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SPJ honors chapter excellence

For Immediate Release:


Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211,

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor 10 chapters with Circle of Excellence Awards.

Annually, SPJ recognizes chapters for outstanding work during the preceding year in five areas: First Amendment and Freedom of Information activity, campus relations and scholarship activities, activities promoting diversity among journalists, professional development and continuing-education programs, and chapter communications. Awards are given for each category to one large (75 or more members) and one small (fewer than 75 members) professional chapter.

The Connecticut Pro Chapter is recognized for its contributions to Freedom of Information with the award for a large chapter. The chapter fought against secrecy in Connecticut’s judicial branch, teaming up with the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information to call for more open government. The chapter joined with other journalism organizations in a successful initiative for a state shield law, and a conference on FOI that was sponsored by the chapter drew more than 175 people. The Hawaii Pro Chapter received the small chapter award for sponsoring panels that looked at the state of FOI, locally and nationally. Panelists included FOI attorney Joe Steinfield, Hawaii state Sen. Les Ihara and Honolulu Advertiser Editor Saundra Keyes. Additionally, the chapter worked to gain access to local government by seeking the identities of disciplined police officers and the chapter challenged the Honolulu City Council for using one-on-one serial communications to gather votes and circumvent the open meetings law.

For large chapter efforts in the area of diversity, the Indiana Pro Chapter is honored for its work with students. The Unity Journalism Workshop, co-sponsored by the chapter, gave two $2,500 scholarships to minority high school students. The Hispanic Outreach Program at Pike High School was designed to encourage bilingual and Spanish-speaking students to consider journalism careers. After the program, Hispanic outlets expressed interest in similar future endeavors. The Northwest Arkansas Pro Chapter received the small chapter award for the Lemke Journalism Project and its panels on diversity issues. SPJ members work with high school students for six weeks to produce The Multicultural News, a newspaper addressing diversity issues in Northwest Arkansas. The panels addressed such issues as covering the gay community, the portrayal of black people after Hurricane Katrina and reporting on immigration demonstrations.

The Indiana Pro Chapter also received an award for campus relations. After applying for and receiving a $5,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment, the chapter presented two scholarships to minority students planning to major in journalism or communications in college at the Unity Journalism Workshop. The chapter also arranged to have national organizational leaders speak at a local high school and the University of Indianapolis. The Northwest Arkansas Pro Chapter also received the award for campus relations. A mentoring program created by the chapter paired college journalism students with local professionals in the spring semester. For the winner of the SPJ Freedom of the Press High School Essay Contest, the chapter purchased a student SPJ membership. In the spring, the chapter gave a $1,000 scholarship to a journalism student, and continued its contributions to the University of Arkansas toward establishing an annual $1,000 scholarship that will be presented in perpetuity.

In the category of professional development, the Central Ohio Pro Chapter is honored with the award for large chapters for its programs, workshops and lectures. Nine programs addressed topics including diversity, FOI, investigative reporting, media law, podcasting and religion. The East Tennessee Pro Chapter is recognized as the best small chapter for its professional development meetings and awards. Among other programs, the chapter conducted a panel on covering disasters and a town-hall meeting on a new ruling limiting the terms of incumbent county commission candidates.

The San Diego Pro Chapter has received the large chapter Circle of Excellence Award in chapter communications. The chapter produces a quarterly newsletter mailed to all members that recaps events, publicizes upcoming opportunities and includes a column from the president. Articles are posted to the Web site, which was recently redesigned. The chapter sends e-mail blasts to members to inform them of monthly events and seminars. The Cincinnati Pro Chapter is honored with the small chapter award. The chapter runs a listserv that reaches more than 900 journalists, updated to promote both SPJ events and other local journalism events. The chapter publishes a printed newsletter and its chapter Web site has logged more than 106,000 hits since its rebirth.

The Society also honors six chapters for their work throughout the year with two chapters being named as National Chapters of the Year. The awards salute chapters for overall excellence in supporting the Society’s missions, members and the profession.

This year’s national chapters of the year are the San Diego Pro Chapter (large) and the Northwest Arkansas Pro Chapter (small).

All chapters honored are: San Diego Pro, the Chicago Headline Club and the Indiana Pro Chapter (large) and East Tennessee Pro Chapter, Northwest Arkansas Pro and Arkansas Pro Chapter (small).

Winners were determined by SPJ volunteers who oversee chapter involvement, using filed annual reports as a guide. This year’s awards will be presented on Aug. 26 at the President’s Installation Banquet during the 2006 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.

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.

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