Conflict: A Behind-the-Scenes Snapshot of SPJ, Region 1

I’m not identifying anyone regarding recent email correspondence sent to me as part of an info-outreach by the Region I Director of the Society of Professional Journalists. Since several WORD writers have won SPJ Mark of Excellence awards in recent years, I try to be in contact with the organization though not actively involved. 

Dear Professor:
As the Region One Director for the National Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), I am reaching out to you as I have your name and email address on my list as the SPJ liaison for your college or university’s SPJ chapter. I would like you to know that I am available to you as a source of information and support for your chapter.

What follows is the edited response from a journalism professor who has been seriously involved with the organization for several years.  I thought I would post without explanation an edited version of what he wrote to the regional director but if several days from now I notice the need for more clarity, I will re-address this decision. I think the whole matter is very informative.


Hi, C: You have sent me a couple of e-mails, reaching out to show you are interested in campus chapters. I remember you from many years ago when you and I both worked with V… K…

Since that time, SPJ has been hijacked in Region I by a “good ole boys” network. At the time, SPJ national was also undergoing some major changes that left me wondering about its leadership. During all the years I was in SPJ, I noted it was a good organization – with flaws that needed to be fixed. Few were. As one not among the “in” group, my views were seldom heard.

Some of my views were that SPJ was set up as an organization for working journalists – but that executives, PR people, and corporate Management-in-the-guise of editors have dominated. I also challenged the costs of attending regional and national meetings, esp. since it tended to exclude the working journalist.

I also was vigorous, as was B… K…, in pushing through a resolution, voted upon by the membership at a national convention, to have SPJ address issues of the workplace – only to have leadership deliberately override the concerns of members. And, SPJ leaders continue to wonder why membership is in decline?

Attached you will find two letters I wrote 3 or so years ago [Note from Morris: Letters not attached but that could change in the future]. These letters pretty much sum up why I resigned from SPJ, and from an organization that has failed to live up to its position as representing the workers. I also noted that SPJ was one of the LAST of the media organizations to even speak out against the PATRIOT Act.

How can an organization that holds the FOI issues as a base be so inept as to NOT speak out against a law that violates the very tenets of the First Amendment? (Not to mention the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments). The courts have agreed with this interpretation AGAINST the PATAct.

Anyhow, when SPJ again reclaims its base as an organization for members (you know, the reporters making $25,000 a year, with split shifts and minimal benefits), then I might re-join.

And that’s all he wrote.

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