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SPJ programming grant funds distributed

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Society of Professional Journalists chapters around the country will host 1997 professional development programs funded through the Society's chapter grant program. Fourteen chapters received grants to carry out projects ranging from disaster coverage to mentoring programs for student journalists.

The programs were chosen from a competitive group of proposals submitted by the Society's local chapters. In its second year, the grant program distributes $5,000 to SPJ chapters for exceptional chapter programming ideas. SPJ President Steve Geimann said the second round of chapter grants showed the creativity and dedication of local SPJ groups.

"These programs offer our members first-rate information on freelancing opportunities, copy editing, handling disasters and other newsroom issues," Geimann said. "But our chapters also are tackling the basics, too: ethics and Freedom of Information.

"These chapter programs are an important way SPJ helps its members to be better, more responsible journalists. My only disappointment is that fewer than one-half of all our chapters even applied for the cash to stage a program. I hope next year, we're flooded with applications."

Campus chapters receiving the 1997 grants include: Arkansas State University, Miami University, Marshall University, Kansas State University, Truman State University, and The University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Professional chapters receiving the 1997 grants are: Detroit; the Inland pro chapter, Montana, Northern California, Oklahoma, St. Louis, Western Washington, and West Virginia.

Here's a brief look at the winning chapter programs.

The Arkansas State University chapter will sponsor "Newspapers & the Future: Integration of Technology in the Newsroom." The program, presented by American Press Institute Executive Director William Winters, will focus on what new technological advances mean to the future of newspapers, newsgatherers and the public.

The Miami University SPJ chapter will sponsor a Campus Crime Reporting Conference for student journalists in SPJ Regions 4 and 5. Panels will address campus crime coverage. An afternoon workshop activity on information acquiring strategies will give students the opportunity to work with and learn from area reporters who will serve as instructors.

To make high school journalists and advisers more aware of their press rights to report the news, Marshall University's chapter will provide a student press rights speaker for the annual convention of the United High School Media Association at Huntington, W.Va. The program will involve 300 students and journalism teachers from throughout West Virginia, Southern Ohio and Eastern Kentucky.

The Kansas State University chapter will host a complete program about alternative media. Students will be introduced to alternative press publications and meet with practitioners from the alternative press. Throughout the program the students, who've had little exposure to alternative media, will get a feel for the demands of the work and explore the content, design, style and information-gathering aspects of the alternative press.

Truman State University's chapter will offer "Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks: What Student Journalists Should Know About Ethics." The program is an ethics seminar and critique workshop for print and broadcast journalism students. Students will learn from professionals about the ethical decisions journalists must make in the course of a day.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls chapter has planned a mentoring program for its students. In the program, a professional volunteer will meet with a student periodically throughout the school year. The program provides professional connections, a shadowing opportunity and a critique session of each student's work.

The Detroit chapter is sponsoring a freelance writers conference. The program will provide information for those who may want to freelance and those who must rely on it for income. Sessions include expanding freelance opportunities; how to research using the Internet; what editors require in a freelance story and how to approach them; how to sell your stories to more than one outlet; why your income should come from many sources; and tax tips for the freelance writer.

Montana's SPJ chapter will sponsor a statewide Freedom of Information/First Amendment Conference at the University of Montana. The program will address free press, fair trial issues, a review of the state Constitution's right to know guarantee and will include a beginner's session on filing paper and electronic FOI requests.

The Northern California chapter's diversity committee will hold its annual content case study program. The program will examine cultural, ethnic and gender issues in coverage by San Francisco Bay area media. The program addresses examples of poor and excellent coverage, and an award will be presented for those outstanding pieces that serve as an example for others.

The Oklahoma chapter will provide funding assistance for the day-long Institute on Coverage of Disasters and Tragedies. The Institute will provide up to 300 journalists and students an opportunity to attend the free seminar. Topics include: deadline writing under emergency conditions; writing better stories about people; dealing with stress; handling obituaries; dealing with authorities; and the ethical issues involved in covering tragedies.

The St. Louis chapter is offering "You Be the Editor: Do the Media Make the Right Decisions?" The program will provide a discussion of ethical decision-making. Reporters, editors, police, lawyers, judges, and others will confront and resolve a challenging series of questions about a hypothetical situation in which hard choices must be made.

The Western Washington chapter will offer "New Media and the Future of Journalism" at the joint Region 10 and 11 conference in March. This is a special seminar on computer-assisted reporting that will include a classroom type lab for hands-on practice.

"Feathering Your Nest with Freelancing," will be the topic of a West Virginia chapter program. In a small state where full-time journalism jobs are scarce, the program addresses pitching and marketing freelance story ideas. Panelists will share stories of success and failure including what works and why some things won't.

The Inland pro chapter will host a copy editing seminar for a group it considers the newsroom's unrecognized heroes. The program, which will begin late in the day to accommodate the schedules of most copy editors, includes sessions on sharpening copy editing, headline writing skills and communicating effectively with reporters, photographers and assignment editors, as well as how pagination has changed the copy editor's job and a look at what the future holds.

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