The SPJ Region 2 Spring Conference will be held on April 8-9 at the Hilton Hotel / Short Pump, just west of Richmond. We will have social activities on the afternoon/evening of Friday, April 8 (for attendees who can get here that day) and then a full program for the morning and afternoon on Saturday, April 9 (with the Mark of Excellence luncheon at noon, featuring T. Rees Shapiro of The Washington Post as the keynote speaker).
We plan to have panels on:

Reporter Safety: Tips for Doing Your Job Without Compromising Your Safety

So You Want to Be An International Reporter: Hear From Those Who Have Done it and How You Can, Too

The State of the News Media: Discussion of a Pew Report about the Climate of Today’s News Outlets

Sharpen Your Social Media Skills: How to Use It to Expand Your Reach and Attract More Readers

Stop Errors in Their Tracks: Copy Editing for Everyone – workshop format (max of two speakers)

Ethics Advice: How to Act When You Find Yourself in Questionable Situations

Moreover, SPJ will be meeting simultaneously with the Virginia Press Association, and SPJ members will be invited to attend VPA’s sessions — on drones, FOIA, new newsroom products and other topics.

We’re still working on the conference registration — to get the best deal. We will post the registration information soon.

A service honoring the life of J. Stewart Bryan, the chairman of Media General and a George Mason Award winner, is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Bryan, 77, died Saturday from injuries suffered in a fall at his home nine days earlier.

Prayers and a celebration of his life will be held 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club, 401 W. Franklin St., his family announced Monday.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a story about Mr. Bryan.


The Virginia Senate this week has decided to move the public’s business farther from the public.

The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Virginia Press Association, and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government are disappointed by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment’s action to refuse to allow journalists onto the Senate floor to cover the General Assembly proceedings, as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Washington Post and others.

Norment has banished the press to cramped quarters where it is difficult to do its job.

The press serves as the public’s eyes and ears in General Assembly proceedings. The public isn’t allowed on the floor, where the action is happening. By banishing the press from the floor, it is harder to hear what is being said, and some of the members cannot be seen from the new vantage point. By being on the floor, reporters can get a better, fuller sense of what is happening by being present on the floor, not relocated to the gallery.

Removing the press from the floor is also a matter of precedent and symbolism. The press has had access to the Senate floor for decades. Removing the press from the floor symbolically removes open government and public oversight. A lawmaking group that pushes the press away to arm’s length also pushes away public scrutiny.

This action comes at a time when the House is ending its practice of impromptu and largely unrecorded committee meetings at members’ desks, a practice the Senate has not ended.

We request that Norment and other Virginia leaders responsible for these changes immediately allow the press to return to its normal working conditions and show their commitment to transparency and open government.


The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists

Virginia Press Association

Virginia Coalition for Open Government



Time to get excited! Here’s the preliminary agenda for the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Regional Conference, set for April 8-9 at the Short Pump Hilton in Richmond. This year’s Region 2 conference will be held jointly with the Virginia Press Asspj-vert__5_sociation, meaning members of each group who register get access to the others’ activities and events.

This is a preliminary agenda, so check back here and on our Twitter and Facebook accounts for updated information, including how to register.

Friday, April 8

* 10 a.m. – Registration for VPA and SPJ

* 10 a.m. – VPA Contest display room opens.

* 1-4 p.m. – Bonus Session: VCU Photo Shooting & Editing Held at VCU Campus ($30 fee, separate registration required)

* 2-5 p.m. – VPA/VPS Board Meeting

* 2-4:30 p.m. – Job Fair/Clip-Resume Critiques

* 5:30 p.m. – VPA Reception

* 6:30 p.m. – VPA Virginian of the Year/AP Banquet

* 7-11 p.m. – Possible SPJ Reception/Film Screening

Saturday, April 9

* 9 a.m. – Registration for VPA and SPJ

* 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. SPJ Silent Auction & Resume Critiques

* 9 a.m. – VPA Contest Display

* 9:30-11 a.m. – FOIA Session

* 11 a.m.-noon -Reporter Safety: Tips for Doing Your Job Without Compromising Your Safety

* 11 a.m. -noon – So You Want to be An International Reporter: Hear From Those Who Have Done it and How You Can Do the Same

* 12-1:45 p.m. – VPA/AP Annual Meeting/Business Meeting and Awards Luncheon

* 12-1:45 p.m. – SPJ Annual Mark of Excellence Awards/Keynote Luncheon

* 2-3 p.m. – Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

* 2-3 p.m. – The State of the News Media: Discussion of a Pew Report about the Climate of Today’s News Outlets

* 2-3 p.m. – Sharpen Your Social Media Skills: How to Use It to Expand Your Reach and Attract More Readers

* 2-3 p.m. – New Products and Existing Products: “Steal Our Ideas”

* 3-4 p.m. -Stop Errors in Their Tracks: Copy Editing for Everyone

* 3-4 p.m. – Ethics Advice: How to Act When You Find Yourself in Questionable Situations

* 5-6 p.m. – SPJ Reception & Wrap Up

* 5-6 p.m. – VPA Reception & Cash Bar – Foyer

* 6 p.m. – VPA Ad/News/Editorial Awards Banquet

* 8:45 p.m. – 1 a.m. – Possible member-generated After Banquet Party

Questions? Comments? Email SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter Robyn Sidersky. You can also follow SPJ Region 2 on Twitter and Facebook.

