Fall 2018 in review

OUSPJ had an exciting fall semester. We kicked it off with an informational meeting for possible new OUSPJ members, complete with pizzas.

In September, OUSPJ and its new members did not hesitate to jump right into fall semester programming. We began with a panel of student media leaders who talked about their different publications to new students. New members were also officially inducted into our chapter. OUSPJ was recognized as the National Outstanding Campus Chapter of SPJ for the third year in a row at Excellence in Journalism 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. We were also thankful to be able to hear from Mark Trahant, of Indian Country Today, Matt T. Hall, of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Steve Berta, of the Indianapolis Star, who spoke about their expertise within the industry.

In October, OUSPJ held its annual resume workshop with help from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism faculty and student media leaders. OUSPJ joined New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg at a special reception celebrating his winning of the Farfel Prize for Excellence in Investigative Journalism. Lynn Walsh, investigative journalist and former SPJ President, also put on a Facebook journalism workshop which taught all about audience engagement online. At the annual pumpkin carving contest held with PRSSA and 1804 Communication, OUSPJ came in first with its Pumpkin the Cat themed pumpkin. Not only that, but the pumpkin was brought to the Athens County Board of Elections building, where the real Pumpkin took a liking to it.

In November, OUSPJ heard from Mary Annette Pember, an award-winning indigenous journalist, who spoke about covering sexual assault and more during her presentation on covering sexual assault in Indian Country and beyond. OUSPJ was invited to hear from Lucia Walinchus, Executive Director of Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, hosted an investigative journalism panel.

In December, to give members a little break before finals, OUSPJ held a campus-wide scavenger hunt. OUSPJ also participated in The New Political’s “Renovate your Resume” Adobe workshop.

We are looking forward to an exciting spring semester. Check back to this website for updates on all of our wonderful programs.


2017 Year in Review

Ohio University’s campus chapter of  the Society of Professional Journalists had quite the 2017. We won National Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row, hosted influential speakers and held workshops to help our members. Here’s our year in review.




We welcomed our membership back to campus and looked forward to a great year of programs. To ease everyone back into our programming, we hosted a resume design workshop. Members learned how to make their resume attractive to future employers, just in time for last-minute internship applications.




The month of love was filled with a lot of heart from our speakers. We started off by hearing from Cody Stavenhagen, Oklahoma Sooners beat writer for Tulsa World, about his work and how to be a good storyteller.


Members would keep the lessons they had learned from Stavenhagen in mind when we heard from Elisa Di Benedetto from the International Association of Religion Journalists. Di Benedetto, skyping in from Italy, helped us understand the basics of religion journalism and why it is such a challenging and complex topic.


OU SPJ was honored to host a workshop, presented by John Ackerman from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and OU SPJ faculty advisor Nerissa Young, on how to cover suicide ethically. Members got advice on not just covering suicide ethically, but also how to take care of themselves when out in the field.




We started the month by hearing from ESPN general assignments reporter Coley Harvey. Harvey spoke to our members and other journalism students about his role and provided insights for aspiring sports journalists.


OU SPJ was honored to host Lynn Walsh, OU alum and then-president of SPJ, later in the month. Walsh talked about ethics in journalism and how to maintain objectivity when covering the Trump administration.


The month would end with a bang when OU SPJ celebrated the birthday of James Madison, the father of the First Amendment, with free cake for everyone.





April was a month of a celebration. We started off with a few of our members attending the Region 4 conference in Detroit where six members and two publications would receive Marks of Excellence Awards.


Later that month, members were reminded of the importance of the First Amendment with our First Amendment Free Food Festival. During this festival members were stripped of all their rights in exchange for free food. Members walked away with the reminder of the importance and impact the First Amendment has.


Later in the month, OU SPJ and PRSSA partnered up for a mock press conference. The press conference was being “held” by the Pepsi Co. in response to the Kylie Jenner ad released earlier that month. Members of both organizations were able to improve their question formulations and public relations skills.


