SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



The big issue

By Billy O'Keefe

Name: Amanda Womac
Chapter: East Tennessee Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? Other than dwindling newsrooms?? I think press credibility is an important issue to discuss and look at how it affects the way people (the public) gather news.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I’d like to network with people for the upcoming SPJ Region 12 Conference I’m organizing – panel ideas?? Come find me!
Name: Rachel Nielsen
Chapter: Deadline Club (New York City chapter)
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? SPJ needs to address what will happen to the thousands of journalists who have been laid off. Will they return to the profession? What jobs will they have? Ultimately, many of them may work in non-profit newsrooms, freelancing, hyperlocal journalism, or Web-only publications. SPJ will need to support those types of journalism to keep its members and to regain those it lost in 2008 and 2009.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? Passing a measure that improves communications between SPJ’s national committees and SPJ leaders. The measure, drafted by the Deadline Club in Region 1, would require the Executive Committee to notify the national committee chair before eliminating that committee’s project or event. This measure will prevent a repeat of what the Ethics Committee and LDF Committee both experienced. Also, I think it will increase the dedication of committee members — they will know their time will be respected.
Name: Gregory J. Gilligan
Chapter: Virginia Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? The most important issue facing this organization is the same that the media industry is facing — the future of traditional media, such as newspapers and television journalism, in the digital world. The changes that have taken place at traditional media outlets have been so rapid and intense in the past year. The industry transformation is so profound that it has and will continue the impact his organization. Fewer reporters and editors mean fewer SPJ members, which, in turn, diminishes SPJ’s ability to carry out its mission.  Fewer reporters and editors mean Watch Dog journalism may not be as important at some newspapers or be done away with altogether.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? To update my skills and learn about new trends at some of the professional development seminars.
Name: Jodi Cleesattle
Chapter: San Diego Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? The most important issue facing SPJ is how to provide value to our members, who are dealing with an industry in flux.  We face the challenge of helping our members deal with tremendous changes in the media landscape — unprecedented cutbacks in newsrooms, the transition to and competition from free online content, the struggle to find online business models that can succeed and be profitable enough to support reporting staff, the need to learn new multimedia skills, and more. SPJ needs to help our members deal with these pocketbook issues, while at the same time continuing our good work in pushing forward for passage of a federal shield law, protecting journalists’ First Amendment rights and the public’s right to know, encouraging diversity in the profession, and promoting the highest ethical standards for journalists.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? As a candidate for Region 11 director, I hope to meet representatives from each of the chapters in our region and have discussions with them about the health of their chapters, the kinds of programs they are sponsoring to provide value to their members, ideas for additional timely and interesting programs, and ways in which chapters can communicate better with their members, each other, and the members of the national SPJ board in order to take advantage of the ideas and resources that can make each chapter stronger.
Name: Elizabeth C. Kelly
Chapter: Southwest Missouri Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? It will be critical for SPJ to offer more information and resources to assist journalists who, because of a tough economy, are facing layoffs and furloughs. Those who remain in news organizations are asked to do more with fewer resources, so SPJ must continue to reach out to these journalists with regional- and chapter-level programs that meet their needs as professionals.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? Voting on behalf of my chapter, learning from the sessions and networking with other professionals.
Name: Kristin M. Kraemer
Chapter: William O. Douglas Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? It is vital to retain members and keep the society’s mission in the forefront as the industry continues to work through a depressed economy and the ever-changing needs of our readers and viewers.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? As a convention regular, I am always eager to meet up with old media friends and meet new ones through networking. But even more key to my attendance is to come away from the convention with a sense of empowerment that we will survive the turmoil, inspiration for on the job and momentum to help keep my small chapter rolling!
Name: Erin Murray
Chapter: West Virginia University Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? Making SPJ accessible to college students. I believe that SPJ has so much to offer students during these levels of education. SPJ helps young students learn their rights as a journalists and gives those students tools to succeed during and after collegiate education.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I am looking to find ways to improve our current program at West Virginia University. We have a small group.
Name: Larissa Kirsten Larivee
Chapter: Minnesota State University Mankato Student Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? As a delegate I am most concerned about the establishment of a federal shield law that would protect all journalists from having to reveal their sources. I strongly believe in the first amendment and that the freedom of speech is a necessary part of the political process. I feel very strongly that no matter what credentials a person has, that as an American citizen the right of a free press protects the free flow of information and the security of the sources. With the changing face of the media and people getting their news from non-traditional sources I feel that bloggers and freelancers need the same protection as the traditional newspapers.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I am running for student chair on the national board of SPJ, because I feel that I have a lot to offer. As president of the Mankato student chapter I learned ways to share my passion for protecting the first amendment and my love of journalistic ethics with students from many disciplines. I would love to help other student chapters with my knowledge and skills that SPJ has helped me develop. I think that I would be a great representative to the student interest.
Name: Scott Theisen