We need your RSVP!

Masonstatue2Join the Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Pro Chapter in celebrating George Mason’s 290th birthday on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Born in what is today Fairfax County on Dec. 11, 1725, Mason helped frame the Virginia Constitution and in 1776 wrote its Declaration of Rights, the forerunner of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Mason recognized the importance of a press unrestricted by the government, including in the Declaration of Rights “[t]hat the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

SPJVA will honor Mason with an event at the George Mason Memorial in Washington, D.C. at 11 a.m. on Dec. 12  followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant.

We’ve invited other SPJ Chapters from the region to join us from around Virginia, D.C. and Maryland – students and professionals alike. This celebration isn’t just for journalists though, it’s for anyone who values the freedom of the press and Mason’s contribution to history. We’re looking forward not only to a great time honoring Mason, but a great time getting to know each other.

SPJVA will coordinate carpooling in the D.C. area for anyone who wants to attend. More information will be announced at a later date.

In order to finalize some details, we need your help. If you’re interested in attending, please fill out the form below. Even if you’re still considering or can’t attend, we’d still love to have an RSVP from you for planning purposes.

Please send any questions to chapter president Robyn Sidersky (rsidersky@freelancestar.com) or programming chair Jordan Fifer (jordanfifer@gmail.com).

We can’t wait to see you!



The Virginia Coalition for Open Government will hold its annual conference in Fredericksburg on Nov. 12.

It’s a day full of workshops and panels on topics related to open government in Virginia.

This year’s topics include:

  • Data collection, body cams and privacy
  • The 2015 Virginia elections and what they mean for open government in the Commonwealth
  • Databases: Not just a Virginia Supreme Court problem
  • “Private” emails and texts: Not just a Hillary Clinton problem
  • Getting schooled on access: getting information from public universities isn’t as easy as A-B-C

For more details, and registration information, go here.

Our chapter is a sponsor of this conference and we encourage our members to attend.


What is the outlook for the new state budget and for Medicaid expansion, education funding and gun control following  the Nov. 3 election that settles control of the state Senate?

What are Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s top priorities as he commences the last two years of his term?

Which party – and which candidate – has the edge as Virginia heads into 2016 as one of the three key swing states in the presidential election?

These are some of the questions that panelists – and the governor – will explore at this year’s AP Day at the Capital on Dec. 3  at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The annual event is a great way for reporters, editors and editorial page writers to prepare for the upcoming session and to meet some of the movers and shakers in state government.

We’ll start with registration at 9 a.m. Our opening panel, from 9:30 to 10:30, will feature newly elected Virginia Senate and House of Delegates leaders. Times-Dispatch reporter Michael Martz will moderate that discussion on legislators’ priorities heading into the January session.

From 10:30 to 11:30, two seasoned political operatives – experienced in state and presidential efforts – will offer perspectives on Virginia in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.  Tucker Martin, who served as communications director for Gov. Bob McDonnell, is now advising America Leads, a Super Pac launched in support of Chris Christie’s presidential bid. Ellen Qualls, director of surrogate communications for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, is a former senior adviser to Nancy Pelosi and served as press secretary to Gov. Mark Warner. Stephen Farnsworth, a professor at the University of Mary Washington, who has spent decades researching how media and politics intersect, will moderate the panel.

This panel is especially timely coming a week before prospective presidential candidates must submit their signatures in order to qualify for Virginia’s March 1 primary ballot.

We will break for lunch from 11:30 until noon. The  governor will close out the event with an appearance from noon to 1 p.m. McAuliffe will give an overview of his priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, highlighted by the two-year budget that will be his fiscal legacy. The governor also will take reporters’ questions, which could lend more insights on the pivotal 2016 campaign.

A tour of the Virginia Capitol – organized by the Virginia Capital Correspondents Association – will follow for any attendees who are interested.

Our registration fee will be just $15 per person and will include lunch.

Virginia Press Association has joined AP as a sponsor and will be handling the registration. Download the 2015 AP Day registration form or you can contact Kim Woodward at kimw@vpa.net to register. The registration deadline is November 20.

In addition to VPA, sponsors include the AP Managing Editors, Virginia Capital Correspondents Association and the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.


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