We ended the month and our academic year with our famous Grammar Smackdown. Teams battled in a competition based on grammar expertise with each question testing their AP and general grammar knowledge.




We welcomed back our members while getting to know the new students to OU and OU SPJ. Free pizza and good company made for a great first meeting. We enjoyed talking to freshmen from around the country with interests in a variety of medias.




We kicked into high gear with our jOUrnalism 101 workshop. Our members, new and old, learned how to become official members of SPJ and how to join campus media such as The Post, The New Political, Backdrop, WOUB and more.


Very soon after our kickoff for the year, a few of our members flew off to the SPJ national conference in Anaheim, Ca. OU SPJ won National Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row. Also, our former president, Hayley Harding, became a student representative on the national SPJ board.


We celebrated our accomplishments by welcoming Judy Woodruff, anchor of PBS NewsHour, and Lee Ann Colacioppo, first female editor of The Denver Post, to OU. Colacioppo spoke to a journalism class and our membership about ethics in journalism in the afternoon, setting a great stage for our conversation about how to get into journalism and reporting tips with Woodruff.


We would finish off our speaker lineup for September with Jesse Holland, a race and ethnicity beat reporter for the AP. Holland provided tips on how to keep readers reading and objectivity to help our members develop new skills as we went into October.



We started off October with our FOIA and Public Records Workshop hosted by Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Eyre and OU alum Jake Zuckerman, both of who work at the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail. Eyre and Zuckerman walked students through how to request records and some little known tips on how to speed up the process.


OU SPJ also welcomed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland during his stay at OU. Strickland talked about the future of the Democratic Party and the importance of journalism in the current political climate.


Later in our speaker lineup for October, OU SPJ and Scripps Hispanic Network partnered to welcome Michele Salcedo, an editor at the AP. Salcedo talked about the stories we as journalist choose to cover as well as how to improve diversity in the newsroom.


We finished off the month by releasing a statement in opposition of OU’s Freedom of Expression interim policy.


“The practical effect of this policy is to restrict the speech of everyone who comes onto this public university property,” we said in our statement.




November may have been a short month for us but we were able to bring in some great speakers such as Daniel Connolly, Craig Martin and Earl Bridges.


Connolly, author of “The Book of Isias”and reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, explained his coverage of immigration policy to our membership, a relevant topic regardless of member’s career goals. We enjoyed partnering with Scripps Hispanic Network, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the Storytelling Institute to bring Connolly to campus.


Martin and Bridges, producers of “Good All Over TV,” explained how to start a docu-series and the business side of production. The tips and lessons they shared provided great insights for students interested in documentary or docu-series production.




We finished our calendar year and fall semester with two celebrations.


For the first time during a fall semester members and beyond proved their grammatical skill superiority in Grammar Smackdown. There was only one winner but our top three teams all walked away with prizes.



We finished off our programming for fall semester by inducting five new members. We choose to end our semester the same way it was started: free food and great company.


We had a great year and we look forward to all we have to bring in 2018. Happy New Year!

OU SPJ chapter urges president to rescind interim freedom of expression policy

                                                                                 CONTACT: Maddie Capron, OU SPJ president


OU SPJ chapter urges president to rescind interim freedom of expression policy

ATHENS, Ohio—The nation’s top campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists opposes a Ohio University interim freedom of expression policy and released a statement upon a unanimous vote by the chapter’s executive board.

Ohio University president M. Duane Nellis and interim executive vice president David Descutner said the purpose of the policy is not to constrain free expression. They said the policy was approved in response to the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, regarding a Confederate statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The policy is necessary to provide a safe campus, they added.

OU SPJ president Maddie Capron said: “Every week, the OU chapter of SPJ meets as a whole. Often, those meetings are centered around the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects. Naturally, the interim ‘Freedom of Expression’ policy became a concern for the executive board.”

