, is also working on a master plan, breaking its work into three primary goals and subcommittees. More on that once the community has had time to review and comment on it.

The journalism education committee is publishing a book in January titled “Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism.” The project is the result of three years of research and a survey of nearly 250 Journalism Education Association members in 47 states.

The ethics committee continues to be busy, educating others on the revised Code of Ethics, preparing supplemental materials for SPJ.org and speaking on ethical issues. Check out this post from ethics chair Andrew Seaman on the ethical reporting of Ebola.

The awards and honors committee, led by Andy Schotz, has been working with Abbi Martzall, SPJ’s awards coordinator, to review our awards criteria and make recommendations for changes. Sarah Bauer, the committee’s co-chair, is coordinating the swaps for local and regional SPJ chapter contests. If she hasn’t already, she’ll be contacting awards coordinators in the near future to plan for swaps for next year’s contest season.

The Generation J committee, led by Claudia Amezcua, has been working with her committee on its plan for the year and will be working with secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh and past president John Ensslin on the recommendations made by the futures task force in June. Two goals for Gen J this year are to broaden the committee’s mission to include journalists at all career levels and to partner with other committees to offer training opportunities via joint Google hangouts.

Led by SPJ past president David Cuillier, the FOI committee has been hard at work, developing a blogging and tweeting strategy for the committee to handling breaking FOI news and to be proactive on FOI issues. For FOI resources, check out the FOI page on SPJ.org.

At SPJ headquarters, staff has been busy on many fronts, including planning for EIJ15 (yes, already!), sending out new ethics posters and bookmarks, working on affinity partnerships to offer additional benefits to our members, and developing communications strategies for how and when to communicate with the public and other media organizations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix on behalf of SPJ where I talked to ASU journalism students about how to get started freelancing and get those first critical clips. I also met with SDX president Robert Leger and had a fun evening with SPJ members of the Valley of the Sun Pro chapter where we celebrated some local journalism and PR successes and talked about what’s next for SPJ in the year ahead. I’ve also been working with communications staff at HQ to create an outreach plan to help promote our communities. Up next: a visit to Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, finding a volunteer to help support our communities, and planning our January executive committee meeting.

I am sure I have omitted a letter SPJ signed onto or committee projects and, if so, I apologize. The omission is unintentional, but email me so I can include it next time. As always, thanks for your support of SPJ. If you have questions, concerns or ideas, you can email me at SPJDANA @ GMAIL.COM.

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Highlights thru Oct. 1

branding ironThe highlight of last week was, without a doubt, my trip to the Fort Worth to meet with members of the Fort Worth Pro SPJ chapter. They graciously hosted a “meet the president” event where they presented me with my very own branding iron and gave me the opportunity to update them on what’s new in SPJ along with my goals for the year. I also got the chance to visit with Carol Cole-Frowe, one of my favorite freelancers, and Eddye Gallagher, our region 8 director. Eddye and her husband Ed showed us around Fort Worth, including a number of historic sites.

But that was just a small portion of what SPJ accomplished last week. Here are a few other highlights:

Ethics: Posters and bookmarks of the new Ethics Code are ready to download. Hard copies will be back from the printer this week. In addition, members of the Ethics Committee have been doing media interviews, scheduling speaking engagements and preparing the supplemental documents that will sit “behind” the Code on SPJ.org to help explain and clarify some of the Code’s content.

Jennifer Royer, SPJ’s communications strategist, shared her communications plan with the national board to explain how SPJ will communicate the new Code to students, journalists, educators and the public. I did a media interview today with a student from American Journalism Review and will be speaking at Green River Community College on Oct. 4 to discuss the revised Code.

Communities: Carlos Restrepo of the International Journalism Community reached out to new members to ask for their ideas and goals. SPJ Digital held its first Google hangout with its leadership team to plan for the months ahead. SPJ Freelance continues to reach out to potential members. Gen J further explored the idea and benefits to becoming a community.

Journalism Advocacy: SPJ signed onto a letter to the U.S. Forest Service written by the NPPA to protest the need for permits in certain situations where newsgathering and photography may be done in the nation’s wilderness areas. Though the U.S. Forest Service has backed off on some of the original permitting provisions, the new language is vague, putting press freedom in danger. {SPJ.org will post a copy of the letter soon.}

Education: Members of SPJ staff and immediate past president Dave Cuillier attended ONA in Chicago last week to discuss partnerships and funding opportunities and to scout for programming ideas and speakers for future SPJ programming.

