The Working Press
Cows outnumber people 4-to-1 in Nebraska, joked Katie Schubert as she tried to explain the difficulty of restarting a Society of Professional Journalists chapter there.
Although the cow statistic is correct, according to the Nebraska Beef Council, the state also is full of journalists eager to work together, says Schubert, news director for KIOS radio in Omaha, an NPR affiliate.
Schubert and other journalists in the Great Plains state have been working since last month to restart SPJ’s now dormant Omaha-Lincoln professional chapter.
“We have a lot to work on, but to me this is really exciting,” Schubert said. “Starting this chapter is going to be an incredibly daunting task, but I’m here (at the convention) to get ideas and support.”
Sheets, a past president of the St. Louis Pro Chapter, said Nebraska has a long tradition of journalism and would greatly benefit from having an SPJ chapter.
“It’s really sad that their chapter went dormant,” Sheets said. “We have four states in our region, and no chapter, student or professional, in one state. That has to be rectified.”
The four states are Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
Besides Nebraska, three other states also have no SPJ chapters: South Dakota, North Dakota and Delaware.
Separately, four other states have no professional chapters but have one or more student chapters: Iowa, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.
Sheets said technological advances, such as videoconferencing, would make it easier for Midwest chapters to collaborate.
“One of my goals as region director is to use Nebraska as a guinea pig in incorporating online tools throughout the region,” he said.
Carl Corry, Eastern Region Doctor, has helped get many struggling chapters back on their feet.
Corry, who is running for the national position of director-at-large, said it’s important to get professionals excited about SPJ in their area.
“You have to get them excited,” Corry said. “Tell them about the networking opportunities, tell them they now have a support network of thousands of journalists who share your same values.”
Schubert said she already has more than 20 people interested in joining, the minimum required to become a chapter, once it’s officially recognized by SPJ and granted a charter.
Her group already has been holding events, including an upcoming happy hour with area journalists.
Schubert, however, said one of the difficult tasks of starting a chapter is keeping the excitement rolling.
“It’s going to be a busy year making connections and letting people know Nebraska once again has a chapter and we are here to stay,” Schubert said.
Anyone interested in the upcoming Omaha-Lincoln Chapter can follow it on Facebook at facebook.com/SPJOmaLnk.
States that have No Pro Chapters
Nebraska — no chapters.
Iowa — 3 student chapters.
South Dakota — no chapters.
North Dakota — no chapters.
Louisiana — 3 student chapters.
Delaware — no chapters.
Georgia — 1 student chapter.
South Carolina — 2 student