Chapter: Minnesota Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? To me, the most important issue is keeping the Society and its membership strong as our industry goes through this major upheaval.  Over the past year I have seen our chapter lose members, some who are personal friends, simply because they have been driven out of journalism.  As journalists move into business and PR roles in search of stability and better pay, some have decided to discontinue their memberships.  Everyone needs to work together to find a way to keep the industry from shrinking and keep people in journalism.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? At the convention, I’m hoping to connect with new people from across the country and discuss new ideas for the future of journalism.  I would like to learn more about what direction the Society is going in during this time of great change in the industry.  Also, I would like to take a moment to forget about the future and celebrate the past 100 years.
Name: Irwin Gratz
Chapter: Maine Pro
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? Internally, selection of a new executive director; externally, how can SPJ help journalists and journalism organizations as they undergo a wrenching change in the business model that underlies modern journalism
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? As always, I look forward to seeing my many friends and colleagues from around the country whom I’ve met through the Society.  I hope to attend some interesting sessions and, as a member of the resolutions committee, come up with some scintillating prose to give voice to our members concerns about various journalistic issues.
Name: Mia A. Rhodarmer
Chapter: East Tennessee Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ?
SPJ must continue to provide quality programs at the chapter and national level. With training and education budgets being cut and so many journalists out of work, this is more important than ever.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention?
I hope to learn and get some new ideas, connect with old friends and make new ones.
Name: Donna Remer
Chapter: Detroit Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? The hallmark of SPJ is the code of ethics. The questions are: How can SPJ maintain that standard and promote it in the current atmosphere of change?  Do bloggers and citizen journalists care about ethics? And, if not, how can the public find a source of reliable information? Can reporters adhere to the code when financial pressures change the workplace? Time to “fact check” is gone or limited, advertisers put pressure on the newsroom, etc.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I worked in traditional media as a weekly newspaper editor for 20 years but lost that job in late 2007.  Now, I’m a  freelance writer and I hope to get more insight into the new media and how it works.
Name: April Dudash
Chapter: University of Florida Campus Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ?
Because SPJ is such a huge, organized network, it will always carry the responsibility of pushing for a federal shield law. SPJ is an organization that looks after its members and others in the profession, and providing them with that level of protection is key.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I’m always looking for more programming ideas for the UF chapter that will better prepare students for their professional careers. With that said, my goal as a college senior is to absorb as much advice as I can at this conference while getting to know some pretty spiffy people.
Name: J. Alex Tarquinio
Chapter: The Deadline Club/New York City
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? The sea change in our industry that is putting untold numbers of journalists out of work and redefining the role of journalists in society—and not necessarily for the better.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? To discuss ways that SPJ can improve communication within the organization, among the leaders and the general membership.
Name: Libbi Gordon
Chapter: University of Missouri Student Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ?
Job security and protection are the most vital issues facing SPJ.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I hope to gain a better understanding of the North Korea conflict. Also, I’d like to speak with professionals regarding graduate schools.
Name: Bill Knight
Chapter: Western Illinois University Chapter
As a delegate what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? SPJ cannot stay on the sidelines in the growing debate about the outmoded corporate model of journalism (especially metro daily newspapers), which threatens a free press with the unrealistic profit-margin goals and unsustainable debt it has.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? I want to once more interact with journalists, educators and students; network; learn and share.
Name: Robert Leger
Chapter: Valley of the Sun Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ?
Membership numbers, value to members and establishing SPJ’s place in a changing journalism world.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? Have a grand time celebrating SPJ’s centennial.
Name: Mai Hoang
Chapter: William O. Douglas Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? While our industry is in a big transition, so are our members. You have some that are trying to figure out how to transition their journalism skills into a new career. You have others who are trying to lead their newsrooms into the reinvention of our industry. And you have others who are just trying to hold on. I think SPJ needs to continue to provide programming and other services that can help all parts of our membership bridge individual transitions, even if that means they aren’t necessary going to end up in journalism.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention?
I hope to meet other SPJ leaders to pick their brains on great ideas I can use for my local chapter. I also hope to come back with new skills that I can use when I get back on the job.
Name: Susan S. Stevens
Chapter: Chicago pro chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? We have two issues that are linked: Membership and influence. We need the highest numbers possible in order to have an impact at the local and national level when we are working for such things as the Shield Law. As you may know, SPJ lost more than 1,000 members in the last year. Most of the losses were among professional members, which raises a related issue. Our profession is in dire straits as news organizations cut back on the number of employees.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? See how we can better retain and recruit members, plus learn from the pro development sessions.
Name: Jean Ash
Chapter: East Tennessee Pro Chapter
As a delegate, what do you think is the most important issue facing SPJ? I feel the most important issue facing SPJ is maintaining and increasing membership and a related one of staying relevant to journalists as they are moving from the “Mainstream Media” template to making use of all the new technology that’s changed the profession in the last several years.
What are you looking to accomplish at the convention? Looking to accomplish: I’m our chapter’s communications coordinator and I’m planning to attend as many “New Media Track” sessions as I can as well as the Sunday morning workshop, “Homesteading in Cyberspace,” for ideas on improving our two Web sites and increasing the visibility and viability of our already strong chapter.




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