Member Engagement: Tuesday Taylor Carlier conducted a Twitter chat with the hashtag #youngjournojobs. She’s preparing a Storify of the event, so stay tuned for that on SPJ.org. Also, Tara Puckey is working with a group of SPJ members in Nebraska who don’t have a chapter. The group will host the region’s spring conference.

Diversity: A member of NAHJ staff reached out to me to see how he could help SPJ expand its base of diverse journalists. I will follow-up to see what types of partnerships we can forge with groups like NAHJ, NAJA, NABJ, NLGJA and others.

I’m sure I’ve missed some highlights. If I did, please email me or post in the comments section. Thanks for your support of SPJ!

~ Dana Neuts, President

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Highlights thru Sept. 15

With EIJ two weeks behind us now, things are slowing down a little bit, but the momentum that started at the convention is still going strong. Committees, communities and volunteers are hard at work, locally and nationally. Here are this week’s highlights:

Launch of International Journalism Community: Under the leadership of Carlos Restrepo of the St. Louis Pro chapter, the International Journalism Community was launched. To date, more than 30 journalists have expressed an interest in joining the community. Want to get involved? Email Carlos directly.

Volunteer of the Month: Last week, the Membership Committee named its volunteer of the month – Victor Hernandez of CNN, for overseeing Excellence in Journalism news at EIJ14. Guiding a team of 14 student interns, Hernandez selflessly shared his expertise. Thank you, Victor!

Journalism Education Committee: Butler Cain, assistant professor of West Texas A&M, and the Journalism Education committee are getting the year off to a good start, wrapping up the editing of a book on the state of high school journalism. I anticipate lots of great work coming out of that committee this year, so stay tuned!

Diversity Committee: Lead by chair April Bethea, the Diversity Committee has gotten off to an enthusiastic start. Read April’s blog post about the committee’s goals for the year.

Ethics Committee:  Committee chair Andrew Seaman and SPJ communications strategist Jennifer  Royer are working on a plan to publish, publicize and share the revised Code of Ethics. Late last week the final version went to the printers. Posters and bookmarks will be available soon.

Journalism Advocacy: SPJ issued a statement applauding the city of Tupelo, Mississippi for complying with open records laws. Though the laws have been in place since 1983, Tupelo is the first municipality in Mississippi to comply. Thanks to SPJ member and reporter Robbie Ward, staff writer for The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, for prodding the city to archive text messages and make them available to the public.

Journalism Advocacy: SPJ signed onto a letter by the American Association of Law Libraries to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Court urging them to restore electronic access to court records that were recently removed from PACER and a letter from the Reporters Committee to the DOJ for a dialogue following the media’s treatment in Ferguson.

Volunteer Outreach: Since EIJ14, I’ve been making calls to volunteers including new board members, committee chairs and community leaders to learn about their goals for the year and to thank them for their service. In addition, I have asked for a volunteer to help me support SPJ’s communities, including freelance, digital and international journalism. If you have an interest in working with me, please email me.

Board Training: Chapter coordinator Tara Puckey held the first of two sessions of board training via Skype to tell us more about our roles and responsibilities.

I’m traveling this weekend to meet with the Fort Worth Pro SPJ chapter for its annual “welcome the president” event. I will update you on this week’s highlights when I get back. Until then, thanks for your support of SPJ and journalism, and let me know how I can help.

~ Dana Neuts, SPJ President

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SPJ now has an International Journalism Community!

Updated, Sept. 17, 7:17 am–Revised logo replaces “committee logo.”

SPJ_International-Committee_LogoI am excited to announce that SPJ has added a new community – the International Journalism Community - our third community since trying the concept out last year. The International Journalism Community joins the Freelance and Digital Communities as a new way to reach out to and connect our members.

The International Journalism community is being lead by Carlos Restrepo, a member of the St. Louis Pro Chapter, who has agreed to get things started. We’ve already heard from 15 or so interested volunteers, including SPJ members who were involved with the International Journalism Committee previously. We welcome their expertise, ideas and enthusiasm for this topic which seems to grow in importance each day.

Next steps:  Restrepo will email members who have indicated their interest and ask for their ideas and goals. Together the community will choose goals and draft a master plan for achieving those goals. If you’d like to be involved, contact Carlos directly. As things ramp up, follow the community on Twitter.

