A year ago, as I took office as SPJ’s president at our national convention in New York City, I told the audience at our installation banquet: “I won’t run SPJ … but many of you will. You, local officers and members who, through our chapters and national committees, do the work of SPJ.”
It’s so true. I can barely keep up with the torrent of information I get from our chapters around the country about meetings and forums. Several have responded with pledge drives of their own in response to the national board’s call to raise $30,000 to fund lobbying on a federal shield law and FOIA reform.
At the national level, SPJ also is driven by its volunteer members.
Scores of them serve on our committees, evaluating Legal Defense Fund claims, formulating our positions on journalism ethics and drafting our comments on Freedom of Information developments, dealing with challenges faced by reporters and news organizations abroad, organizing our national Project Watchdog effort, recommending improvements and modifications to our awards programs, overseeing our professional development offerings, spreading the gospel of diversity in hiring and news sourcing and tending to the SPJ business of rounding up nominees for office, editing the resolutions language convention delegates see and interpreting our bylaws.
Those are just the ongoing functions. I’ve just appointed a committee that will look into governance issues facing college publications.
We regularly appoint SPJ task forces to investigate problems facing student journalists, and I’m heading up a committee that will spend part of the next few years planning for a grand celebration of the Society’s centennial in 2009.
I mention all of this because committees always need more help and can be a great way for you to become more involved with SPJ on a national level.
In fact, two new national initiatives resulted from members who saw a need and proposed a way to fill it.
Freelance writer Wendy Hoke has formed a Freelance Committee that’s been gathering resources we can share with members via Quill and through our Web site.
The Freelance Committee also is examining what other services the Society might provide to journalists who work on their own.
Board member Holly Fisher helped spur creation of Generation J, a listserv for younger members.
We’ve also set aside space in this magazine for guest columns under the “Generation J” heading written by younger journalists.
National committee work is largely done by e-mail, some telephoning and a once-a-year meeting at convention time. You’ll get a chance to interact with other members throughout the country who share similar interests and know that your input is steering the direction of SPJ nationally and helping the Society do more.
The president makes committee assignments, but, if you have any interest at all, feel free to be in touch with that committee’s chairman or co-chairman. Or, if you are going to Las Vegas, drop in on the committee’s meeting at convention and introduce yourself to the chairman there.
As a practical matter, I’m usually happy to follow the recommendations of our committee chairs, especially if it means more volunteer-power for our organization.
Irwin Gratz is the local host for “Morning Edition” on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.