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Journalism organizations spotlight series: SPJ, IRE and ONA

Journalism organizations spotlight series: SPJ, IRE and ONA

Terrance Smith | April 11, 2018

This story was updated at 11:24 a.m. on Monday, April 16, 2018. 

IJNet is launching a spotlight series on journalism organizations to showcase each organization’s goals, projects and benefits for people interested in involved in the media industry.

Journalism organizations are platforms for people interested in the media industry to access the resources they need to thrive. From networking opportunities, trainings and workshops, to championing diversity in the industry; journalism organizations are a thriving entity.

In this feature, IJNet looks at the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and the Online News Association (ONA).

These organizations ultimately share a common mission: to advocate, educate and provide professional development to media professionals. These organizations are all U.S.-based but are open to anyone in the field.

Advocacy

One benefit of large professional organizations is their ability to advocate on behalf of journalists both in and out of the newsroom.

“We’re looking to start our First Amendment Forever Fund once we get the endowment built up,” said SPJ President Rebecca Baker. “[It would be] an endowment allowing SPJ to be more proactive in fighting laws and measures that would close government and keep public information behind closed doors.”

Not only is the organization advocating for journalists outside of the newsroom in courts, they are also advocating for them in the newsroom. In light of the #MeToo movement, SPJ has also created a resource page regarding sexual harassment to explain journalists’ rights and remedies for different issues.

Education

Educating and training journalists is at the forefront of efforts among journalism organizations in the country. IRE president Doug Haddix said their organization is educating newsrooms who have had to make cutbacks.

“IRE provides custom services to newsrooms that have seen major cutbacks on staff — including data analysis, deep research and customized training for newsrooms,” Haddix said.

The current digital landscape in media has created a demand for different types of training.  “We’re working on adding a coding bootcamp,” said Haddix. “So journalists can use tools such as Python to do data analysis and web scraping.”

SPJ’s educational reach expands beyond the newsroom and into the classroom. The organization launched a #Press4Education campaign that pairs journalists and teachers. Journalists visit K-12 classrooms to talk about their industry and career.

So far SPJ has 100 teachers and journalists paired. Their goal was to achieve 100 in one year but did so in only six weeks.

ONA executive director Irving Washington discussed changing the direction of the organization to look at broader issues so they can help advance the media industry.

“ONA was founded in 1999 when digital was a niche,” Washington said. “You had to convince people that they need to pay attention to this thing called the internet. Fast forward to now there is no need to convince. Where do we go now that everyone knows the importance of digital?”

The organization now looks at industry problems holistically and has started to incorporate diversity programming. One of the ways ONA is addressing diversity is through its Women’s Leadership Accelerator Program, which began as a weeklong program and has been extended to a year.

Washington said, “[It] really has a made an impact to make sure we can help get women in leadership positions.”

Community

Finding a journalism community can be significant to grow and improve skills, a point which these organizations recognize and help facilitate.

Contrary to its name, IRE offers networking opportunities for everyone, not just investigative journalists.

“People don't realize that IRE includes college journalism students and professors,” said Haddix. “I joined in 1996 and like most people, IRE changed my career and gave me new data and investigative skills.”

Washington said he believes ONA is pushing change forward throughout the industry and people find community in ONA’s dynamic environment.

“We have become a home for people that are pushing for innovation in the industry,” said Washington. “When you join the ONA community, you connect with people who push for the same journalism you do.”

Networking is a huge component in advancing a journalist’s career. These organizations are where someone can find a community to reach out to and meet members that can speak on your behalf.

“My last four jobs have been directly or indirectly from people I’ve met through SPJ,” said Baker. “SPJ is an organization that is there for you. From a student coming up to mid-career, we’re there for you.”

There are several benefits to becoming a member of one of these organizations. One of which includes discounted rates annual conferences that include workshops, networking opportunities and trainings on the latest advancements in the industry.

These organizations have local chapters inside the U.S. for people to learn and get involved. To see if there is a chapter in your city or for more information about SPJ, IRE  & ONA, visit their websites.

Main image CC-licensed by Pixabay via freeGraphicToday.

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