Society of Professional Journalists win Outstanding Campus Chapter award
By Meghan O’dea
The Ohio University Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists won the 2016 Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year Award.
SPJ members at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans accept the National Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year award.
The Society of Professional Journalists is the nations oldest and largest journalism organization. Nerissa Young, SPJ faculty adviser and E.W. Scripps School of Journalism instructor, was honored last year with the 2015 Outstanding Campus Adviser Award.
SPJ members at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans meet with "Washington Post" editor Marty Baron.
Young stated that winning the award for the organization affirms the quality of students and work being done as a top national journalism school.
"This honor says OU SPJ is holding up the ideals of the organization and journalism through professional development, advocating ethics in the profession and encouraging a free and open society," Young said.
Lynn Walsh, the national president of SPJ, poses with OUSPJ members after her installation banquet at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans.
The Ohio University chapter hosted 21 club events, offering opportunities such as tutorials, workshops and networking with outstanding journalists.
OU SPJ hosted prominent events including the annual Grammar Smackdown competition with cash prizes for the top three teams, and sponsored the Future of Student Media Summit national conference on campus last spring.
The chapter led discussions on investigative reporting through the screenings of Spotlight and Happy Valley, which are about sex-abuse scandals of Catholic priest and the Penn State football team, respectively.
Speakers were brought in to share insights about the ethics of investigative and political reporting. SPJ hosted several programs per month and can bring in big speakers. In 2015, they hosted the Regions 4 and 5 conference, which brought publicity to the university, the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the chapter on campus, according to Young.
In addition to journalism-related events, SPJ made sure to include a public service initiative. Members volunteered for Athens’ Veterans Day parade by helping with the parade lineup and serving lunch to veterans.
Kate Hiller, former 2015-2016 OUSPJ president, remembers when few professionals were willing to speak at meetings. She has seen the organization grow in membership, variety of programs and prevalence in the journalism school. Now she thinks the organization is worth the cost for the university to fund and bring in big names in the industry.
"As someone who has grown in leadership and responsibility in the organization, it is a wonderful reminder of how impactful the work I do can be," Hiller said. "I am honored to be part of the award-winning history of this chapter, as I hope others are, too."
Hayley Harding, current Ohio University Chapter SPJ president, said it is important for the OUSPJ chapter to be nationally recognized.
A program we did this year, featuring Grammy-winning singers who sang songs banned for various reasons throughout the decades as a tribute to free speech.
"It means the world to us. It’s really validating to win national recognition, because we work so hard day in and day out to make OUSPJ valuable to its members," Harding said.
Requesting funding or assistance is a lot easier when you have national accreditation, because people are more inclined to help, according to Harding.
When asked what else is left to accomplish, Hiller said: "I am incredibly proud of what Hayley is working on with the chapter and I can only say that it seems to get better and better each year. Hayley started out as one of our freshman liaisons the year I was chapter president and hasn’t looked back since."
An investigative reporter from BuzzFeed, meeting with SPJ members as he was in Athens to accept the Farfel Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Harding recognized the importance of building a holistic chapter. "I rely heavily on my amazing team of officers to make sure cool things are happening, Harding said. They are a great group of people, and I am so proud of them. OUSPJ wouldn’t be half as stellar without them."
Harding is excited to keep planning the rest of the 2016-17 academic year for SPJ. The chapter was great before, but it’s even better today, Hiller said.