After being laid off from her corporate business job, along with the help of SPJ, Neuts was able to establish herself as a freelance writer in the Seattle-area. Neuts additionally created a personal website, Virtually Yourz, and established a hyper-local news site for her local town, IloveKent.net — all while continuing to regularly contribute to AARP Bulletin and The Seattle Times.
Through her commitment and dedication, she’s been able to establish herself as a highly regarded professional journalist. Now, she wants to give back to the society that’s supported her own growth.
“I want to know what I can do for you,” Neuts said late Thursday afternoon. “What can I do for the students? What can I do for professional journalists? What can I do for journalism?”
After filling out a detailed application and going through a campaign process, Neuts was announced the president-elect of SPJ at last year’s EIJ conference in Anaheim. She will officially be inducted at the EIJ Conference on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. as a part of the SPJ President’s Installation Banquet.
For her tenure as President of the society, Neuts outlined her main goals to address in her year at the position. In addition to the Ethics Code revision, she stresses journalism advocacy and putting efforts toward making it proactive rather than reactive to the industry. In addition, she wants to develop communities, with a minimum of 20 people required, to focus on issues like membership, freedom of information and ethics. These communities would be specifically designed to “reach a much larger audience and to better serve our members,” she said in a follow-up, with the goal of having many more than 20 SPJ members involved.
“We have members of the communities of journalists telling SPJ what they need and connecting with each other in new and different ways for SPJ support so I think these are really important,” she said. “It’s a new way for our members to connect with each other and get the resources they need to become better journalists and find jobs.”
Listing the Freelance Community and the Digital Community SPJ has recently established, Neuts anticipates the development of more communities involving the Generation J group and a separate outlet specifically aimed at students.
Dedicating her full support to the Ethics Committees, Neuts is hoping that the revision will pass at the conference (the Ethics Committee will be meeting at EIJ in the upper level’s Presidential Boardroom B Friday at 3:30 p.m.). Her approach is “looking to what’s next.”
“If they approve it, we have to implement it. We have to tell the world,” Neuts said.
In the event that the Code of Ethics is not passed by the delegates, Neuts said they will determine the next best move, approaching it from a “facilitator’s perspective.”
In preparation for her role, Neuts said conferences like EIJ allow her to focus on meeting the people she has only known virtually through the likes of social media. She said she also enjoys the community atmosphere at conferences where different organizations and groups come together in one place.
“It’s a good place to touch base and connect with people face-to-face who I know virtually,” she said, mentioning that she has followed many of the student representatives running for election on Twitter but now has a chance to meet them in person.
On Saturday evening, Neuts will be inducted as the eighth female president of SPJ. Others may feel the pressure, but Neuts said she doesn’t feel it.
“Despite the perception of SPJ as an old print organization, I have seen the culture shift on my time in the board,” Neuts said, who has been on the board for six years. “I don’t feel like I have ever been discriminated against because I am a female, I feel like young and old men and women have always treated me with respect and listened to me. For me, being a female is a non-issue.”
Neuts added: “That’s not to say that I don’t want our female members to be proud that there’s a woman leading this organization.”
Alongside her work at SPJ, Neuts said she loves speaking with students. They often ask her how to find a job, but she encourages them to go beyond simply a paycheck.
“SPJ is not just about how to find you a job. It’s about giving you resources, a way to connect you to different people, how to find lifelong friends and networking that can benefit you on a long term basis, long after you find your first job,” she said.
Ultimately, Neuts said she is where she is today because of SPJ. She said her main priority is to provide that for the journalists of the future.
“I am tired of people talking about how the sky is falling and print is dead, I want students to know that they are in control of their future,” she said. “They are our immediate future, if they’re not happy with the current landscape, they have the power to change it.
“I want them to be positive and just go out and follow their passion.”