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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > A word from our President

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SPJ Leads | 5/24/2007
A word from our President

Greetings from Denver!

The Society of Professional Journalists and Sigma Delta Chi Foundation continue to work hard for the improvement and protection of journalism. Directors of both organizations met in Indianapolis last weekend and made several decisions that will make you proud.

As you read this summary of events, please consider lending a hand to SPJ/SDX initiatives because journalism needs all the advocacy it can get these days. No contribution is too small or insignificant. If you have only enough bandwidth to pay Society dues, please do so with our profound thanks. You can rest assured that your financial support will be stewarded wisely.

Among the highlights from the SPJ meeting:

STRATEGIC PLANNING For the first time in several years, SPJ leaders are taking a hard look at where the Society is and where it needs to go to ensure its work remains relevant and effective. In addition to approving a $1.8 million budget for fiscal year 2008, board members offered ideas aimed at helping SPJ deliver top-notch training, engaging members at every level of the organization and championing press freedoms. We'd like to hear your thoughts, too. Please contact Executive Director Terry Harper.

ADVOCACY Directors awarded a $5,000 Legal Defense Fund Grant to support a pilot program designed to convince the Indiana State Supreme Court to allow cameras and recording devices in trial courtrooms. Indiana is one of 13 states that has not permitted cameras in the trial courts. Directors also agreed to spend up to $10,000 from the Legal Defense Fund to draft model legislation that could be introduced to state legislatures next year. The goal is to convince as many state legislatures as possible to create laws that prevent the censorship of college-student media.

ADVOCACY, TAKE 2 SPJ plans to launch a Legal Advocacy Network this fall, which will provide legal information, help reporters get legal help and promote collaboration between the journalism and media-law communities. Learn more at www.spj.org/lan.asp. Know a lawyer who may be interested? Please contact Legal Advocacy Network Coordinator Joe Wessels at joe@joewessels.net.

OUTREACH Directors established SPJ's first special-interest "section." Sections are based on topics that apply to all journalists, and they provide special opportunities for SPJ members to interact further with the organization. Sections will provide tips, training, mentoring and related discussion online. SPJ's first section will focus in part on Arab culture, news and issues of concern to Arab journalists. Watch for more details.

MEMBERSHIP Directors endorsed two proposed amendments to SPJ's bylaws that stand to build the Society's membership. The first would allow SPJ to sell lifetime memberships. The second would extend the post-graduate dues rate from two to three years. Delegates attending the 2007 SPJ Convention and Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C., in October will be asked to vote on the proposals.

COMMUNICATIONS SPJ.org is filled with useful information. For kicks, we compared traffic to the site during the same week of April in 2006 and 2007. Unique visits were up from 56,131 in 2006 to 74,389 in 2007. Visitors are spending almost 2.5 times longer perusing the site than they did one year ago. One way you could help SPJ spread its message effectively is by providing a brief testimonial that explains why you're a journalist and an SPJ member. We'd like to run a collection of our members' thoughts on SPJ.org. For examples, please see SPJ's "Why I'm a Member" page. Send your testimonial and head-and-shoulders photo to Christine Tatum at ctatum@spj.org. Please type "Why I'm a member" in the message's subject line.

Among highlights from the SDX Board meeting:

NEW DIRECTORS The SDX Board is pleased to welcome two new directors: Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University; and Al Leeds, president and editorial director of the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

GENEROUS GIVING The SDX Foundation awarded grants totaling $264,550. Here are just a few of the places that money is going:

—The Citizen Journalism Academy $23,200 will be spent on the creation and launch of an ‘academy’ aimed at introducing ‘citizen journalists’ to the basics of media ethics, media law, FOI and reporting and writing. SPJ President Christine Tatum and President-elect Clint Brewer are spearheading this project, which will hit select cities next year. Want to help? Contact Christine at ctatum@spj.org.

—Ethnic/Community Media Training $17,550 will be spent to deliver instruction on FOI to ethnic news organizations in 2008.

—The National Freedom of Information Coalition $7,500 has been given to support the organization's 2008 national conference.

—First Amendment Free Food Festival $2,000 was awarded to support this clever way to remind college students about the importance of the First Amendment. Students are given free food in exchange for signing away their First Amendment rights. Those who give up their freedom for free chow tend to regret doing so ...

Have questions about SPJ or the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation? Please don't hesitate to contact me at ctatum@spj.org or (303) 954-1503.

Thanks so much for your support of these great organizations. You're truly making a difference. Please encourage your colleagues to do the same.

And remember: I want to hear from you.

Christine Tatum
National President, Society of Professional Journalists
Assistant Business Editor, The Denver Post

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