John C. Long and Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez have never met. But they are linked to the same Kentucky newsroom and, like all SPJ members, are driven by a passion for the profession.
Their paths to membership couldn’t be more diverse.
Born with printer’s ink in his veins, John started working at age 3 alongside his father, who ran The Knox County Citizen in Fredericktown, Ohio.
At Ohio Wesleyan University, he was a political science major before making a commitment to journalism as a staff writer for the student newspaper, The Transcript. His father suggested he join his local SPJ chapter. But John was turned away.
“You can’t join, because you’re a student,” he was told. Thank goodness times — and policies — have changed and college students are now among the most valued members of the Society, which has 106 chapters on campuses across the country. And that number is likely to have increased by the time you read this.
When John moved on to The Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, as a reporter — and then to assistant to the executive editor — he was once again encouraged to join SPJ. This time his application was accepted and he was inducted into the Louisville chapter on May 1, 1972, later serving as its president.
John’s dedication to SPJ continued when he arrived in New York City in 1998 for an editing position at The Wall Street Journal. He wasted no time reaching out to the New York chapter. “I had lunch with Deadline Club President Betsy Ashton and left as Deadline Club treasurer,” he laughs. He went on to serve as club president and continues as an active board member.
Now as director of the Main Street Free Press Museum in Fredericktown, John finds SPJ as relevant today as when he joined five decades ago.
“The ideals of SPJ are my ideals —advocating for a free press and the First Amendment,” he says, adding that he especially appreciates the mission of the Legal Defense Fund. “It’s so important for journalists to work together.”
Congratulations, John, on your SPJ golden anniversary. You join an illustrious group of 150 other SPJ members who have hit that remarkable milestone.
A NEW CHAPTER TAKES SHAPE
Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez was born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, but these days she’s covering breaking news for The Courier Journal, John Long’s alma mater.
She joined the paper after earning a master’s degree in journalism in 2021 from American University in Washington, D.C.
Ana’s path to SPJ membership was not quite as circuitous as John’s.
It began about a year ago with a direct message on LinkedIn from someone she didn’t even know. Adam Sennott, president of SPJ New England, was looking for the right leader to start an SPJ pro chapter in Puerto Rico.
“Hey, Ana … Let me know if this is something you might be interested in,” Adam messaged.
“Thank you so much for reaching out; I would be very interested,” was her eager response — not surprising from a journalist who fell in love with the profession during a high school trip to the former Newseum in D.C.
Today Ana serves as the long-distance president of the Puerto Rico chapter, which boasts 23 members. A strong executive board on the island keeps the chapter on track while Ana builds bylines in Kentucky. Thank you, Ana, for your SPJ leadership, which we hope will continue for the next 49 years.
Claire Regan, 2022-23 national SPJ president, is an assistant professor of journalism at Wagner College in New York City.