SPJ advisers urged to use creativity

By David W. Bulla

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Tara Puckey of the Society of Professional Journalists told chapter advisers attending the AEJMC conference at the Renaissance Hotel on Thursday to be imaginative when planning activities with their student executive boards.

“Be innovative and make some of the activities fun,” said Puckey, the SPJ chapter coordinator. “This also includes membership drives. There needs to be member benefit.”

Puckey and other members of a panel discussing the benefits of SPJ to journalism education gave examples of such fun activities, including publishing an “Unethical Press,” in which the content breaks the four major ethical guidelines from the organization—acting independently, not harming sources, being accountable, and seeking the truth and reporting it. In such a mock newspaper, the professional rules are tossed out, and then the lesson starts as the members of the chapter red-line the problems.

“It’s a great learning tool,” Puckey said, “because it’s fun and engaging.”

As a fun fund-raising activity, Kevin Smith of Ohio State mentioned having a professorial popularity contest—something he did when he taught at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.  Students put coins in five different jars with a different prof’s face on each jar. Meanwhile, Smith borrowed a piglet from a local farmer for the trophy.

“The most popular professor ‘lost,’ and he had to kiss the piglet,” Smith said.

Another entertaining activity, started at Florida Atlantic University, is giving up First Amendment rights for a free lunch.

“If you try to assemble with others after agreeing to the free meal, a goon squad will stop you,” said Vincent Filak of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

George Daniels of Alabama mentioned having a poker night for members.

“You can’t take part unless you are a registered member,” he said. “It’s a fun way to build membership.”

Mike Reilley, the national SPJ adviser of the year from DePaul, said that another important opportunity for students is attending the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute. Reilley said that student board members should highly considering attending the institute.

Daniels also encouraged advisers to think about enlisting a second faculty member as a co-adviser. That way, when an adviser has a change in job responsibility, there will be in place an adviser who can maintain the chapter at a high level.

June Nicholson of Virginia Commonwealth and Jimmy McCollum of Lipscomb University encouraged SPJ chapters to work with high school journalism programs.

The panel was sponsored by the Scholastic Journalism Division of AEJMC.

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