As I continue my travels around the country (most recently California, Kentucky, Arizona, Missouri and Connecticut), I’ve had a chance to talk with members and nonmembers about what your Society is up to. And I always find myself struggling to cover it all.
Perhaps of the greatest significance to many of us, SPJ has been working in recent years to revitalize its role in journalism education. There are the “Better Watchdog Workshops” that we’ve been conducting with Investigative Reporters and Editors. Three more are being held this month in Columbia, Mo., Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas. There’ll be another this fall in Columbus, Ohio.
Can’t make it to our workshops? Thanks to our new partnership with Bloomberg, we’re now prepared to bring training to you in your newsroom.
Our trainers are prepared to conduct sessions in precision writing, ethics, freedom of information, convergence and economic coverage.
I am particularly pleased with new plans to revive Project Watchdog nationally. Watchdog is our effort to reach out to the public and, as we work against government secrecy and try to encourage Congress to pass a new federal shield law, we’re going to need all the public support we can muster.
We’ve just held our initial First Amendment town meeting in Missouri, featuring USA Today Editor Ken Paulson (some of you will remember the musical, First Amendment Quiz he conducted at our 2001 Convention).
We have joined as a national partner with Roundtable Inc. of Massachusetts on its Preview Forum initiative.
It’s a series of materials developed in consort with other journalism groups and made available throughout the country to help spur discussion of the role of the news media. Project Watchdog co-chairwomen Nerissa Young and Stephenie Overman are working with Roundtable on additional, collaborative efforts.
We had a big hand in this spring’s successful “Sunshine Week.” Many of our state sunshine chairpersons agreed to serve as state coordinators for the national effort. FOI co-chairman Charles Davis and I contributed materials that were used by news organizations throughout the country. The Knight Foundation, which helped fund “Sunshine Week,” is reportedly very pleased and ready to fund a repeat effort next year.
To help SPJ stay in touch internally, Secretary-Treasurer Christine Tatum has created “SPJ Leads,” the weekly e-mail that delivers SPJ news with flair.
We’ve just completed “Ethics Week” activities throughout the country. Authors Ralph Barney, Jay Black and Bob Steele, joined by our First Amendment counsel, Bruce Sanford, are working on a new edition of our ethics book, “Doing Ethics in Journalism,” that will be a must-read for everyone in our profession.
Next month, we’ll announce our first “New America Award,” designed to highlight efforts made by the mainstream media to work with the burgeoning ethnic media in this country.
On July 8, we’ll give out the Sigma Delta Chi Awards at the National Press Club in Washington.
It will mark the third year we’ve used the Press Club for our awards ceremony.
Thanks to a generous bequest, we’ve created the Archibald Communications Internship.
Beginning this year, the Archibald intern will spend eight weeks at headquarters in Indianapolis each summer helping implement our communications strategy and working on our national convention.
Speaking of convention, we had a good response from groups to our call for convention programs. You’ll see some of them, but only if you join us for the convention in Las Vegas, Oct. 16-18.
Once again this year, we will welcome a delegation of visiting journalists from South Korea and likely will send a delegation on a return trip to Asia. We are in the process of talking with officials about a similar journalism exchange involving Taiwan.
All of this comes against the backdrop of the many programs conducted all year by you and other members of our professional and student chapters.
To continue many of these efforts and to expand them, we will rely on grants from our own Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. That board has been encouraging us to think of new ideas for projects that will further SDX’s mission of journalism education, while enhancing SPJ’s reputation as a valuable journalism organization.
Of course, the foundation can’t help us if we don’t help it. Consider a contribution to SDX and remember to talk it up to other work colleagues, or even nonjournalists who may be interested in supporting journalism.
Have Gavel Will Travel. This month I plan to attend the Seattle Regional and also travel to Tennessee. In June, it’ll be New York, Indianapolis (for the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute) and Washington, D.C. And yes, I’m still interested in requests from chapters for visits.
Finally, happy birthday to us. The Society of Professional Journalists began life as the fraternity Sigma Delta Chi on April 17, 1909, though the first public pronouncement of the creation didn’t come until May 6 at the chapel on the campus of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.
Irwin Gratz is the local host for “Morning Edition” on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.