 

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SPJ members share EIJ highlights

As always, the Excellence in Journalism conference co-hosted by SPJ and RTDNA was chock full of good content, networking opportunities, business sessions and hearty discussions about what we need to do better or differently. Focusing on the positive, here are some of the comments I heard from fellow convention goers:

“The most encouraging thing I saw – and experienced – at this year’s EIJ was the energy among many of the younger attendees. During the ‘ask the experts’ time, they were forthright and willing to sit right down and ask questions in a quest to learn more. Unlike the grizzled conference veterans who were looking to network, forge connections for the next gig or locate an open bar, these young journalists were eager to lay the groundwork on their growing skillset by listening to the pros.”

“Another great facet of this year’s EIJ was the efforts put forth by staff in scheduling sessions and meetings. It’s been a long-standing concern that meetings were taking place while learning sessions were underway. If we – as a population that needs to stay current in our understanding and skills – want to excel, we can’t be in board and committee meetings while educational events are happening.”

~Jeff Cutler, New England Pro Chapter

 

“Diversity Fellowship Program!”

~ Athima Chansanchai, Western Washington Pro

 

“Meeting the reps from JEA and finding out NJ does a better job than most states getting pros and high school students together!”

~ Jane Primerano, New Jersey Pro Chapter

 

“I thoroughly enjoyed the networking opportunities at every turn. In many ways, it’s a conference of extroverts – people willing to talk to anyone and find shared experiences. Every year, I meet new people and go home with more contacts than I had.”

~ Robyn Sekula, Louisville Pro Chapter

 

“I was very proud to be an SPJ member after seeing the cooperation and hard work that went into revising and ultimately passing an Ethics Code.”

~ Joe Radske, region 6 director

 

“I had a wonderful time at my first Excellence in Journalism conference this year.  One of the most beneficial parts for me was having the opportunity to receive one-on-one resume reel critiques from professional coaches and veterans in the field.  I just made my first resume reel this summer, so it was valuable to hear how I can improve my work in the future.  I learned a lot from the “Unleash Your Inner Broadcaster” session, where we received one-on-one constructive feedback on our broadcast voices.

I also really enjoyed the programs by Boyd Huppert and Al Tompkins, both of whom are storytellers that my professors have held in high esteem.  After seeing and reading about their work in class, it was special to meet them in person.

Finally, I enjoyed being one of the two delegates for my student chapter.  It was exciting to play a role in voting on the new SPJ ethics code, which will help train young journalists in future generations.”

~ Emily Schweich, University of Maryland

 

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Highlights, week of Sept. 7

Last Friday I shared the week’s highlights with the national SPJ board. Tom Johnson, one of our new regional directors, asked if he could share it with his region. If his members were interested in this info., I thought maybe other members might be too. Here are a few of the things SPJ was working on last week:

Diversity:  A hot topic generating lots of interest. I spoke to Diversity chair April Bethea yesterday. Her committee’s top two projects are providing management training for journalists with a diverse background and finding a university, educator or other group willing to maintain the Rainbow Diversity Sourcebook. There are other projects and discussions in the very early stages in the works, but they will likely extend beyond the scope of this committee. This will include adding volunteers from other journo orgs like NAJA, AAJA, NABJ, NLGJA, etc. to join our committees.

International Journalism: This committee is coming back! We’ve got an enthusiastic volunteer, Carlos Restrepo, from the St. Louis Chapter leading the charge. He’s already got some project ideas in mind and we have about 10 volunteers so far. I don’t yet know if this will be a committee or a community, but we don’t need to decide that now.

- Awards:  Based on our discussion at this Sunday’s board meeting, Lynn Walsh and Sue Kopen Katcef will work on researching how other journo orgs handle awards, identifying and explaining how our awards are done, etc. They’ll provide information to be discussed by Exec. in January. Exec. will prepare recommendations to submit to the full board at its April meeting.

Chapter Support:  Alex Tarquinio and Tony Hernandez are interested in pursuing two separate but related projects to help us strengthen our chapters. As they flesh out their plans, I’ll ask them to provide periodic updates to the board.

Ethics Committee: Andrew Seaman has been working with communications strategist Jennifer Royer on a plan to implement the revised Code of Ethics approved by the delegates last week. Paul and Lynn are both on the Ethics Committee, so they’ll provide us with periodic updates.

