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SPJ honors professional chapter excellence


For Immediate Release

Lauren Rochester, Awards Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 210, lrochester@spj.org
Andrew M. Scott, Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000, ext. 215, ascott@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor the South Florida and Rio Grande Pro chapters as the 2009-2010 SPJ Chapters of the Year.

Each year, the national organization honors two chapters, one large (75 or more members) and one small (fewer than 75 members), as overall chapters of the year. Additionally, up to four other large and small chapters may be recognized for overall excellence.

SPJ also recognizes one large and one small chapter for outstanding work during the previous year in five key areas: First Amendment and Freedom of Information activity; activities promoting diversity among journalists; campus relations and scholarship; professional development and continuing education; and chapter communication. These recognitions are Circle of Excellence awards.

Large Chapter of the Year

Among the South Florida Pro chapter’s accomplishments, it co-sponsored an “Ethics and the Media” conference for journalists, government officials and public relations professionals at the University of Miami. The chapter hosted many other programs over the year that focused on ethics, FOI, diversity and freelancing.

South Florida also held its annual Sunshine State Awards. The proceeds of the competition and awards event continue to fund the chapter’s scholarships, Legal Defense Fund and professional development programs throughout the year. In September, the chapter converted its database to Constant Contact and unveiled a new e-newsletter that currently reaches a substantial percentage of journalists at the major Florida news outlets.

Small Chapter of the Year

After 25 years of dormancy, the Rio Grande Pro chapter, also known as New Mexico Pro, made such a comeback this past year that it is on the verge of becoming the second largest chapter in SPJ’s Region 9. Much of the chapter’s growth stems from an active website and weekly e-mail. The chapter hosted FOI presentations by David Cuillier, offering free attendance for non-members who join SPJ national prior to the event.

The chapter succeeded in writing a proposal for a $2,500 grant for an ethics program. Two of the chapter’s officers and a board member hosted a table at a job fair put on by the University of New Mexico communications and journalism department, pitching SPJ membership to both students and faculty. The chapter unofficially said that its goal is to become the "hub, not merely a spoke" in New Mexico and West Texas journalism.

All outstanding chapters honored are:
Large — South Florida Pro, Cleveland Pro and Fort Worth Pro
Small — Rio Grande Pro, Southwest Missouri Pro, and Keystone Pro (Pennsylvania)

Circle of Excellence

Annually, SPJ recognizes chapters for outstanding work during the preceding year in five areas:
— First Amendment and Freedom of Information activity
— Activities promoting diversity among journalists
— Campus relations and scholarship activities
— Professional development and continuing-education programs
— Chapter communications

Awards are given for each category to one large (75 or more members) and one small (fewer than 75 members) professional chapter.

First Amendment/Freedom of Information

The large chapter honoree for First Amendment and FOI activities is the New York Deadline Club, which hosted the program “FOILing Authority: Using Open Records Laws to Report on Government Practices.” Panelists included a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, award-winning investigative reporter, New York State Committee on Open Government director, and an Associated Press associate counsel.

Receiving the small chapter honor for the third consecutive year is the Utah Headliners chapter. In addition to being involved in several Freedom of Information initiatives, the chapter received a $9,000 grant from the Knight-Ridder Foundation to produce and distribute a video to all Utah high schools on the importance of open government and being involved in government.


For the Diversity category, the San Diego Pro chapter is the large chapter honoree for sponsoring three diversity-related programs. These programs included one focused on gender issues with a “Women in Journalism” program, featuring well-known women journalists who looked back at the road women have traveled in the news profession.

There is no small chapter honoree this year.

Campus Relations and Scholarship Activity

The Valley of the Sun Pro chapter is honored in the Campus Relations and Scholarship Activity category. Proceeds from the chapter’s continuous t-shirt sales are put toward the chapter’s scholarship fund for local university students majoring in journalism.

There is no small chapter honoree this year.

Professional Development

The Minnesota Pro chapter is the large Professional Development honoree, recognized for its numerous programs. The chapter hosted programs on LGBT coverage and “Freelance Love,” pairing freelancers and editors for short speed-dating interviews. Minnesota also held a behind-the-scenes tour of how medical examiners can help members of the media.

The Indiana Pro chapter is the small chapter honoree for Professional Development. The chapter is currently developing an online training program through Ball State University and will implement that program in the next few months. Indiana Pro was also a part of the David Cuillier Access Across America tour.

Chapter Communication

In the final category, Chapter Communication, the Colorado Pro chapter is honored for its efforts. To improve communications efforts, the chapter redesigned its website to appeal to a broader audience, and the new communications director started a monthly newsletter, featuring upcoming events, membership news and the chapter's advocacy efforts.

The Wyoming Pro chapter is the small chapter honoree for Chapter Communication. To overcome geographical issues, the state’s sole chapter holds monthly meetings through Skype. Many of the chapter’s communications are through e-mail and phone calls between the president and committee members.

Winners were determined by SPJ volunteers who oversee chapter involvement, using filed annual reports as a guide. The Chapter of the Year awards and the Circle of Excellence awards will be presented during the 2010 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Las Vegas. The Circle of Excellence Awards will be given at the Closing Business Session and the Chapters of the Year will be awarded at the President’s Installation Banquet Oct. 5.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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