SPJ Region 3 Conference 2018: “Freelance Blitz, March 24, Charleston, South Carolina

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The Society of Professional Journalists – Region 3 presents, “Charleston Blitz” as a uniquely designed conference just for professional freelance journalists. 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 

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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Get a “sneak peek” at our March 24th SPJ Region 3 Spring Conference’s speakers, Google trainer, panelists and breakout session leaders just for freelancers like you. More great speakers and panelists to be announced soon.



Bob Sullivan, freelance investigative journalist and author

Bob Sullivan
Bob Sullivan

Bob Sullivan will get you started in the morning 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 MSNBC.com/NBC 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 CNBC.com and NBCNews.com, and continues to appear on NBC TV programs as a consumer and technology expert. He is a contributor at Credit.com, 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 Tools Trainer

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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 www.advancingthestory.com.  Wenger received her Ph.D. from Kingston University in London and was named as a top journalism educator by NewsPro magazine in 2017.


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

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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.

“Create Your Most Efficient Work Space” 

Ginger Willis, Professional Organizer

Ginger Willis
Ginger Willis

So you have decided to become a freelance journalist. Next, you need for find a space where you are going to work. It can be a kitchen table, a desk in the corner of a room, or a room designated only for an office; it might even be a local coffee shop for a while too! 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.

Willis is a compassionate professional who respects your “stuff” but also helps you through the grieving process of letting go of unnecessary items and paper no longer needed for your work space. She is a staunch advocate for online filing systems and email management. Catch her tips on how to get started on functional freelance work space.

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

Kevin Liles conference photo
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






Getting started? Need a revamp? Energize your approach to success

Lori Johnston and Keith Herndon, Cox Institute, UGA

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.

keith herndon
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.




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

Holly Fisher mug
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

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.



Haisten Willis

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.  haisten.willis@gmail.com.  Willis is also president of SPJ Georgia.

Bob Sullivan

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.





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. 

Editors from Content That Works

Content That Works logoContent That Works is a digital agency specializing in content marketing, native advertising, and digital services from Charleston, South Carolina.

Hanna Raskin

Hanna Raskin
Hanna Raskin

James Beard award-winning food writer and podcast host who still gets calls every Christmas related to her M.A. thesis on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food. Now food editor and chief critic for The Post and Courier, Raskin is the author of Yelp Help and New Charleston Cuisine, as well as a frequent contributor to Garden & Gun.

Andy Owens

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.

Louise Phelps

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.


More information to come about the SPJ Region 3 conference soon!