Capron added: “It is the mission of the Society of Professional Journalists to protect the rights granted in the First Amendment and ‘to maintain constant vigilance in protection of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.’ The executive board of the Ohio University chapter feels that, as an organization whose main goal is to promote the freedoms of speech and press, it is important to speak out against something we feel violated those rights.”

Ohio University garnered media attention in February when campus police arrested 70 students for a sit-down protest in the Baker student center rotunda to ask that former university president Roderick McDavis make OHIO a sanctuary campus. An Athens city judge dismissed the criminal charges against the first student to go to court. Subsequently, the campus police chief requested that charges against the remaining students be dismissed. The university decided not to pursue campus code of conduct violations against the remaining students.

The OU SPJ statement says: “This interim policy, had it been in effect during the Baker 70 event, would have made the peaceful assembly in the rotunda after most daily classes and business activities had ceased for the day an illegal one per the policy. The conflict arose after OUPD’s actions, not the actions of those gathered.”

The policy took effect Aug. 17— 11 days before the start of classes and before students had a chance to comment on the policy. The Aug. 12 riot in Charlottesville left three dead. Two were state troopers, whose helicopter crashed as they flew to the scene.

Nellis and Descutner said the policy is necessary to ensure a safe campus.





        Upon due consideration thereof, the executive board of the Ohio University chapter, Society of Professional Journalists, issues the following statement in opposition to the interim Freedom of Expression policy currently on comment.

        In the Sept. 18 statement from President Duane Nellis and Interim Executive Vice President David Descutner, they said the purpose of the policy is not intent to constrain free expression.

We disagree with their point. The intent is not what matters or what courts use in determining whether an attempt to regulate speech is unconstitutional. It’s the effect, and the practical effect of this policy is to restrict the speech of everyone who comes onto this public university property.

While the administration claims that the policy is a response to the events in Charlottesville, several groups in the community, including members of the OU SPJ executive board, assume this policy is a response to the Baker 70 arrests in February. This event on campus was in no way similar to the riot in Charlottesville.

This interim policy, had it been in effect during the Baker 70 event, would have made the peaceful assembly in the rotunda after most daily classes and business activities had ceased for the day an illegal one per the policy. The conflict arose after OUPD’s actions, not the actions of those gathered.

The interim policy declares, “Demonstrations, rallies, public speech-making, picketing, sit-ins, marches, protests, and similar assemblies are not permitted in the interior spaces of university buildings.”

The interim policy has already created issues with students who were doing things such a registering people to vote. The students were asked to leave Baker Center due to the policy, according to a column in The Post.

Baker Center is a historically established public forum. The public gathers at The Front Room, Latitude 39 and West 82 for food and meetings. The public attends programs in the theater, ballroom, Multicultural Center and multipurpose room. The public enjoys artistic works at Trisolini Gallery and the gallery attached to the Multicultural Center.

The College Green is a gathering place where members of the OU community, Athenians and visitors gather for food, fellowship, the arts and leisure activities.      

The Constitution allows for diverse viewpoints to be expressed. However, it does not include a right for people to commit crimes in the name of protests. That’s why the City of Athens and the State of Ohio have ordinances and laws in place to govern disorderly conduct, creating a public nuisance, vandalism, assault and other infractions caused by rioting. The university should enforce those instead of narrowing free expression on campus.

Therefore, the executive board of the OU chapter of SPJ urges the OU administration to rescind this policy and resist efforts of any other groups to put another in its place.

This statement was approved by a vote of the OU SPJ executive board on Oct. 15, 2017.


Science and medicine: an hour with Mark Somerson

On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, Mark Somerson, Science Editor of the Columbus Dispatch, spoke to Ohio University SPJ regarding the growth and importance of science and environmental journalism in today’s world. Somerson has worked for 24 years at the Dispatch and became the Science Editor in 2002. He oversees science, the environment, health care and transportation stories.

Continue reading “Science and medicine: an hour with Mark Somerson”