Rutgers Society of Professional Journalists Wins Regional Chapter of the Year Award

Rutgers Society of Professional Journalists Wins Regional Chapter of the Year Award

Chapter Beats Out 28 Other Campus SPJ Organizations
Rutgers University Society of Professional Journalists
From left to right: RUSPJ Officers Travis Fedschun and Abira Sangupta; School of Communication and Information Dean Jorge Reina Schement; and RUSPJ Officers Jessica Parotta and Jennifer Lilonsky

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NEW BRUNSWICK — The Rutgers student chapter of the Society
of Professional Journalists has been named 2010 Chapter of the Year for the
region that encompasses the entire Northeast.

This distinction, which recognizes the work of the students
in the chapter, places Rutgers at the top of the 28 college chapters in the
region which includes New York, New Jersey, all of New England and the eastern
half of Pennsylvania.

Winning this award is considered an unusual distinction for
a college chapter because the level of competition in the region is very high
and includes some of the top journalism chapters in the United States.

In winning this award, the Rutgers chapter is considered a
four-star chapter, the highest level attained by a college chapter. It means
the chapter submitted its annual report on time; the chapter was represented at
both the regional conference and the national convention; the chapter met the
membership requirement; it held a minimum of eight meetings per year including
four meetings on journalism related topics such as diversity, Freedom Of
Information, Project Watchdog, campus crime reporting, ethics or any other
topic currently relevant to SPJ missions. During the past year, the Rutgers
chapter held many meetings that met this requirement, including its Campus
Media Forum, in which representatives of the campus media met with the Rutgers
community to defend their news judgment.

The Rutgers chapter, based at the School of Communication and Information, also brought well-known journalists to
campus and held a session to acquaint Rutgers students, as well as the general
public, with the Open Public Records Act.

The decision to grant the award to Rutgers was made by the
Regional Director of SPJ, Luther Turmelle.

“Being a leader requires an ability to do what is right, not
what is popular,” said Turmelle. “It also means listening to what others have
to say and sometimes modifying your opinion because others have made a case for
something you might not have thought of before.”

Rutgers students traveling to the SPJ National Convention in
Las Vegas the week of Oct. 3 will receive the award in person. Only 11 chapters
were selected for Chapter of the Year out of hundreds across the United States.

"It’s encouraging to see so many young journalists
dedicated to upholding the ideals of SPJ," Turmelle added. "I was
especially impressed with the campus chapter’s collaborative effort with the
Rutgers Department of African Studies to produce a program on censorship in
Sierra Leone. The RU chapter also had a program that brought all types of
campus media together to discuss the importance of ethical journalism. At a
time when some would suggest that journalism is at a crossroads, the effort
that the Rutgers chapter of SPJ gives me confidence that the future of our
business is in good hands.”

Although membership is open to any undergraduate or graduate
student at Rutgers in any major, the officers of SPJ are currently majors in
the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.

“I was so moved by the announcement,” said Ron Miskoff, who
teaches journalism at Rutgers and is one of the two advisers of the group. “I
have worked with students toward this goal for 15 years, and each group of
students built on the one before. Sometimes it was two steps forward; one step
back. This award does not mean, however, we can rest on our accomplishments,
but rather try to emulate the best in journalism and to serve the Rutgers
community. The key is to educate future journalists so that the level of
expectation remains high.”

The chapter’s advising duties are shared between Miskoff and
Dr. Barbara Reed, who also teaches in the Department of Journalism and Media
Studies. The department is part of the School of Communication and Information
(SC&I).

President Travis Fedschun noted that the past few years were
important in building the chapter’s activities and goals.

“It is just really nice to see what we've done with this
organization over the past three years in going from a group barely scraping by
to one that is an active part not only in the realm of SC&I, but also
university-wide,” he said. “It’s exciting not only to look at what we've
already been able to accomplish, but to what lies ahead for us in the future.”

Other key journalism figures on the Rutgers campus were
likewise impressed.

"I have long admired the hard work and dedication of
our journalism students,” said Dean Jorge Reina Schement, the dean of SC&I.
“I'm delighted to see them receive this hard won recognition."

He was joined in his praise by John Pavlik, the chair of the
Department of Journalism and Media Studies.

"The Rutgers SPJ chapter provides a distinct addition
to the classroom,” Pavlik said. “By holding events, attracting speakers, and
involving students in real-life work practices, SPJ has made learning about
journalism more exciting while it adds to the total experience. I commend the
students for their hard work."

The distinction of Chapter of the Year is especially
important because Rutgers is in the same region as some of the best journalism
schools in the nation. Included in the region are student chapters at Syracuse
University, New York University, Boston University, and Columbia University.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free
flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and
educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment
guarantees of freedom of speech and press. The national headquarters are in
Indianapolis. For more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.

The campus chapter’s website is www.ruspj.org.

The list of winners for this year follows:

The regional honorees are: 

Region 1: Rutgers University

Region 2: Appalachian State University
 Region 3: University of Florida 
Region
4: Ohio University 
Region 5: Eastern Kentucky University 
Region
6: St. Cloud State University 
Region7: University of Iowa 
Region 8: None
 Region 9: Colorado State
University 
Region
10: Pacific Lutheran University
 Region 11: Arizona State University 
Region
12: University of Mississippi 

From this group, Ohio University was selected for the
Outstanding Campus Chapter honor.

Media Contact: Ashanti M. Martin
732-932-7500 ext. 8012
E-mail: ashanti@rutgers.edu