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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
From the President

Year ahead: Focus on work already started

By Dana Neuts

On the heels of a busy 2013-14 led by SPJ President Dave Cuillier, I am honored and eager to serve SPJ during the next year, continuing his good work and embarking on new projects and initiatives to better serve journalists.

While journalists continue to face daunting challenges, including fighting for press freedom, facing arrest and even death in extreme cases, there is much SPJ can do to support journalists and our industry. My goal for the next year is to build on SPJ’s past successes while looking to serve journalism in new ways. Here are a few goals I hope to achieve, or to at least begin, in the coming year.

JOURNALISM ADVOCACY

First, SPJ will continue the work we spent so much time on this past year. The FOI Committee will proactively fight for press freedom, openness and transparency. To kick off the year, the SPJ board created an endowed legal fund, aka a “Legal Offense Fund,” to expand SPJ’s lobbying efforts. In addition to signing onto amicus briefs and partnering with other journalism organizations, SPJ will lead the charge to fight for democracy. The committee will expand blogging and tweeting this year, renew the annual Black Hole Award and conduct more research/surveys. Suggestions and assistance can be directed to FOI Committee chairman and immediate past president Dave Cuillier at spjdave@yahoo.com.

CODE OF ETHICS

Another key goal is to implement and spread the revised Code of Ethics passed by the delegates in Nashville. The Ethics Committee, led by committee chairman Andrew Seaman and vice chairs Mónica Guzmán and Fred Brown, will work closely with SPJ communications strategist Jennifer Royer to share the Code far and wide. The committee is already hard at work assembling and creating supplemental information to support the Code. Follow the committee’s blog for regular updates.

DIVERSITY

SPJ needs to improve diversity at all levels of the organization, from the chapter level through national leadership. It isn’t enough to say we’re going to become more diverse. We need to develop a concrete action plan to include and recruit journalists with diverse backgrounds that extend beyond race and gender to include age, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, etc. We need to address diversity in programming; work with other journalism organizations that handle diversity issues better than we do; encourage and recruit journalists from all backgrounds to get involved; and help SPJ evolve so we can better serve and represent our members.

COMMUNITIES

Based on “divisions” from groups like the American Bar Association and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, SPJ communities are a way for our members to connect with each other, sharing ideas, resources and challenges, adding value to their membership. While some committees have been successful using the traditional structure, the community format offers a way for more people to be involved and to have control over the projects and issues that are important to them. So far, the freelance and digital committees have become communities, each guiding their own direction and choosing the tools and resources that work best for them. The freelance community, for example, has a discussion board, job postings, directory and resources behind the paywall. The digital community has created a Twitter account, Google + community and Facebook page. Members of both groups will continue to contribute to their SPJ blogs and provide content for Quill. The next possible communities include Generation J for early-career journalists and International Journalism.

SPJ’S FUTURE

While the proposed name change (to “Society for Professional Journalism”) did not pass at the convention, the idea prompted a larger discussion about how to keep SPJ relevant and our members engaged in a rapidly changing industry. A futures task force, led by past president John Ensslin, submitted a list of recommendations to the board for consideration. Some of the recommendations have already been approved and are underway, while others need further research and discussion. In addition, Executive Director Joe Skeel submitted a big-picture, long-term vision for SPJ that received widespread support by the board this spring. While many of the action items cannot be achieved in a year’s time, we can certainly make some headway.

That’s quite a list of goals for the year, and only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It will require a team of dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers like you to make these things happen and to help SPJ continue to evolve. I hope you’ll consider joining the effort and contributing in areas where you are passionate, whether it is membership, advocacy, international journalism diversity, ethics, programming or another topic of interest. Let’s work together to move SPJ into the future.

Want to help or have ideas, suggestions or concerns? Email me at spjdana@gmail.com or find me on Facebook or Twitter (@spjdana). In the meantime, I look forward to the year ahead and working with SPJ members like you who are as passionate about journalism and SPJ as I am.

SPJ President Dana Neuts is a freelance journalist, author, writer and editor as well as the publisher of iLoveKent.net, a hyperlocal blog focused on Kent, Wash. Her work has appeared in numerous local, regional and national publications including AARP Bulletin, The Seattle Times, Northwest Travel, 425 magazine and South Sound magazine. She is a member of the Western Washington Pro chapter of SPJ. To learn more, visit virtuallyyourz.com. Contact her at spjdana@gmail.com or connect on Twitter: @spjdana.

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