End of year message from the SPJ Detroit president

Dear SPJ members and friends,

This has been a very tough year for journalists and, particularly, for local journalists. Amid that drama, Michigan was center stage – hosting an epicenter of the nation’s Black Lives Matter movement, swaying the 2020 presidential election and weighing the outbreak and challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Our colleagues, our newsrooms and our news organizations had roles in the daily coverage, whether from our emptied office buildings, our troubled streets or our converted home offices. We met those challenges despite the downsizing, the cutbacks and the layoffs in our respective newsrooms. And we did it in a climate of alternate facts, fake news, conspiracy theories behind an ever-growing mistrust of journalists.

Through it all, the Society of Professional Journalists and this Detroit chapter have followed a mission of maintaining an open press in its effort to preserve democracy.

Here is a sampling of some of the things your SPJ accomplished this year:

  • Joined the National Press Club and Wayne State University on programs about how journalists have responded and been affected by the COVID pandemic.
  • Pushed initiatives and programs promoting Freedom of Information reforms and transparency of city and state records and the officials overseeing them.
  • Provided and supported programs to give grants and other funds to unemployed and underemployed journalists in this region.
  • Increased the number and size of scholarships to area college and high school students.

And here are some of the things SPJ Detroit is excitedly planning for 2021:

  • Increasing our efforts to be more responsive and supportive of area journalists in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
  • Launching membership and communications campaigns for new and former members.
  • Making the annual “Excellence in Journalism” competition even bigger and more of the feature event that it is.

And here are some of the steps the chapter has taken to get there:

  1. Expansion of the board of directors, representing more regional media organizations. The new board members are:
  • Rob Davidek — news director, WWJ Newsradio 950
  • Vince Duffy – news director, Michigan Public Radio
  • Ashley Woods-Branch – founder, Detour Detroit
  • Don Wyatt – vice president of news, Michigan Group, Digital First Media
  1. Reorganization and alignment of committees. Here is a breakdown:
    • FOIA
      • Chair: Katrease Stafford — vice president, SPJ Detroit, and  national race  and ethnicity writer,  Associated Press
    • Programming
      • Chair: Vince Duffy – news director, Michigan Public Radio
    • Membership
      • Chair: Marty Fischhoff – secretary, SPJ Detroit, and director of community engagement & communications, Detroit Public TV
    • Communications
      • Chair: Dan Stocking – treasurer, SPJ Detroit, and media relations, Weber Shandwick
    • Awards
      • Chair: Michael Wayland, past president, SPJ Detroit, and automotive reporter, CNBC.com
    • Contest
      • Chair: Walter Middlebrook, former past president, SPJ Detroit, and Foster Professor of Practice, Pennsylvania State University

SPJ Detroit is envisioning big things in 2021 and we hope you’ll join us. All members are welcome to become involved, from joining the working committees to participating in our upcoming activities. We ask that you also consider renewing your SPJ memberships. For details, go to spjdetroit.org.

Happy Holidays! Stay safe and look to hear more from SPJ Detroit in 2021.


Beth Konrad
SPJ Detroit

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