A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Convention News – 2011

By Quill

Cross earns Wells Memorial Key

Al Cross was the 2011 recipient of the Wells Memorial Key, presented the final night of the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. The Wells Key is the highest honor bestowed on a member for service to the Society.

Cross, a University of Kentucky journalism professor and director of the school’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, was the 2001-02 national SPJ president. He currently serves as chairman of the Government Relations Committee.

“You hope that whatever you did to deserve (the Wells Key) serves as an example to others,” Cross said after accepting the award.

Cross began as a charter member of SPJ at Western Kentucky University in 1974. He later served as president of the Louisville chapter, vice president of the Bluegrass chapter and Region 5 Director.

The Wells Key is named for Chester Wells, who died during his presidency of Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ’s original name, in 1913. Read more about the award and see a list of past honorees here.

Delegates consider controversial resolutions, change bylaws to allow “One Member, One Vote”

Chapter delegates considered 11 resolutions and accepted proposed bylaws amendments during the closing business session Sept. 27.

Two resolutions were put forth, one by the Ft. Worth chapter and another by a group of SPJ members throughout the country, regarding the retired Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. Both resolutions sought to reinstate the award, which the SPJ board of directors retired in January 2011 after controversial statements by Helen Thomas about Israel. Both resolutions failed.

Delegates approved a resolution calling on newsrooms and journalists to stop using the phrase “illegal alien” in news stories. (See the related Diversity Toolbox on page 13.)

Read the text and outcomes of all resolutions.

Because of an approved bylaws change, all dues-paid member of SPJ will have the option of voting for national board members beginning in 2012. Delegates approved the “One Member, One Vote” provision that has been considered in some form every few years over the past decade.

David Carlson made changing to an all-member voting system a key point of his 2005-06 national presidency. He spoke in favor of the change, noting that even if 10 percent of SPJ members voted, that would still roughly quadruple the amount of votes currently cast by chapter delegates.

Complete coverage of the resolutions and bylaws changes as well as more conference news is available from The Working Press here.

Money raised for Legal Defense Fund

SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund, which supports legal fees for journalists and news organizations, got a boost of cash through an auction held in New Orleans. In total, $7,830.00 was raised through live and silent events. Items included a two-night stay at the Marriot Harbor Beach hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the 2012 conference site; an SPJ director’s chair signed by members of the Watergate investigative team; and numerous historical journalism memorabilia items.

Mark of Excellence Awards presented

Exceptional student journalism from 2010 was honored during the Student Union awards and networking event held in New Orleans. Awards were presented for national first-place winners in categories covering newspapers, radio, television, magazines, art/graphics and online journalism from two- and four-year colleges.

National winners and finalists were first honored as winners in one of SPJ’s 12 regions. First-place regional winners in each category are then judged on the national level. Judges then select one winner and two national finalists in each category.

See a full list of all 2010 MOE national winners and finalists.

Keynote, Super Sessions headline conference

Excellence in Journalism attendees had three chances to hear from industry leaders and big names headlining the conference.

CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager gave a keynote address in which he highlighted the successes of the long-running Sunday evening news magazine.

“This profession is hard, is difficult, it’s challenging, but it’s fun,” Fager said. “We get to witness history, we get to make a difference, we get to shed light on important stories that have ventured far and wide across the earth.”

In separate Super Sessions, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin spoke of their roles in the field.

O’Brien is the host and lead reporter for CNN’s “In America” series. Carvin leads NPR’s social media efforts and gained attention for his use of Twitter to report on and document protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.

Recaps and audio of all three sessions are here.

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