Join SPJ Region 3 for Spring Conference 2018 & Freelance Blitz in Charleston, South Carolina, March 24

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The Society of Professional Journalists – Region 3 presents its 2018 Spring Conference & “Freelance Blitz” as a uniquely designed segment of the conference just for professional freelance journalists.

SPJ Region 3 designed this segment with freelancers in mind. With the journalism industry becoming more and more dependent upon freelance work, more journalists are moving into the market, or those who have worked as freelancers want to learn to improve their ability to succeed in this growing field. 


Society of Professional Journalists 

Society of Professional Journalists – Region 3 Spring Conference 2018

March 24, 2018, College of Charleston Charleston, South Carolina

Make your hotel arrangements soon because it is Spring Break time in March.

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Lunch included


University of Georgia Logo

College of Charleston logo

Thank you College of Charleston for hosting the SPJ Region 3 Spring Conference  Link to map of College of Charleston HERE. Building #23, #7 Parking Garage

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Meet the speakers, trainers and panelists


Bob Sullivan, freelance investigative journalist and author, Washington, D.C.

Bob Sullivan
Bob Sullivan

Bob Sullivan will get you inspire you with his distinctive wit about how to “best communicate with editors” and will also share his journey into becoming a freelance journalist. This multi-award-winning journalist isn’t afraid to tell you about the challenges he has faced as a freelancer, but will also share his triumphs as a sought-after journalists for national news organizations and popular news websites. 

Bob Sullivan is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best-Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! in 2014. His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called “Getting Unstuck” in 2014. Sullivan has won the Society of Professional Journalists Public Service Award, a Peabody Service Award, and the Consumer Federation of American Betty Furness Consumer Media Service Award. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a degree in history and mathematics from Fairfield University. He worked for News for nearly 20 years, much of them creating and writing the popular consumer/tech blog The Red Tape Chronicles. Now and independent journalist, he is till a contributor on and, and continues to appear on NBC TV programs as a consumer and technology expert. He is a contributor at, writing about fraud, scams, and the economy. His stories have also appeared in the New York TimesNew York Magazine, and dozens of other sites.


Bring your charged laptops for this session!Google News Lab logo

Debora Wenger, Google News Lab Tools Trainer, University of Mississppi

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Debora Wenger

Google News Lab‘s suite of tools is designed to make finding, verifying and visualizing content easier for anyone producing quality content.  In this session, you’ll learn how to use Google Trends to find stories that resonate with audiences, you’ll get tips on using Google Images and Chrome extensions to make your work more accurate and you’ll see how to use Sheets, MyMaps and Fusion Tables to scrape data and create more interactive storytelling.  Participants who have laptops available will find the exercises easier to complete.

About the Google Trainer:  Deb Halpern Wenger, a 17-year broadcast news veteran, is an assistant dean and associate professor who oversees undergraduate studies in journalism at the University of Mississippi.  Prior to her academic appointments, Wenger worked as a reporter, producer and newsroom manager within multiple TV stations, including WFLA (Tampa, FL), WSOC (Charlotte, NC) and WMUR (Manchester, NH).

Wenger conducts multimedia workshops in newsrooms around the country and is a trainer for SPJ and its Google News Lab program. She is also co-author of two books, Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Digital World and Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First.

What she’s learning about journalism and new media can be found at  Wenger received her Ph.D. from Kingston University in London and was named as a top journalism educator by NewsPro magazine in 2017.


Bring your charged laptops for this session!

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Kerwin Speight, Emmy Award-winning journalist and Management Consultant

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Kerwin Speight

Have you caught up about all the changes with Facebook that has affected the news industry? Well, the Society of Professional Journalists has and is now training journalists on the Facebook Tools with a designated trainer.

In 2018, Facebook partnered with SPJ to train a network of professionals to teach Facebook Tools for Journalists at conferences, workshops and newsrooms around the country. The Facebook tools can help create and share works of journalism effectively, as well as engage the public in the stories about their communities. This training is critical if you work in journalism and are active in social media.

The SPJ trainer will share products and tools:

  • including Live
  • Groups
  • Creators app
  • CrowdTangle

All that help journalists leverage Facebook and Instagram for news gathering, storytelling and connecting with their followers.

Kerwin Speight is an 2014 Emmy Award-winning journalist (Best Newscast) for NBC4, Washington, D.C. He is now a visiting lecturer at North Carolina A&T State University and a consultant at Lead Me, Guide Me Consulting. Speight also has won the Associated Press Awards for Outstanding Newscast in 2014 and 2015 for his work on NBC4. His previous work includes as Senior Project Manager for the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Community Affairs Lead for and Nightside Executive Producer for NBC4. He has also served as an adviser to the Black Employees Network (BEN), one of Comcast/NBCUniversal’s employee resource groups (ERG).




