When President Hagit Limor gave her installation speech at the 2010 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference, she announced the elimination of the Future of the Media Committee. Why? Because “It turns out the future was already here.”
“The Future of the Media committee had its place, along with the hundreds of seminars, symposiums and panel discussions by the same name that began some years ago,” the award-winning investigative reporter from Cincinnati said. “The bottom line at every discussion I attended was a prediction that news consumers were gravitating toward web and mobile, and the need for all journalists to become proficient in every aspect of multimedia newsgathering and presentation.”
But that great change was already happening in newsrooms around the country. Some newsrooms adapted to new technologies and workflow sooner than others. To Limor, the bigger question centers on whether consumers who want information for free would buy it in some format that would continue to employ professionals. Her personal belief is a resounding “yes.”
“I believe that from its inception, that’s been the role of SPJ,” she said. “To ensure the survival, training and thriving of professional journalists.
“That isn’t up to one committee with that name. That’s the mission of every committee, and always has been. Each one exists to serve, better, teach, protect and ensure that journalists have the tools – digital or otherwise – to do their jobs in the best manner possible.”
Limor believes the path to embracing journalism’s future is through the continuous hard work various committees are doing to build SPJ’s reputation as an industry leader in the digital age. As the Digital Media Committee works to increase tools, training and access along with the Professional Development Committee, the discussion and work has filtered to the Ethics Committee as it looks into whether the SPJ Code of Ethics needs to account for a new age.
The Freedom of Information Committee is constantly at work as federal agencies make decisions that impact journalists while courts continue to challenge who is a journalist and what kind of information, digital or otherwise, is open.
“SPJ serves as the broadest-based journalism organization in this country,” Limor said when reflecting the 101-year-old organization’s relevance today. “Our members come from every medium, every facet of journalism old and new. As such, we are perfectly positioned to lead the industry in a digital age.”
Where the Society lacks knowledge in this area, Limor hopes to continue enlisting the help of those on the forefront of digital media, both from within SPJ’s membership and from outside.
But to reach that point, Limor believes SPJ’s greatest challenge is to change the perception people have of the organization.
“Many people still think we serve mostly the print medium, not broadcast or digital,” Limor said. “For many years chapters were run by the same cadre of editors and reporters since the days when print was the only game in town. I say this as a person who spent the bulk of her career as a broadcaster.”
But this stigma no longer applies today, because like many professionals, Limor is a multimedia journalist and a “daughter of the digital age.”
“Doing this will not only make us serve current members better but will help us attract new members who never would consider limiting themselves to a print or broadcasting career, not when the world of journalism is expanding before us.” Limor said.
She hopes to build upon that strength through SPJ’s upcoming 2011 Excellence in Journalism Conference with the Radio Television Digital News Association to show the industry that SPJ is the organization to join forces with on important industry issues.
“I think we’ll look back at this as one of the defining moments (in journalism’s history), up there with the invention of the printing press, the first radio broadcasts and the age of television news, Limor said. “I think this will expand consumption of news, not shrink it as some of those first Future of Journalism conferences predicted. This is our opportunity to reach many more people than we ever have.”