Welcome Calls:  I plan to call each of our new board members to welcome them to the board, answer questions, find out where their interests lie, etc. I’ve talked with Rob so far, and hope to make the remainder of the calls next week. If you haven’t heard from me yet, you will.

Job Bank:  At last Thursday’s board meeting (Sept. 4), the board directed us/staff to research the Boxwood job bank arrangement and to propose changes that will better serve our members. Lynn Walsh has volunteered to take this on.

FOI: Past president and FOI chair Dave Cuillier is already getting started, forming his committee and making plans to keep advocacy on the front burner. Go, Dave!

Journalism Education Committee:  Chair Butler Cain and his committee are over the moon excited about their book on high school journalism, a project headed by our very own Becky Tallent. WTG! In addition, Butler is getting the committee organized and they are discussing their plans for the year ahead. They had a lively meeting last Friday, and Butler followed up today.

Nominations:  Per the bylaws, I need to name a nominations chair/committee by early January (Jan. 4?). I will let you know when that’s been achieved. I have made an “ask,” based on recommendations, but I haven’t gotten a response yet (because I just asked this person about 30 minutes ago).

Blogging:  I have posted a couple of blogs this week, and have at least more to go. I hope to blog 2-3 times per week. If there are topics you’d like to see addressed, I welcome your suggestions.

We have a lot of work to do this year, but I am excited that we got some much done last week. I’ll try to keep you updated, but please reach out if you think I’m missing something. Click here to send me an email. You can also follow me on Twitter for regular updates on what SPJ and I are working on.

~ Dana Neuts, SPJ President

P.S. – I “owe” you a blog post on EIJ experiences from other SPJ members. It’s coming soon!

 

 

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SPJ needs to improve diversity

Update–Sept. 11, 2014, 8:28 a.m. PT–Since posting this yesterday, I have received an amazing amount of support. Folks are having confabs, but more importantly, they are discussing this openly. People are sharing their stories and volunteering to help improve diversity in SPJ and journalism. I even had one journalist join as a direct result of SPJ having this conversation now. We have much work to do, but it is encouraging to see there are many hands to do it. If you want to join the effort, contact me directly or reach out to April Bethea, our diversity committee chair. You have my heartfelt thanks.

This morning SPJ regional director Michael Koretzky wrote a post about SPJ’s awards programs and diversity. The board has directed the executive committee to make recommendations regarding changes to the awards nomination and selection process, so I won’t address that here, but it prompted some good discussion about SPJ’s lack of diversity. SPJ needs to improve diversity throughout the organization.

This was something I mentioned in my speech at the president’s installation banquet on Saturday. We have a diverse membership across the country, serving as chapter leaders and serving on committees at the national level, but that’s not enough. We need diversity in all areas, including the SPJ board, committee chair positions and future leadership roles.

To look at me, you might not think I’m diverse and maybe I’m not, but I do care about diversity.  I am a 47-year-old, white female. I was born in Gary, Indiana and grew up in a community that’s a close cousin to Chicago. I live in Kent, Washington now, a community that is 53% nonwhite. There are dozens if not hundreds of cultures in Kent, and there are 118 languages spoken in Kent schools. I have family and friends who are gay and transgendered. I prefer to look past color, race, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation to look at an individual’s values instead.

Admittedly, SPJ has a long way to go, but the organization recognizes it needs to improve diversity across the board. Here are a few ways SPJ is addressing diversity:

– SPJ has an active Diversity Committee, Diversity Resources on SPJ.org including a resource guide, tool kit and blog, and a Diversity Fellows program to recruit future leaders to SPJ.

– Last Friday, SPJ helped organize a Leadership Summit at EIJ, which included 17 journalism organizations including ACES, ONA, UNITY, NABJ, NAHJ and others. The group discussed individual challenges as well as how they could work together.

– We plan to invite members of diverse journalism organizations to join our committees and serve as advisors to help us address diversity issues journalists face.

– I will direct the nominating chair or committee, not yet named, to actively recruit candidates from all backgrounds.

Is this enough? No, not even close. Is it a start? Absolutely.

It will take time and a village to make this happen though. We need your help! If you have an interest in diversity issues or have suggestions or ideas, please reach out to me or contact April Bethea, our diversity committee chair.

2014 SPJ Diversity Fellows

2014 SPJ Diversity Fellows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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