Jason Parsley: Taking the leap to move SPJ in a different direction

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Jason Parsley answers questions about why he is running for SPJ President-Elect:

Quick question: Why did you decide to run for the President-Elect position of the Society of Professional Journalists this year?

Jason Parsley mug with attribution of
Jason Parsley, candidate for SPJ President-Elect, EIJ17

This year SPJ members have a chance to restructure its national board. I think this is desperately needed to move SPJ in the right direction. I helped craft this proposal. So if our members believe in this structure and these new guiding principles I’m asking them to vote for me as well.

There seems to be a redundant “natural” progression of SPJ board leadership that comes up through the ranks; for example, the secretary-treasure usually moves up into the president-elect ranks and so forth. Why are you jumping into the race when you have not yet served directly on the SPJ national board?

I have led my chapter as president. I lead a newsroom. I belong to several national committees. I am confident that I can competently serve SPJ without going through the “natural” progression. Moreover, I am intimately familiar with the new national structure, which makes me even more qualified this year to run for President-Elect. One of the duties of the President-Elect is to serve as the SPJ liaison to next year’s Excellence in Journalism (EIJ) planning committee. I have served on such a committee on another national journalism convention before so I have experience in this area as well. As the liaison I will be sure to reach out the our committees especially diversity, ethics and Freedom of Information (FOI) so I can get their input on workshops and sessions. I want to be more inclusive.

Journalism is going through some substantial flexes. As SPJ president-elect (and eventual president) what are the four areas of concern you feel journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists need to address if you become top leadership at SPJ?

  1. Students – Our future depends on student journalists eventually joining our organization. We have to stay relevant to them. We need to attract them in school and keep them involved when they graduate. We can’t let them continue to slip through the cracks.
  2. Membership – Our membership is declining and has been for years. We have to reverse this trend.
  3. Diversity – New diversity journalism groups are popping up all of the time and taking members away from us. We have to give black journalists, LGBT journalists, women journalists, Hispanic journalists a reason to join SPJ and stay with us. But even beyond that type of diversity there’s diversity of work as well and there are journalism groups that address the needs of every type of journalist from broadcast and online to investigative. We need to stay relevant and not allow these other groups to continue to nibble away at our membership. We are the largest broad based journalism organization in the country. We have the most to offer. We need to find new ways to attract these folks.

Jason Parsley photoSPJ is a national (and international) membership organization. Could you explain your philosophy on how to better serve our individual members?

We need to do more to support our chapters. They’re the lifeblood of SPJ. They’re the direct link to our members. We need to give them all of the tools and resources to help make them successful. I think the new governance model actually does that as well. By removing the SPJ Regional Directors from the national board it frees up their time to focus on the chapters in their region.

What is your opinion for the lessening of SPJ national board numbers?

We need a nimble board that can quickly respond to the events that happening in the world. Furthermore, we want a strategic board that doesn’t get bogged down with petty squabbles. Having fewer members elected based on their qualifications, versus their geography or title, is the best way to move SPJ into the future.

According to our current U.S. president, journalists are the “enemy of the state” and polls ranking the “trust factor” is low with the American people. How can SPJ communicate to not only our members the value of membership but to continue to fight for the First Amendment?

Congress also has low poll numbers, but yet people continue to vote them back into office. And the New York Times has gained subscribers this year. It’s easy for people to attack a concept like “the media.” But when it comes down to it people rely on the media for a lot of their information. When people think of “the media” they often think politics. I think we need to let people know that journalism is a lot more than just national politics. Recently in Minnesota more than 200 community newspapers banded together to print black front page to make a point that without newspapers where would you get the news? I think that was a great idea.

Jason Parsley with sunglassesWhy did you decide to work in journalism? And continue to work in journalism?

In college I decided to give journalism a shot. I still remember my political story about the student chief justice. He was suspended from his duties because of my story. I knew at that moment that this is what I wanted to do. I knew that I could actually make a change. I lead a weekly newspaper covering stories no other media outlet covers. Without us there would be a huge hole in our community.

How does an organization like SPJ fight “faux or fake” news?

I don’t think there is an easy answer or solution to this. Unfortunately, people now equate opinions, or any story they don’t like, to fake news. They are not the same. Fake news is fabrications. They’re made up. They’re not real. I’m not sure how you fight that. But one thing we can do is emphasize our Code of Ethics, which is the still standard in journalism today.

If you have any questions, contact Jason Parsley @jeparsley

Watch for instructions for online voting at the SPJ Excellence In Journalism Convention that will take place next week.