SPJ Region 3 has gathered a group of experienced professionals to talk to you about specific areas of the freelance business that you may need some additional information about as a freelancer. 

“How To Get Things Done”

Adina Solomon, Freelance Journalist, Atlanta, Georgia

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Adina Solomon

When you strike out on your own, everything is up to you — including how to spend your day. It’s a perk of freelancing, but if you don’t properly plan, you can end up wasting your day and not accomplishing what you need to do. That’s where organization comes in. Learn how to make sure you get paid, keep track of story pitches, and use connections that you didn’t even realize you had. 

About Your Session Leader: Adina Solomon is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta. She writes about a range of topics — everything from business to culture to death and beyond. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic’s CityLab and other outlets both in Atlanta and nationally. Before freelancing, Adina worked as an editor at trade publications in aviation and hospitality. In between, she taught English to high school students in France. Adina serves as head of the freelance committee for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Georgia chapter. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree.

“3 Words To Help You Get Organized” 

Ginger Willis, Professional Organizer, Smyrna, Georgia

Every Journalist knows words are powerful! In this workshop, Ginger discusses 3 foreign words trending in social media and how they reflect an organized space, a productive mind, and intentional work. Participants walk away with practical actions, helpful tips and inspiring ideas to improve your work space and work flow!

Ginger Willis
Ginger Willis

Ginger Willis, a professional organizer, will help you visual your work space, motivate you to get rid of clutter and find an organizational system that will work for you as a freelance journalist.

About Your Session Leader: Ginger Willis is a life-long student of productivity, efficiency, and putting first things first. Organizing comes naturally to her, and she loves learning and trying new systems and approaches to make everyday systems and routines run smoothly. From her experiences as a Hospitality Interior Design Project Manager and Office Manager, she approaches each project with a positive, solution-based mindset as well as skills in space NAPO logoplanning, custom storage solutions, event and project planning, and working with a wide range of personalities. Let Ginger streamline and simplify the things you have to do so you can focus on the important things you want to do.

“Visual Storytelling: Take Photos With Impact To Accompany Your Written Work”

Kevin D. Liles, Freelance Photojournalist, Atlanta, Georgia

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Kevin D. Liles

Learn how to make photographs that impact readers as much as your words do in this 50-minute workshop. Geared towards writers who must juggle taking photos while writing stories, Kevin will cover digital photography basics as well as techniques that can elevate your visual storytelling. Topics covered include how to use smartphones as well as point-and-shoots and DSLRs, as well as some tips on which equipment to purchase.

About the presenter: Kevin D. Liles is documentary and commercial photographer based in Atlanta who specializes in covering issues, politics, and sports in the South. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Sports Illustrated, among other publications and clients.

Kevin began his career as a reporter for a small-town daily newspaper, The Moultrie Observer, in 2001. He quickly learned that he wanted to become a full-time photojournalist and made that transition when he was hired at The Griffin Daily News in 2004. After three years, Kevin left the paper to attend school full-time and finish his bachelor’s degree. While in school, Kevin also worked full-time as an assistant for Sports Illustrated magazine, working at some of the largest sporting events in the country.

Kevin graduated in 2011 with a degree in Communications & Media Studies from Clayton State University and entered the freelance market. Since then, Kevin’s work has primarily been focused in the South, focusing on issues such as race and the changing political landscape, as well as stories rich in Southern culture.


Published Work

“Freelancing – Getting Started? Need A Revamp? Energize Your Approach To Success”

Lori Johnston and Keith Herndon, Cox Institute, University of Georgia

What is in your future as a professional freelance journalist? Are you just getting started or do you want to revise or reinvent your freelance business? If you answer “yes” to these questions, then this breakout session is for you.

Lori Johnston and Keith Herndon from University of Georgia’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership new training initiative, Independent Journalism Resource Coalition (IJRC) will go over important steps to get started or how to revamp your existing freelance business. Both Johnston and Herndon will talk to you about branding yourself and marketing your skills for great assignments.  They may ask you why you love journalism. Are you looking to do this part-time or full-time? Do you have a good network or an anchor gig? And much more. They will leave time for you to ask questions during the session and there will be time during lunch and breaks too. 

Lori Johnston
Lori Johnston

Lori Johnston co-owns with her husband, Andy, Fast Copy News Service, a writing and editing business that produces stories daily for newspapers, websites, and magazines. Andy and Lori, along with their team of 20 writers, provide news, business, human interests features and sports stories, as well as photos and photo galleries, to clients across the country. Fast Copy’s written and editing work is published by Cox Media Group/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN, The Washington Post, Scripps Networks, Atlanta Magazine and Georgia Trend, among numerous Fast Copy News Serviceother media outlets. Both hold bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Lori recently entered her MFA in narrative media writing from Grady.

