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Society of Professional Journalists honors professional chapter excellence

For Immediate Release:

Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211
Heather Porter, Programs Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 204

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor the Western Washington Pro and the Utah Headliners Club as the 2007 SPJ National Chapters of the Year.

Each year, the Society honors six chapters for their work. Two chapters, one large and one small, are then named as National Chapters of the Year. The awards salute chapters for overall excellence in supporting the Society’s missions, members and the profession.

In the fall of 2006, the Western Washington Pro Chapter successfully offered a Continuing Education Series that has since been copied by chapters in California and elsewhere in the country. The chapter also quickly responded to the news that the King County Journal was folding by organizing a career fair for the displaced journalists. The chapter offered diverse programming to its members and the journalism community, including a conversation with Bryan Monroe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and the editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines. Chapter members also successfully lobbied the Washington state legislature and governor in adopting a state shield law.

The Utah Headliners Pro Chapter hosted the 2006 spring conference in SPJ’s Region 9 and had representatives on hand at last year’s convention in Chicago. They worked hard to incorporate a wide range of programming into their schedules and have worked to boost their membership. In February and March, the chapter lobbied the Utah state legislature, alongside a media coalition, to defeat any changes to Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act laws. Ethics is also a large part of the chapter’s focus as member Connie Coyne, gave 49 talks in high schools and universities on journalism ethics.

All chapters honored are: Large — Western Washington Pro, Minnesota Pro and the Colorado Pro Chapter. Small — the Utah Headliners Chapter, East Tennessee Pro and Maine Pro Chapter.

Annually, SPJ also recognizes chapters for outstanding work during the previous year in five key 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.

In the area of First Amendment and Freedom of Information activity, the large chapter honoree is the Northern California Pro Chapter. The chapter saw some of the year’s most troubling government interference issues and industry changes in the San Francisco Bay Area. The chapter tackled these issues head-on by supporting Josh Wolf, Lance Williams, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Sarah Olson. They also were active in supporting Jerry Roberts and eight other former-employees of the Santa Barbara News-Press. The Maine Pro Chapter is the small chapter honoree. Chapter members participated in a Freedom of Information audit conducted by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition. They requested e-mail records from cities and towns throughout the state of Maine, probing an area of some ambiguity in state law. Chapter member Mal Leary conducted FOI training for students at the New England School of Communication at Husson College in Bangor. Leary also attended the FOI summit in Seattle in May 2007.

In the area of Campus relations and scholarship activity, the large chapter recipient is the Valley of the Sun Pro Chapter. The Hawaii Pro Chapter is the small chapter honoree. The Valley of the Sun Chapter President Teri Carnicelli volunteered her time in the spring and early summer of 2006 on an Advisory Committee to help re-start the journalism program and student newspaper at Phoenix College. The first classes in the new journalism department were introduced in the fall of 2006. Carnicelli, as well as other SPJ board members, have been invited to serve as guest professors in the department. The Valley of the Sun Chapter also introduced its first-ever scholarship, which will be presented to a returning Phoenix College journalism student before the start of the fall semester.

The Hawaii Pro Chapter awarded 14 student internships in 2006 and 2007 that totaled more than $24,000. The funds for the internships are raised through the chapter’s annual Gridiron Show.

In the area of Diversity, the Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter is the large chapter recipient and the East Tennessee Pro Chapter is the small chapter honoree. The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter hosted a diversity event March 29 at the Redwood Bar and Grill in downtown Los Angeles. Journalists from nine professional societies attended the event, which resulted in the formation of the Southern California Journalism Council, a group of journalists who will meet occasionally to plan events and discuss issues affecting reporters throughout the Los Angeles region. The East Tennessee Pro Chapter conducted a program, focusing on East Tennessee's growing Islamic and Middle Eastern population, that discussed issues working with local media and other facts journalists need to know when covering this particular ethnic community in the region. The meeting was well attended and journalists present called it one of the most informative of the year.

In the area of Professional Development, the Minnesota Pro Chapter is the large chapter winner and the East Tennessee Pro Chapter is the small chapter recipient. The Minnesota Pro Chapter maintained high standards with programming throughout the year that attracted not only journalists, but significant media coverage. Program topics included diversity, freedom of information and ethics. The East Tennessee Pro Chapter conducted various programs focusing on the core missions of the Society as well as blogging, holiday gatherings, writing workshops and a lunch with state legislators.

In the area of Chapter Communications, the large chapter honoree is the Colorado Professional Chapter and the small division recipient is the Mid-Michigan Pro Chapter. The Colorado chapter started three new communication initiatives last year: a Web site that is frequently updated with information on chapter activities, a monthly e-newsletter and weekly e-mail’s that are sent to members to update them on Society happenings. With help from the Michigan State University School of Journalism, the Mid-Michigan Pro Chapter was able to put together a listserv of nearly 800 journalists in Michigan. This e-mail newsletter strategy has helped the chapter keep in touch with SPJ members and non-members from the community. The chapter also maintains a Web site containing information of future and past events.

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 Oct. 6 at a dinner during the 2007 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

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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