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SPJ membership rises more than 6 percent

By Billy O'Keefe

LAURA BURNS / The Working Press
The Society of Professional Journalists’ board members gathered one last time Wednesday under the direction of President Clint Brewer. The board addressed issues ranging from future sites for conventions to revamping the membership database.
The bow tie-clad Brewer gave the report of the president wrapping up a year of representing close to 10,000 journalists. As highlights of his term, Brewer cited a more than 6% increase in membership, the rise of SPJ’s national presence and progress on the federal media shield law.
The SPJ staff’s report included reconsidering New York City as the 2010 convention site. The board suggested taking the city off the table for now while cities with less-expensive hotels could be researched.
Last year’s strategic plan was recapped and the goals of this year’s plan were addressed. In 2007-2008, SPJ ran about half a dozen successful professional development seminars such as training on digital media. Next year, SPJ plans to run town hall meetings for the public and the press to increase media credibility. SPJ will also create the Sunshine Network to share Freedom of Information news and resources.
In other action, the board voted to fund a $55,000 upgrade for the membership database, which would enable members to manage their own data, relieve headquarters staff of time-consuming data entry and ultimately give members access to social networking tools on the SPJ Web site.
“The database now is like stone knives and bearskins,” Terry Harper, SPJ executive director, said. “This is going to bring us to the present.”
A number of adjustments concerned the Awards and Honors committee, including incorporating the New America Award for multicultural reporting into the Sigma Delta Chi Awards.
On the campus side of things, Neil Alan Ralston, vice president of campus chapter affairs, suggested that the board make a statement to the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication that it should require universities to honor the free press rights of student media in addition to teaching about those rights.
In new business, director-at-large Sally Lehman suggested a change in the definition of small chapter memberships—from 75 to 60. Regional directors speak with chapters throughout the convention, and the Board will consider action when it meets again on Sunday.