Our year in review here at St. Louis SPJ

The St. Louis Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists submitted our annual report to the national organization at the end of May. We’re happy to say our report was accepted and our charter renewed for another year. Whew.

Aside from all the boring financial documents and bylaws, we recapped our major activities for the past year. So what did we do this year (up through May, at least)? Read on!

• SPJ Student Boot Camp. Each year we bring in working professionals in various disciplines for a day-long “Journalism 101” program as an intensive training opportunity for student journalists.

Subjects range from basic newswriting and interviewing to FOIA, investigative techniques, video and social media, ethics, feature writing, Google Tools and other skills.

We bring in a local police officer to present a mock press conference, and the students ask him questions as they would on the job. They have an hour to write a story, and a group of volunteer judges awards prizes for the best stories.

This annual program is free to students, and a highlight of our year.

The next one is tentatively slated for Sept. 15, and we need volunteers! Contact Elizabeth Donald at elizabethdonald@aol.com.

SPJ Night at the Movies. This year we attended a showing of The Post in February, inviting the public to see the film and join us for a conversation afterward at a local restaurant. We were bedeviled by a snowstorm this year, but we try to repeat this program whenever a journalism-related movie is released in the hopes of continuing public discussion and engagement.

Public presentations and representation. Chapter president Elizabeth Donald gave presentations on the depiction of journalists in television, film and other fiction at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Archon STL, a local popular culture convention; on practical applications of ethics at SIU and journalismSTL; and on the business aspects of a writing career at Imaginarium, a writers’ conference in Louisville, Ky. She also joined other communications professionals from public relations and marketing for a roundtable discussion with a local student chapter of PRSSA.

Donald represented the chapter at the spring regional conference in Iowa and Excellence in Journalism in Anaheim, Calif., and serves on the advisory board for the SIUE Alestle and the national SPJ Ethics Committee.

First Amendment Free* Food Festival. As has become an annual tradition, we help fund the annual festival, in which students and members of the public can sign away their First Amendment rights in return for pizza, and get a “taste” of what it’s like to live without those rights. At least 90 people participated with another 30 or so observing. Volunteers play the enforcers and counter-protesters, and SPJ members often join in. This festival is organized by the Alestle staff at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Advocacy. We issued a public statement in September 2017 protesting the arrest of reporter Mike Faulk by the St. Louis Police Department during protests and unrest following the acquittal of a police officer. A photo circulated of Faulk being arrested while clearly cooperating, with his press pass in plain view. Donald also reached out to Faulk personally and encouraged him to seek help from the SPJ Legal Fund in the event his newspaper did not support him.

Partnerships. We partnered with the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat and Racial Harmony of Southwestern Illinois to promote a program titled “Then I Knew,” a documentary produced by the BND examining race in our region. We worked with reporter Cara Anthony to help plan and promote the event using our social media and direct email network, and manned an informational table at the event handing out information about SPJ and copies of the Code of Ethics. In addition, we continue to partner with the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists, St. Louis Press Club and new partners Online News Association to cross-promote and support each others’ programs,.

Chapter fun. We have reinstituted our quarterly happy hours, and are always on the look for other fun activities for our members! We are continuing our bimonthly newsletter and frequent posts on Facebook and Twitter to keep our members well-informed, as well as maintaining an up-to-date website.

Fundraising. Our sole fundraiser all year is our Trivia Night, which takes place in the fall. Last year it was hosted by the International Institute of St. Louis, and plans are already underway for this year.

Keep in mind that our sole sources of funding are this one trivia night and our chapter dues of $15, which are voluntary for SPJ members. It is our philosophy that our programs should be open to as many journalists as possible, not just our members. But to keep doing that, we need support!

Our recent membership drive has grown our numbers by 12.5 percent since the beginning of 2018, but we hope for more to come. Please consider joining SPJ and supporting our programs!

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