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Home > Tools for Leaders > Leadership Guides > Member Maintenance > Chapter Creativity in Action

Program Ideas for Chapters

SPJ’s chapters host an array of interactive, educational and fun programs that serve thousands of journalists of all experience levels and specialties each year. Take a look at these outstanding programs — and consider repeating them (or adding your own special twists to them) in your area. If you have questions about these programs, contacts are listed for most programs.


Daylong politics training session: Madison Pro

Because politics and elections are expected to generate a good deal of coverage this year, journalists in your area might appreciate a training session on issues in politics and journalism. Invite experts on politics, opinion polling, campaign finance, election law and the use of social media in campaigns to help reporters plan their coverage. Speakers can be professors, working journalists and professionals working in politics. Offering the session free to members could encourage people to join your chapter. For more details on the Madison Pro chapter's event last November, click here.


Become a Multimedia Guru Program: New York Deadline Club

This is a day-long event broken into hour-long sessions for each speaker. Speakers can be recruited from local journalism and multimedia organizations, universities and learning centers that teach classes on topics covered at the event, and members' contacts. Attendees can pay per session or receive a discount for attending the entire day of events. A classroom is a great place to hold the event; make sure to have desks, Wi-Fi and audio-visual technology. If you are renting the space, include an extra hour before and after for set-up and clean-up. Publicize the event to local journalism groups, SPJ members, and students and alumni at area colleges. Contact: Tricia Couture.


Fall Membership Week: Minnesota Pro chapter

This is an intense week full of SPJ programming for all types of journalists. Events are held at different times of the day and different days of the week to make sure all members have the chance to come. The target audience should be different for each event as well: students, young journalists, Web journalists, political journalists, etc. To keep costs down, hold the events at free venues and find speakers who will present free of charge. Send invitations to current and lapsed members, as well as to key journalists from the area who are not currently SPJ members. For more information, contact Sarah Bauer.


Trivia Night: Louisville Pro chapter

Members came together to write questions, which were put into a PowerPoint presentation. Questions were grouped into categories, including public art, business, Kentucky Derby, notable quotes, Kentucky movie connections, food and drink, and current events. Those writing questions served as judges. News outlets were invited to put a team in the contest, pitting several stations and print outlets against each other. Participants each paid $5, plus whatever food and drink they purchased. The $5 fee paid for a gift certificate that the chapter purchased from the restaurant and gave to the winning team, and a trophy. If you'd like more info or to see the presentation that Louisville Pro used, email Robyn Davis Sekula.


Technology and the Multi-Tasked Journalist: William O’Douglas Pro chapter

This one-hour session was offered as part of the Region 10 spring conference. To address the feeling that most journalists were doing more work than ever with less time to do it, the session was designed to show how journalists can use technology to get work done more effectively and efficiently. Speakers included Molly Kelleher of KEPR-TV and TJ Mullinax, Yakima Herald-Republic Web producer. Kelleher spoke about mobile apps and how she uses them in her daily reporting. Mullinax explained how to use electronic equipment for multiple purposes to produce content. This program can easily be extended to a half-day workshop based on the speakers' backgrounds. As a distance-learning program, this session could be webcast, such as with Studio SPJ. Contact chapter president Paula Horton for more information.


Meet the Newbies: Minnesota Pro chapter

Minnesota has a lot of journalism start-ups, as well as new divisions and projects being taken up by the mainstream media. The chapter wanted to gather people together for an informal networking event, a great way to build cross-medium relationships. They invited members and friends, and representatives from the list of "newbies" projects. The event was held at the office of one of the newbies, complete with appetizers, beer and wine. Attendees had time to mingle, and the newbies each got a few minutes of floor time to talk about their news enterprise. If you'd like more information on the event, or tips on hosting a similar one in your area, contact Sarah Bauer.


Freelancer Meetings: Washington D.C. Pro chapter

The D.C. Pro chapter hosts a monthly get-together of freelancers to talk about issues they confront as small business owners. The group operates as an interest group rather than a committee, so there is no chairperson, agenda or mission statement. They have a regular day and place to meet. Members gather to talk about freelance issues that have arisen during the month. It is organized by a chapter member who maintains an email list of freelancers who have asked to be notified of meetings. The email list can also be used between meetings to ask each other for advice. Business issues the group has discussed include contract clauses, how much to charge in specific circumstances, and how to collect from deadbeats. For more information, contact Stephenie Overman or Hazel Becker.


Paid In Exposure: Should Journalists Work For Free?: Greater Charlotte Chapter

This program explores whether freelancers should work for free under certain circumstances. At a time when journalism is experiencing a digital revolution and downsizing, the independent journalist is facing more competition, in addition to the challenges of being paid — and being paid well — for producing good journalism. Advertise it as a brown bag luncheon and invite journalism students, SPJ members and anyone in the larger community interested in the topic. It is a great membership recruiting tool, so provide SPJ pamphlets. Invite a few freelancers as panelists and have an SPJ member moderate the discussion. To see how the Greater Charlotte Chapter ran this event, view their video on YouTube.


Western Washington Pro: How to Build a News Community

The Western Washington Pro chapter has hosted a Continuing Education Series of programs for several years. SPJ members may attend for free, while non-members pay $10 admission. For a program on building a news community, you can invite local media professionals such as news anchors, bloggers and reporters to present a panel discussion on building local support for locally produced news. Have a chapter member moderate the discussion, asking questions about citizen engagement, social media and digital journalism. Encourage event attendees to tweet during the program using a special hashtag to keep the discussion active and engaging. Click here for a summary of the event. Contact Dana Neuts for more information.


Speed Networking: New York Deadline Club

This event brings together journalists and employers for a one-on-one speed networking event, like speed dating. Employers and job seekers pair up to talk for five minutes. When the signal is given (such as a bell ringing), the job seeker moves on to the next employer. This happens until job seekers have met with every employer.

Employers can be sought by speaking with HR reps and editors through career events or cold calling and emailing. Recruit job seekers through your members and through local colleges and universities, as well as local sites or newsletters for posting events. When planning this event, you need to first confirm the number of employers, and then match the number of attendees to the number of employers. If there are twice as many job seekers as employers hoping to attend, consider holding two sessions back to back, where half of the job seekers participate in the first session and half in the second.

It is important that the job seeker meets with the employer one on one. If space allows, provide a bar/reception area where the job seekers who aren't participating in the session can socialize and network. Contact Tricia Couture for more information.

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