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SPJ elections

Hayley Harding for National Student Representative

I share a birthday with both James Madison and National Freedom of Information Day, so for the past two years, I’ve celebrated with SPJ by giving others cake. On days that aren’t my birthday, I’ve helped arrange a regional conference, hosted several grammar competitions and been a part of nearly 100 programs. SPJ has shaped my college career, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it since my third week of college.

Now I’m entering my senior year, and I’ve learned SPJ is more than just geeking out about FOIA with people who just get it. In my three years of collegiate SPJ executive board experience, I've watched freshmen in college fall in love with an organization I know they will continue to cherish for a lifetime, and I want to advocate for that to continue even as journalism is under attack.

I want to help explore new ideas, such as how to expand our digital presence and recruit for the internet age and promote the SPJ I know and love to students across the country. It's a tricky time to be getting into journalism, but with the backing of the Society of Professional Journalists, student journalists have the opportunity to become some of the best out there, holding people accountable and keeping our profession strong.

SPJ leadership Experience

I knew when I got involved with SPJ that it would be a whirlwind, but I never thought it would look quite like this. I joined the national organization in September 2014, and two months later, I was chosen as one of two freshmen liaisons to serve on the executive board. In that role, I helped the Ohio University chapter host the 2015 Region 4 conference, an adventure in planning I will never forget. It was a great experience and helped to prepare me for my role as treasurer in the 2015-16 academic year. As treasurer, we raised over $3,000 for programs and had dozens of successful programs, many of which I helped arrange.

In April 2016, I was elected president of OUSPJ. In my tenure as president, we put on 30 programs, including a free "Freedom Sings" concert and lectures from speakers such as 9/11 photographer David Handschuh and Elisa Di Benedetto, co-director of the International Association of Religion Journalists. We gained over 20 members, one of the most successful recruitment years ever, and brought over a dozen people to the 2017 Region 4 conference in Detroit to accept several Mark of Excellence awards. I was also able to attend EIJ16 in New Orleans, where I served as a delegate for the OU chapter and was able to accept the National Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year award with several other OUSPJ members. 

This year, I've stepped back from the executive board of my campus chapter to pursue a position on the national board. I will once again serve as a delegate for OUSPJ at EIJ17. I'm attending the conference on a scholarship from Columbia Journalism School, which covers registration as well as some travel and hotel costs.


I have loved SPJ for as long as I've considered myself to be a journalist, and it has become a core part of my journalistic identity. I want to help build that in a future generation of SPJ members. I want to represent students, journalists at the very beginning of long, fantastic careers, while also meeting the needs of the organization as a whole. SPJ must keep moving forward and be an important part of a journalist's life, and I think there are three key ways we can do that.

1. Support student members and campus chapters

As someone who has watched several years of college students participate in SPJ programs and events, I know how important it is to integrate into a student's life from the get-go. SPJ has so much to offer students — I personally have gotten scholarships for both school and conferences as well as made so many connections I never otherwise would have met — and it's important to broadcast that. College is the best point in a journalist's career to recruit them to become lifetime members of such a valuable organization. 

It isn't easy to run a student chapter, and the national board could better represent their interests in several ways. There are so many ideas for fundraising and programming floating around at a national level that just need a way to get to campus leaders' heads, and I want to find the best system to do that. It would be wildly beneficial for student chapters to be able to better build a relationship with SPJ as a whole, as the organization at a national level offers opportunities to both grow a chapter and network with experts in every part of the field.

2. Transition to a more digital mindset to represent the present realities of newsrooms across the country

SPJ competes with many other professional journalism organizations, some of which seem "cooler" or "more timely" to current needs in newsrooms. As a way to combat that, it's crucial for SPJ to meet journalists where they are — this can be done with national webinars teaching digital skills or the basics of data reporting, Twitter chats and more. Many SPJ members work for newspapers, but many others work for television stations, online-only publications or other forms of media that didn't exist even 20 years ago. SPJ needs to be accessible to all, regardless of where in the profession they may work.

3. Be a necessary part of a journalist's life

SPJ does this every day, whether people realize it or not. By setting the very standards of ethical behavior for journalists and constantly pushing for necessary and important freedom of the press, the Society of Professional Journalists does amazing work each and every day. It's important for SPJ to continue such tremendous work, and this can be expanded nationally and at the campus level. There are so many ways to grow in this point in particular, and I look forward to the opportunity to work the national board for the chance to both keep up the good work that's already happening as well as better SPJ for every member.

Questions? Comments?

I can be reached on Twitter (@Hayley__Harding) or via email (hayley.harding.14@gmail.com).