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Keith Herndon

Keith Herndon, Ph.D., was appointed Professor of Practice in Journalism in Fall 2016 and named Director of the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership. He had served as a visiting professor at Grady since Fall 2012 and taught as a lecturer in Fall 2011. Dr. Herndon was a media research consultant with Internet Decisions, LLC, a strategic planning firm he began in 2005. He was a founding executive of Cox Enterprises’ Internet division, serving as Vice President of Operations and Vice President for Planning and Product Development. He managed strategic partnerships and led technical diligence on Cox’s new media investments, serving on the board of directors of an investment recipient. He was also Director of Operations at Cox Radio Interactive, a UGA logopioneer in streaming media. Dr. Herndon began his career while a student at the University of Georgia, working as a reporter for his hometown paper in Elberton, Ga., and then as a sportswriter for the Anderson (S.C.) Independent and the Athens Banner-Herald. After graduation, he was a Pulliam Journalism Fellow, covering business news at The Indianapolis News.  He was a business reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before becoming assistant business editor, deputy business editor and administrative editor.  Dr. Herndon is the author of The Decline of the Daily Newspaper: How an American Institution Lost the Online Revolution (Peter Lang, 2012). He also has published two business books about entrepreneurship and innovation.

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Cox Institute is an official sponsor of the SPJ Region 3 Spring Conference “Freelance Blitz.”

“Ask An Attorney: Want to talk about open records and laws?”

Frank LoMonte, University of Florida, Brechner Center 

Frank LoMonte
Frank LoMonte

Every day more and more journalists are fighting the battle for open records requests in their community or state. Do you have questions for an attorney who could help you with those applications? What are your obstacles in receiving information and in a timely manner? What does your state laws actually say about the compliance of public records requests?

As a professional freelance journalist you may not be directly connected with a specific newsroom or publication staff. But that doesn’t mean you don’t carry the rights to request and obtain open records. The rights are for all citizens including journalists. So, will an editor pay for the sometime additional cost of obtaining records for a freelance journalist? Will an editor stand behind your request and fortify that a particular publication is behind the request? Good questions. 

So what are those laws that allows citizens (and freelance journalists) to obtain documentation to conduct research and investigative work for a client? Well, it depends upon the state. And as a freelancer, you may not always be working for a client in your home state. 

Brechner logoAttorney Frank LoMonte will review your rights as a professional journalist to obtain public records and give tips on how to get around the obstacles involved with working with governmental agencies. If you have requested public records before, this is a great refresher course and you have an expert available to answer your questions. 

This session is not for asking questions about freelance contracts.

Frank LoMonte was named the director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida in August 2017. At the Center, he supervises a staff of researchers working on projects to improve the rights of journalists, and all citizens, to obtain civically useful information. Previously, he was the executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C. since 2008. During his tenure, he launched a number of major programs including the “New Voices” initiative that has resulted in enactment of fortified legal protections for student journalists in 13 states. Before joining the SPLC, LoMonte practiced law with Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP in Atlanta and clerked for federal judges on the Northern District of Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Prior to embarking on his legal career, he was an investigative journalists and political columnist.


Moderator:  Louise Phelps, SPJ Georgia Secretary

Together these experienced freelance journalists can answer your questions about what it takes to work as a freelancer in our field. They will have plenty of tips and examples about the challenges and rewards of freelancing for a living.

Holly Fisher, Charleston, South Carolina

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Holly Fisher

Holly A. Fisher is the founder and CEO of Fisher Creative LLC, a marketing communications company in Mount Pleasant. The Fisher Creative team handles social media marketing and public relations for several Charleston area nonprofits and small businesses, including the Charleston Parks Conservancy, Lowcountry AIDS Services, The Footlight Players, Fruit That Lasts, Moranz Entertainment, Charleston Orthodontic Specialists and many more. Fisher is past SPJ Region 3 Regional Director.

Helen Mitternight, Charleton, South Carolina

Helen Mitternight mug
Helen Mitternight

Helen Mitternight is a former AP reporter and current freelancer living in downtown Charleston. Her work has appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier, City Paper, Local Palate, and Charleston Living, among others.


Bob Sullivan, Washington, D.C.

Bob Sullivan
Bob Sullivan

Your morning inspiration leader will join the freelance panels to discuss his experience and tips on becoming and sustaining his work as a freelance journalist.



Haisten Willis, Smyrna, Georgia

Haisten Willis
Haisten Willis

Haisten Willis is a freelance writer for magazines, newspapers and online publications. He also brings extensive editing experience to the table, working with writers and guest columnists across a variety of platforms and projects.

