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About the Society

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The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. 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.

Quick Facts

Founded: 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi fraternity
Location: P.O. Box 441748, Indianapolis, IN 46244
Purpose: To Improve & Protect Journalism
Membership: About 7,000 members nationwide
Operating budget: $1.7 million annually

The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.

To ensure that the concept of self-government outlined by the United States Constitution remains a reality into future centuries, the American people must be well-informed in order to make decisions regarding their lives and their local and national communities. It is the role of journalists to provide this information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely, and understandable manner.

It is the mission of the Society of Professional Journalists:

— To encourage a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely and fully
— To promote this flow of information
— To stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism
— To foster excellence and to encourage diversity among journalists
— To inspire successive generations of talented individuals to become dedicated journalists
— Finally, the Society must maintain constant vigilance in protection of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press


Founded: SPJ was founded in 1909 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., as a journalistic fraternity known as Sigma Delta Chi. In 1988, the organization officially changed its name to the Society of Professional Journalists.

Membership: SPJ is a professional organization that includes broadcast, print and online journalists, journalism educators , and students interested in journalism as a career.

Tax-exempt status: The Society is a not-for-profit organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)6 of the Internal Revenue Code.


Quill magazine: Quill, published four times a year, presents insights on the long-term impact of news industry developments and documents controversies regarding press freedoms. The magazine also includes news about SPJ.

Freedom of Information alerts: SPJ sends alerts about important state and national legal decisions and court cases. Members receive electronic notification.

PressNotes: Daily electronic summary provides news about the media.

Diversity Sourcebook: SPJ is developing a database to link reporters with diverse and non-traditional sources around the country. It will be available through the Web site at www.spj.org.


The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to quality, responsible journalism as the foundation of a free and informed society. On individual and industry levels, SPJ seeks to Improve & Protect Journalism through a variety of programs and projects:

Freedom of Information

— The Society of Professional Journalists leads the media in the areas of Freedom of Information and open records with projects aimed at maximizing access for all journalists. SPJ presents an annual report on FOI in Quill magazine and presents regular reports on FOI topics making news.
— The Society’s legal counsel tracks administrative, legislative, and judicial developments and makes SPJ’s voice heard through court filings and petitions on behalf of journalists who have been shut out of hearings, denied access to information, or forced by courts to turn over notes and research.

Legal Defense Fund

— The Legal Defense Fund is a unique account to help journalists involved in access and shield-law cases.
— Awards from the fund provide journalists with legal or direct financial assistance.
— The fund is supported through contributions and an ongoing fund-raising campaign.

Project Sunshine 

— SPJ’s 50-state, grassroots Sunshine Network identifies threats to public access and government and organizes efforts to resist those threats.
— The program focuses the attention of all SPJ chapters and leaders on Freedom of Information issues at the local, chapter, and state levels.
— Last year, state coordinators prepared a database of state access policies for journalists seeking interviews with prison inmates.

Responsible journalism

— SPJ works to ensure that journalists perform their work while adhering to the highest standards of behavior and decision-making.
— The first Code of Ethics was adopted in 1926. The code is embraced by thousands of writers, editors, and other news professionals. It instructs journalists to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable. SPJ’s goal is not to provide all of the answers or settle all of the disputes but to teach journalists how to make clear, defensible decisions.
— From the code, SPJ has developed important programs including conferences, an awards program, and an issue of Quill magazine focusing on ethics to assist journalists in enhancing their ability to identify ethical issues and dilemmas.

Member network

— More than 250 chapters nationwide bring educational programming to local areas and offer regular contact with other professionals.
— Members have a wide background including print, broadcast, and online journalism and trade publications.

National convention

— The annual event offers more than 50 educational sessions designed to teach new skills, refine techniques, and reach other professionals with common interests and concerns.
— Every year, the gathering rotates to a new location where journalists can connect, learn, and relax.
— The national convention is SPJ’s largest program.

Workshops and seminars

— National and regional conferences cover writing, reporting, and editing as well as broader topics of ethics and Freedom of Information.
— Programs are scheduled throughout the country, making them convenient to members.

Awards programs

— SPJ promotes excellence in journalism through its Sigma Delta Chi awards for professional journalists in print, broadcast, online, and research journalism. The Mark of Excellence awards program honors the outstanding work of student journalists.
— A $75,000 Pulliam Editorial Writing Fellowship allows one editorial writer to take a year to study a topic of choice.
— The Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information Internship program annually offers two students the opportunity to study, research, and write about FOI issues. The program is funded through a grant from SPJ’s educational arm, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


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