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SPJ honors professional chapter excellence


For Immediate Release

Lauren Rochester, SPJ Awards Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 210,
Abby Henkel, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000, ext. 215,

INDIANAPOLIS—The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor the Chicago Headline Club and the Utah Headliners as the 2010-2011 SPJ Professional 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. Minnesota Pro and Washington, D.C. Pro have also been honored for large-chapter excellence; Madison Pro and St. Louis Pro share recognition for small-chapter excellence.

SPJ also issues the Circle of Excellence awards, recognizing one large and one small chapter for outstanding work during the previous year in each of the 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.

Large Chapter of the Year: Chicago Headline Club
Turning 90 this year, the Chicago Headline Club has a membership of roughly 400 and offers extensive opportunities for Chicago-area journalists. The Headline Club was selected as SPJ’s large chapter of the year for excellent service to members and a commitment to protecting the public’s right to know.

The Headline Club is a leader in strong chapter programming. Fifteen programs over the course of 2010 covered topics in diversity, freedom of information and ethics, and included fundraisers and service projects to support journalistic work and education. Programs included a free workshop on covering Islam, a Reporters’ Rights and Access Survey funded by the McCormick Foundation and an Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, which has fielded more than 1,000 calls about ethical dilemmas.

Admirable efforts were made to recruit new members. At the annual Lisagor Awards dinner, 100 free memberships were provided by an anonymous donor, 48 of which were accepted by attendees. Two videos were created, one by Loyola University students, inviting new members and highlighting the benefits of membership. Chapter president Susan S. Stevens called 200 recently lapsed members encouraging them to rejoin.

Small Chapter of the Year: Utah Headliners
Although accomplished in many areas, the Utah Headliners chapter stands out for its involvement in defeating Utah HB477, legislation that represented a severe challenge the state’s existing Government Records Access and Management Act, or GRAMA. Utah Headliners led the effort in rallying public opposition to the bill, which initially passed, but was repealed only 20 days later thanks to Headliners leadership. The public effort was led by chapter president Tom Haraldsen and treasurer Linda Petersen, who also serves as president for the Utah Foundation for Open Government and this year was given SPJ’s Howard S. Dubin Pro Member Award for significant contributions to her chapter.

The chapter has also coordinated programs to train journalists how to cover issues that are common in Hispanic communities, as well as projects with the Utah Pride center to help reporters gain background and useful information for covering issues of gay rights in Utah. The Headliners offer university scholarships to journalism students at three area schools.

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 is the Chicago Headline Club, for its extensive efforts to survey Chicago journalists on access to city government information funded by a grant the Headline Club obtained for the project. This chapter also had a recent victory in records access: After eight years of advocating, the Chicago police issued new media credentials.

For the fourth year in a row, the small chapter recognized for First Amendment/FOI achievements is the Utah Headliners. Chronicled above, their tireless leadership of the public in a successful campaign against prohibitive legislation has done the citizens of Utah a great and vital service.

Campus Relations and Scholarship
The South Florida Pro chapter is honored in the Campus Relations and Scholarship category. During SPJ Ethics Week in April, the chapter sponsored a uniquely unethical event at Florida Atlantic University. The student newspaper, the University Press, was recreated as the Unethical Press. Student journalists enjoyed the chance to create a newspaper that was part satire, part lesson in the purpose of ethical journalism. In another creative program, 20 adventurous students convened to publish an issue of The Homeless Voice, sold on South Florida street corners by vendors who are homeless.

The Wyoming chapter is recognized among small chapters in the Campus Relations and Scholarship category. With students making up half of its membership, the chapter devotes much of its programming to student journalists. Programs included chapter ethics chairman David Martin’s presentation on ethics for students at Western Wyoming Community College, guest presentations at Northwest College, a résumé-writing workshop at the University of Wyoming and a workshop on navigating the world of spin to a group of college newspaper editors, also at UW.

The Chicago Headline Club is honored in the Diversity Category. One third of the chapter’s programs in the year were related to diversity, including a free session on covering Islam, an election forum for ethnic news media co-sponsored with the Community Media Workshop, and a free online writing workshop for ethnic media, also co-sponsored with the CMW. The chapter started a $2,500 scholarship in honor of Les Brownlee, SPJ’s first black president and a former Headline Club president. In all, the Headline Club’s diversity programs drew more than 200 journalists.

Recognition for diversity programming by a small chapter goes to East Tennessee Pro. At a program called “One Religion and the News Media,” hosted at a Jewish community center, the chapter moderated a discussion featuring a local Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim cleric. Discussion centered on news media portrayal of minority religions, as well as journalists’ approaches to interviewing representatives of these religions.

Professional Development
The Chicago Headline Club again takes the award for large chapter excellence, this time in the area of professional development. With fifteen programs throughout the year, covering everything from panels on local and national government to scholarships for training tuition to an Ethics AdviceLine, the chapter contributed remarkably to the professional development of journalists in the area.

The Southwest Missouri Pro chapter is honored in the category of professional development for small chapters. The chapter held 16 successful programs for professional development, including an educational program for journalists and elected officials on the Missouri Sunshine Law, reporters’ workshops on the Civil Rights and Americans with Disabilities Acts, and the creation of popular online resources related to media, democracy and restoring trust in the media.

Chapter Communications
The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter is commended for its efforts in chapter communications. The chapter’s creative communications via email, a chapter website, press releases, standard mail and Facebook have helped make this chapter’s programming active and successful.

There is no small-chapter honoree this year.

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 Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference in New Orleans Sept. 25-27, co-hosted by SPJ and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

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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