Since 2008, his byline has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Marietta Daily Journal, several sites in the SB Nation network, lifestyle magazines including Living NorthsideLiving Intown and West Georgia Living, and a number of trade publications. His writing has captured statewide awards on topics ranging from business to sports, religion and politics. Haisten holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia Southern University and a master’s degree in mass communication and journalism from California State University, Fresno.  Willis is also president of SPJ Georgia.

Stell Simonton, Atlanta, Georgia

Stell Simonton 2
Stell Simonton

Stell Simonton is an independent journalist in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America and Georgia Health News among other publications. Simonton writes frequently for Youth Today and has special knowledge of youth development, social/emotional learning and innovative work with young people. She has also contributed to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, and recently begun writing for How Stuff Works.

Simonton is a former digital editor-producer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she worked for 19  years. She began as a copy editor for the newspaper. As a full-time freelancer for the past five years, Simonton continues to think a lot about the best ways to work as an independent journalist. 

In addition to SPJ and SPJ Georgia, she is active in the Journalism & Women Symposium, a national organization of women journalists. Simonton is a member of the SPJ Georgia Freelance Community and will be writing a quarterly column for SPJ Region 3’s starting in spring 2018. 


Moderator: Haisten Willis, SPJ Georgia President

Sometimes don’t you wish you could just have the ear of an editor for a minute to find out what they really want, how they want it and how much they are willing to pay for it? Join the Professional Editors panel and ask those hard questions that you have always wanted to ask. And also find some new contacts in the process. 

Content That Works higher res

Official sponsor of the 2018 SPJ Region 3 Spring Conference, “Freelance Blitz”

Jesse Darland, Content That Works, Managing Editor, Charleston, South Carolina

Jesse Darland
Jesse Darland

Jesse Darland is managing editor at Content That Works, a Charleston-based digital agency. Established in 2001, Content That Works was one of the first players in native advertising, and produces 30+ syndicated content magazines and regular weekly features for newspaper partners across the United States. Darland oversees a team of freelance writers who craft content marketing, native advertising, and syndicated magazine pieces.


Hanna Raskin, Charleston Post & Courier, Food Editor and Chief Critic, Charleston, South Carolina

Hanna Raskin yes
Hanna Raskin

Hanna Raskin is the food editor and chief critic of The Post and Courier, the South’s oldest daily newspaper and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for public service. Most recently, she worked in partnership with the Southern Foodways Alliance, where she produce the paper’s first podcast, an exploration of Gujarati kitchens concealed behind the check-in desks of Southeastern motels; she now co-hosts “The Winnow,” a weekly podcast about food and beverage in the American South.

In 2016, Raskin received the Association of Food Journalists‘ awards for “Best Restaurant Criticism” and “Best Food Business Story.” The following year, she received the James Beard Foundation’s inaugural award for Local Impact, created “to recognize the work of an individual who displays enterprise and excellence in ongoing local food coverage.”

A food historian by training, Raskin wrote her master’s thesis at the State University of New York’s Cooperstown Graduate Program on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food; she’s since written about immigrant food culture and regional food history for publications including American Heritage, Garden & Gun, Imbibe, Punch, Modern Farmer, Belt, Cooking Light and Tasting Table. Raskin is a founding member of Foodways Texas, and active in the Southern Foodways Alliance. She is the vice president of the Association of Food Journalists.

Andy Owens, Charleston Regional Business Journal, Top Editor, Charleston, South Carolina

Andy Owens
Andy Owens

Andy Owens is the top editor at the Charleston Regional Business Journal and serve as managing editor for SC Biz News LLC, which has three regional newspapers in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., and many electronic and print products across the state’s major markets, including a quarterly economic development magazine. He is directly responsible for a team of writers, designers and editors in Mount Pleasant, S.C., that produces several publications, online and in print.

Paul Osmundson, The State, Senior Editor, Columbia, South Carolina

Paul Osmundson
Paul Osmundson

Paul Osmundson is Senior Editor of News at The State newspaper, Columbia, South Carolina. More information soon.

Louise Phelps, Coast Empire News, President/Publisher, Savannah, Georgia

Louise Phelps
Lou Phelps

Lou Phelps is the president/publisher and founder of Coastal Empire News (CEN), Savannah, Georgia, a community news company she founded in 1998. She is an active journalist and reporter, covering the top and toughest stories of her region. CEN is the publisher of four daily niche news websites in Savannah, Brunswick and Dublin, Georgia, markets. The company’s Savannah Business Journal and Coastal Family Magazine were formerly weekly print news publications which Phelps transformed into pure digital platform publications in 2013, expanding to daily news coverage.


Lunch included

Questions?? Contact Sharon Dunten at or text/phone (317) 410-7217. 

Society of Professional Journalists

Twitter  @spj_3