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SPJ recognizes Chicago, Indiana and Cincinnati chapters with Chapter of the Year Awards


Lou Harry, SPJ Manager of Publications and Awards, lharry@hq.spj.org
Kim Tsuyuki, SPJ Communications Coordinator, ktsuyuki@hq.spj.org

LAS VEGAS – The Society of Professional Journalists is recognizing Chicago Headline Club, Indiana Pro Chapter and Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter as the Pro Chapters of the Year. The chapters are being honored for their commitment to SPJ’s mission and the journalism profession.

The Large Chapter of the Year award is open to chapters with 75 or more members, and the Small Chapter of the Year is open to chapters with fewer than 75 members.

The Large Chapter of the Year, Chicago Headline Club, performed exceptionally in the area of freedom of information, which was recognized in its Circle of Excellence Award for First Amendment & FOI. Its FOIA Fest returned this year as a fully hybrid event, encompassing a day of in-person programming which was also presented online in a live, interactive format. This year's fest consisted of more than a dozen sessions, including in-depth conversations on using the Freedom of Information Act for groundbreaking journalism, hands-on workshops with experts and live Q&As with funders and public records officials. A total of 152 early-career journalists, members of the public and working reporters attended. The FOIA Fest Bootcamp was created to provide young journalists of color with access to mentorships which are often unavailable inside traditional newsrooms. This year's cohort included 15 early-career reporters who were paired with experienced journalists for guidance on a FOIA-driven project.

The chapter also annually presents the Watchdog Award, which honors Chicago-area journalists that defend and protect everyday folks. Typically built from lengthy FOI-driven investigations, award recipients call attention to situations in which the public is being harmed or poorly served by the government, institutions or businesses at any level.

Chicago Headline Club also provides ethics resources for journalists. The Ethics Advice Line for Journalists continues to be a free, on-demand service offered in partnership with Medill at Northwestern University to any journalist facing an ethical dilemma and in need of professional advice — even on a tight deadline.

There are two Small Chapter of the Year winners — Indiana Pro Chapter and Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter.

The Indiana Pro Chapter made great strides in FOI and professional development. In May, the chapter hosted a live broadcast discussing the change to Indiana law that allows cameras in state courtrooms. Under the direction of chapter vice president Megan Kramer, the chapter invited a panel of experts including attorneys, public information officers and a retired judge.

The chapter also hosted a group of international journalists that were visiting as part of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, organized through the U.S. Department of State. Nearly a dozen journalists from across the globe visited the WTHR Channel 13 studios and newsroom to learn about American journalism and journalists and share information about their own storytelling techniques and tools. The chapter also hosted a Law School for Journalists program at the federal courthouse, in partnership with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.

The Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter excelled in partnering with other organizations to further journalism, locally and across the globe. It partnered with The Cincinnati Police Department, Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists, the Cincinnati Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and Greater Cincinnati Black PR Pros to ensure the chapter’s programming touched more than just journalists and media professionals.

The chapter reached out to the community-at-large and universities through public forums and in educational sessions. It engaged local journalists and the public throughout the tri-state area with programs that focused on important topics such as diversity, ethics, freedom of information and First Amendment issues. The Greater Cincinnati Pro Chapter also partnered with the SPJ Freelance Community to host a quarterly event series for freelance writers.

The winning chapters, which were chosen by SPJ’s 12 regional coordinators, were honored during the Opening Business Meeting at the SPJ23 Journalism Convention.
Read more about the selection process and past winners.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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