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Home > Publications > Quill > Have a say in SPJ’s future


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Friday, December 1, 2006
Have a say in SPJ’s future

By Christie Tatum, SPJ President

By the time you read this, SPJ’s executive committee and a select group of national leaders and headquarters staff should have convened in Denver to begin crafting a strategic plan aimed at steering the Society deftly into what is an exciting — but uncertain — time for American journalism.

This grand plan will need to be revisited early and often. But while national leaders might make changes here and there, the plan will be built on some philosophical principles expected to guide SPJ for years to come. Some of those principles will take SPJ in new directions designed to help the Society better serve its members and trumpet its core missions.

Regardless of how the strategic plan shapes up, I want you to have a say in it. Contact me today. Contact your regional director. Contact Executive Director Terry Harper.

We want to know how you would strengthen SPJ on many levels. How, for example, would you build and diversify membership? What goods and services would you develop to help members thrive in an industry roiled by technology and news consumers’ shifting habits? Would you restructure SPJ’s governance or its schedule of spring and national conferences? How would you help SPJ generate new revenue and strengthen the effectiveness of its advocacy?

I have given all of this much thought in recent months. Some of my ideas are overarching and fairly general. Others are highly specific and squarely focused on what some might consider nitpicky details. But as we take ideas to the table for discussion, it’s important for us to have considered just about every aspect of the Society first.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the items I hope to see incorporated in our strategic plan:

Membership growth. We need active and thriving professional chapters in every state. To attain this, we may need to rethink how we build chapters. I am a big fan of statewide approaches that encourage journalists from various regions to pool resources, collaborate on projects and communicate more frequently.

I’m also determined to explore ways to expand our membership by making SPJ’s annual dues more affordable for everyone.

A plan for improving and maintaining SPJ’s Indianapolis headquarters. This building is one of SPJ’s core assets, but it’s not being fully utilized. I realize SPJ members nationwide aren’t necessarily interested in visiting the building, but I hope everyone will agree that improving the property would be good for SPJ’s bottom line.

With a few relatively inexpensive changes, the Society could begin to generate new revenue from its offices. For example, the installation of tech workstations on the building’s sizeable second floor would allow SPJ to present various seminars — or charge outside groups wanting to use the space. A dynamic display of SPJ’s extensive archives might be of interest to local civic groups and would serve to promote the Society’s missions.

Greater accountability for SPJ’s leadership. Yes, this is a volunteer-driven organization, and it does indeed accomplish a tremendous amount of work in only one week. At the same time, some folks aren’t always good at letting their yes be yes and their no be no. They often agree to tackle important projects they never complete. Or they agree to serve on national committees in which they rarely, if ever, participate.

Sadly, we have let too many good ideas fall by the wayside and have missed several great opportunities because SPJ’s executive leaders often have found it much easier to work around inactive and ineffective volunteers than to ask them to step away from service. To ensure SPJ remains on track and prospers from greater continuity of leadership, we need to devise evaluations that executive officers can use to identify effective and active leaders and rising stars.

Greater business savvy that helps SPJ generate new revenue.This is where the purists often wring their hands, and for good reason. I am, however, convinced that SPJ can raise money from nonmedia sources with tremendous integrity — and that it must start to move aggressively to do so.

I am delighted that the Society recently hired a sales representative to sell ads in our print and electronic publications and on our Web site. SPJ also needs to seek sponsorships. It needs to develop seminars that can be presented to various groups for appropriate fees.

In coming weeks, you’ll have many opportunities to contribute to SPJ’s strategic plan. Again, contact the key SPJ leaders mentioned above, and please view my blog, where I hope to maintain a rolling discussion about this process as it unfolds.

Contact your leader

President: Christine Tatum — ctatum@spj.org

Executive Director: Terry Harper — tharper@spj.org

Region I Director: Carolyn James — cjames@spj.org

Region II Director: Ann M. Augherton — aaugherton@spj.org

Region III Director: Holly A. Fisher — hfisher@spj.org

Region IV Director: Kevin Z. Smith — ksmith@spj.org

Region V Director: Richard Roth — rroth@spj.org

Region VI Director: Gordon Govier — ggovier@spj.org

Region VII Director: Ron Sylvester — rsylvester@spj.org

Region VIII Director: Travis Poling — tpoling@spj.org

Region IX Director: Deb Hurley — dhurley@spj.org

Region X Director: Nathan Isaacs — nisaacs@spj.org

Region XI Director: Paul McAfee — pmcafee@spj.org

Region XII Director: Sonny Albarado — salbarado@spj.org


Christine Tatum is an assistant business editor for The Denver Post. Before moving to Colorado in 2003, she worked for The Chicago Tribune as a media hybrid, covering technology for the newspaper, producing the tech section of chicagotribune.com and appearing weekly to discuss technology news on CLTV, a local station owned by the Tribune Co. Her career stops also include Tribune Media Services, The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., and The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C. Tatum is a North Carolina native and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Contact her at ctatum@spj.org

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