My parents say they knew I’d be a writer before I could write. I started composing poetry out loud; they would commit it to paper. By the time I hit my teen years, the poetry had morphed into songs I performed with a series of rock bands. Anyone who’s heard me sing knows why I had to find a different outlet for the words I love to string together.
There’s a good chance you also landed in journalism because of a passion that wouldn’t die. Whether a love for words, politics, sports, photography or video, whether you’re motivated by a desire to know everything first, to uncover truths that would remain buried or simply never to get bored, journalism came calling and you were helpless to resist its siren song despite the long hours and low pay that define most of our jobs.
That’s the only way I can explain the continuing parade of interns I mentor who still insist on a journalism career despite the paucity of jobs. We can’t help ourselves. This is who we are.
This also is the reason our industry will survive. For most of us, this isn’t a job. It’s a large part of our identity. It’s a lifeline to connect our passions to our communities, and thereby make them better places to live.
I promise to bring that same passion to the presidency of SPJ.
I will do so from the bottom up. I intend to spend as much time as possible visiting chapters, where the core work that defines our mission plays out most closely to the majority of our 8,000 members. I understand that, as a proud, active member of Greater Cincinnati Pro. I know the challenges of a small group of active members trying to engage the larger journalistic community. I’ve felt the pressure to raise funds while delivering meaningful programming. I’ve balanced the internal political struggles with the social moments that bring back the fun.
From the chapters up to the regions, I will attend as many of our spring conferences as those schedules will allow. Beyond an opportunity to meet as many of you as possible, let me attest to the excellent programming, technical skills training and networking opportunities I’ve witnessed at six different regions in the past two years. If you’re a member who’s never taken advantage of your regional conference, do yourself a favor and attend this year. You’ll learn how to do your job better and may walk away with contacts for your next position.
On a national level, I want to thank Dave Aeikens and Kevin Z. Smith for showing me two different but auspicious leadership styles these past two years. Just as no two editors present the same set of expectations, each led in his own capable way. Now I’ll forge a new path, focusing on expanding our reach internally and externally.
Within our organization, our committees each will produce meaningful projects the chairmen and women and I have discussed to provide continued and improved membership benefit. This includes new training modules behind our firewall, “programming in a box” chapters can use locally, and outreach to new potential members as we continue to rebuild from our recent lows. We’re already on our way. The challenge remains to surpass past highs. I believe this is doable with new emerging journalism constituencies.
The biggest mission I see lies externally. We must win over the hearts and minds of the public at large by reminding them we represent their rights, not special rights. I hope to speak as widely as possible on the reasons the Fourth Estate is essential to guard our democracy.
One way we can grow our outreach lies in new partnerships. We’ve begun working with the Radio Television Digital News Association. Recently, I attended an excellent ethics training program they presented in Cincinnati. SPJ is known world-round for our ethical core mission, with our Code of Ethics cited weekly by many sources. It only makes sense for our two organizations to work together presenting such programs. It is my hope that our partnership for the 2011 national convention in New Orleans will serve only as a start toward a “Super Convention” for all journalists and journalism groups.
I plan to serve you best because I am one of you. I’m a reporter in a shop that’s gone through major upheaval in the past two years. I know furlough firsthand. I’ve picked up a camera for the first time in my career. I’ve learned new skills that only touch the surface of the re-education all of us need to keep our jobs and best serve our profession. I feel your stress, hear your gripes, sense your fears. But I hope you share my hope for our industry, my belief that we’ll come through this valley to deliver what our Founding Fathers expected and challenged us to provide.
After all, we can’t help ourselves. We’re journalists to the core.
2010-11 SPJ President Hagit Limor is an award-winning investigative reporter at E.W. Scripps’ WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. She served as 2009-10 president-elect and 2008-09 secretary-treasurer, chaired the Finance and Executive Director Search committees and served on the Membership and Grants committees. Professionally, she has also worked as an anchor, general assignment reporter and consumer reporter. She’s won dozens of national, state and local journalism awards including three Sigma Delta Chi Awards, a National Headliner Award and nine Emmys. She’s a bachelor’s and master’s graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.