Cleveland Business Connects

The June Amplify luncheon, held June 28 at Windows on the River, featured remarks...

Local chapter of SPJ “spotlights” journalists throughout Northeast Ohio

By Nina Polien Light   |   Photo by McKinley Wiley

Inherent in the Society of Professional Journalists’ mission is safeguarding the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s access to government agency records that goes with it. That commitment to transparency is also reflected in the local chapter’s approach to programming.

“Our membership is invited to events as well as the general public,” Kaye Spector, the president of SPJ Cleveland, says. “Events tend to focus on news events or the practice of journalism, and we have at least four of those a year — usually more.”

Many programs feature a discussion topic with a panel of three or four experts and are held at local universities, libraries, restaurants or bars.

Recent programs have included viewing “Spotlight,” a film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into alleged sexual abuse in the Catholic church; visiting the exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage; and co-hosting “Celebrating Women in Cleveland Media” with the John Carroll University student chapter. The JCU program, which coincided with International Women’s Day, featured WKYC’s Micki Byrnes and Cleveland.com’s Ryllie Danylko and Leila Atassi.

Additionally, SPJ Cleveland hosts the Distinguished Service Award luncheon at the City Club every May. There, the chapter grants its highest service award to a local journalist. The group also presents the Porter Scholarship to a high school student demonstrating the skills and desire to enter the journalism profession.

“When you look at the list of past recipients, you see a lot of those journalists working in Cleveland today,” Spector says. “Helping the next generation of journalists is an important part of SPJ. It’s rewarding to see those investments come back and benefit the community.”

All events allow participants the opportunity to network, which Spector says is important for journalists at every stage of their career.

“It’s a means for college students to meet and interact with working professionals because, until they become a reporter, most people haven’t met a journalist,” Spector says. “We try to help them learn about journalism, establish good practices, and give them a lift up to the working world. For working professionals who are dealing with layoffs so much today, an organization like ours is all the more important to provide a sounding board for ideas, training on the latest techniques, and good, old-fashioned networking.”

Some SPJ Cleveland members are freelancers or journalists who are temporarily working in another field while trying to reenter the profession. SPJ allows them to make connections in hopes of picking up freelance work or finding permanent employment. It also encourages them to maintain friendships with former colleagues.

SPJ Cleveland was founded in 1950 by 21 journalists. Today the chapter boasts about 60 members with an equal distribution of men and women. About a quarter of the membership is comprised of news executives, such as CEOs, owners or editors-in-chief. Working professionals, educators, and freelancers make up the rest of the membership. All are future, current, or former journalists who work in print, broadcast, multimedia, or citizen journalism. The group is not focused on other communication professions, such as public relations or marketing.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, multimedia organizations, and other news outlets are encouraged to obtain a Newsroom Membership, which extends benefits to the news organization as well as to individual staff members. Depending on the membership level chosen, the news outlet pays national SPJ an annual fee of $250 (Bronze), $750 (Silver), or $1,250 (Gold). Among the benefits included at every level are a subscription to SPJ’s Quill publication, eCampus Training, and discounts on individual local memberships for staff members. The Silver and Gold tiers also include free job postings, one regular conference reimbursement, a customized webinar, and a free entry to SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi awards contest. The Gold level’s benefits add one in-person training session for the newsroom and a complimentary national convention registration.

Belonging to a professional journalism organization helps journalists stay focused on the industry’s core values, Spector says.

“Journalism is in such an era of change, and ethics and standards are as important as they have ever been, so we feel strongly about promoting and supporting them,” she says. “Freedom of Information is also important. We’re leading a big charge now nationally for more transparency at the federal level with public records. These things are important to us as a group — and we reflect that through our programming and awards.” 

For more information: spjchapters.org/cleveland

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