Are we neglecting our future journalists?

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Barbara Duarte, former SPJ-FIU president, covers President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration in Washington, D.C., on a trip organized by the chapter. Photo by Chris Delboni.

By Chris Delboni, SPJ Florida board pro member & chair of student chapters subcommittee

The future of journalism depends upon student journalists.  Why aren’t we doing more for them?

  • There is no doubt that journalism students represent the future of our profession.  
  • There is also no doubt the students who take on leadership roles at their Society of Professional Journalists’ campus chapters can successfully lead SPJ pro chapters, constantly renovating without losing a sense of quality and ethics to journalism and bringing new skills required in today’s newsrooms.

Tomorrow’s journalism depends on today’s students.

But what are we really doing to form them?

To educate them?

To motivate them?

To help them?

Not enough!

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SPJ-FIU students organized a successful the “First Amendment Free Food Festival.” Photo by Chris Delboni

But that will start changing with the new Student Chapters Network group, an SPJ Florida Pro chapter and SPJ Region 3 initiative for campus advisers and student leaders to build, develop and strengthen campus chapters.

We are launching this pilot program initially on Florida but hope everyone will join, and the model will soon spread nationwide.

While I have been a member of SPJ for many years, I really got involved with the organization in 2012, when I became the chapter adviser at Florida International University and helped revamp FIU’s chapter, which was nominated four times as the SPJ Region 3 Chapter of the Year, twice making as a national finalist.

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SPJ-FIU students and faculty celebrate Delboni’s award as best faculty adviser of the year at SPJ national convention in 2014. Photo by Katie Lepri.

I have seen first hand the importance of engaging students with SPJ activities and how that changed the lives of so many, who, through that experience, developed strong leadership skills, a sense of responsibility and a new passion for journalism.  

SPJ offers excellent training for pro and student journalists and in-depth leadership training for its chapter leaders. But it offers nothing specific for campus chapter advisers, for instance, who often struggle to keep their chapters going.

This network will provide the tools and resources for these advisers to commiserate, communicate and exchange information, which will be fundamental for campus chapters to grow solidly as students graduate.

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SPJ-FIU students and faculty get together at SPJ national convention in Orlando, 2015. Photo by Katie Lepri.

But keep in mind this network is only part of our campus chapter development program.  We need your help to spread the word, so we can together develop many additional initiatives to strengthen current chapter activities and form new chapters across the state, the region and nationwide.

Among the initiatives, we would like to:

  1. Create a committee to develop a simple step-by-step guide to help advisers lead students into forming new chapters.
  2. Build a resource page for activities and relevant information.
  3. Start a survey to send to journalism schools to understand better their needs to form and / or strengthen SPJ campus chapters.
  4. Create a presentation to visit campuses across the state.
  5. Organize a state (and regional in the near future) annual conference for students and advisers to exchange information and resources.

Now, we need volunteers to help us brainstorm and develop these initiatives together.  

Please join our Facebook group – – and invite everyone to contribute with ideas, pertinent discussion and resources.

We will soon start contacting journalism schools, current advisers and SPJ student leaders, initially in Florida, but anyone interested is more than welcome.

Stay tuned and be in touch!

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Chris Delboni

Chris Delboni: Chris Delboni, a journalist from Brazil, who served in Washington, D.C., as a foreign correspondent for 12 years before moving to Florida, is an SPJ Florida Pro board member and chair of the Student Chapters sub-committee (part of Student Affairs committee).  Delboni has taught journalism at the University of Miami and Florida International University.  At FIU, she was the first news director for the South Florida News Service, serving local mainstream newspapers, such as the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post.  In 2012, she became faculty adviser for FIU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is also a recipient of SPJ’s David L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Adviser Award. In 2016, she left FIU to take on an innovative international journalism education project in Miami.