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.

Our friends at the National Federation of Press Women pass on this exciting news about Virginia journalists. The press release is below. Congratulations to all the winners!

The National Federation of Press Women presented 35 awards to 15 Richmond-area residents and five from elsewhere in Virginia at the organization’s recent conference in Anchorage, Alaska.


The following people from the Richmond area received awards:

Nancy Beasley, Richmond – Second: Specialty articles – Social issues; Third: Columns – Personal Opinion (bylined, not editorial).

Sue Bland, Ashland – Honorable Mention: Feature story – Online publication.

Ellen Brown, Richmond – Second: Feature story – Magazine, newsletter, or other non-newspaper print publication.

Katherine Calos and Graham Moomaw, Richmond – Second: News Story – Print-based newspaper.

Katherine Calos, Richmond – First: Specialty articles – History; Honorable Mention: Feature story – Print-based newspaper;

Frances Crutchfield, Midlothian – Second: Speeches.

Paul Fletcher, Richmond – Honorable Mention: Columns – General.

Sarah Honenberger, Richmond – Third: Novels for adult readers.

Kimberly Loehr, Richmond – First: Community, institutional, or internal relations; News or feature releases – multiple releases; Second: Social Media Campaign – Nonprofit, government, or educational; Third: Blogs – Nonprofit, government, or educational.

Ann Oppenhimer, Richmond – Honorable Mention: Publications regularly edited by entrant – Magazine, newsletter, or other non-newspaper publication.

Cynthia Price, Richmond – Third: Blogs – Personal; Honorable Mention: Headlines.

Pamela Stallsmith and Cecilia Bingenheimer, Richmond – First: Brochures – Corporate or for-profit.

Martha Steger, Richmond – First: Specialty articles – Travel; Honorable Mention:  Essay, chapter, or section in a book; Specialty articles – Business; Specialty articles – Arts and entertainment.

Joan Tupponce, Glen Allen – First: Specialty articles – Physical health, fitness, mental health, self-help;Third: Specialty articles – Home (interior decor, furniture, architecture, landscaping).

Kimberly Loehr of Richmond, with the Lightening Protection Institute, won second place in the 2015 Sweepstakes. The contest entrants accumulating the most points (based on the number of their winning entries and the number of competing entries in those categories) are named recipients of cash awards in the NFPW Sweepstakes.

Other Virginians who received awards include:

Hannah Davis, Farmville – Second: Single photograph – Sports photo.

Marty van Duyne, Falmouth – Second: Single photograph – News or feature photo; Third: Photo essay; Single photograph – General photo (open competition – no subcategories as to type of publication); Honorable Mention:             Photographer-writer.

Cathy Jett, Fredericksburg – First: Specialty articles – Agriculture, Agribusiness,   Aquaculture.

K.J. Mushung, Stafford – Third: Web site edited or managed by entrant –             Nonprofit, government, or educational.

Marge Swayne, Prospect – Second: Specialty articles – Advertorials (special ad     supplements or special sections.

The winners are members of NFPW and the state affiliate, Virginia Professional Communicators. VPC is a diverse organization of professional communicators in Virginia that is open to women and men. Members work for newspapers, magazines, radio, television stations, schools, colleges, government, corporations, non-profit agencies, communications businesses, and a variety of organizations and associations

The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will hold a Board of Directors meeting at noon on Tues., Oct. 6.

The meeting will be held via conference call. The call in number is 641-715-3580 and the access code is 583987.

All members are welcome to call in and participate.

The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor Wilma Wirt Wednesday night in Richmond.

Wirt is the 52nd winner of the annual award honoring journalists for their contributions to Virginia journalism.

Wilma Wirt accepts the George Mason Award in Richmond on Sept. 9.

Wilma Wirt accepts the George Mason Award in Richmond on Sept. 9.

The chapter also awarded Wayne Farrar, the recently retired news director of WCVE, the George and Francine Crutchfield Distinguished Service Award.

Past Chapter President and National President-Elect Paul Fletcher presents Wayne Farrar with the George and Francine Crutchfield Distinguished Service Award Sept. 9.

Past Chapter President and National President-Elect Paul Fletcher presents Wayne Farrar with the George and Francine Crutchfield Distinguished Service Award Sept. 9.

The SPJ/SDX Foundation presented two Virginia undergraduate journalism students with fellowships. Athena Cao is a senior at Washington & Lee University and won the Virginia SPJ/SDX Fellowship. Tyler Byrum is a senior at George Mason University and was awarded the George T. Bowles Memorial Fellowship. Cao spent her summer interning at The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and Byrum spent his summer at WAVY-TV 10 in Hampton Roads.

Finally, the society elected new officers for the 2015-2016 year.

The newly-elected board members are:

President (1st one-year term): Robyn Sidersky, The Free Lance-Star
Vice President (1st one-year term): Peter Vieth, Virginia Lawyers Media
Secretary (3rd one-year term): Jeff South, Virginia Commonwealth University
Treasurer (1st one-year term): Rachel DePompa, WWBT-TV 12
Immediate Past President: Patrick Kane, Virginia Commonwealth University
Board of Directors:
Terms expiring 2016: Greg Gilligan, Richmond Times-Dispatch (completing Cara Modisett’s term); Jordan Fifer, Virginia Tech Broadcast Communications (completing Rachel DePompa’s term)
Term expiring 2017: Brad Jenkins, James Madison University (completing Peter Vieth’s term)
Terms expiring 2018: Daniel Finnegan, Richmond Times-Dispatch; Nicole Livas, WAVY-TV 10; Shawn Day, The Virginian-Pilot

The board members who attended Thursday were (from left) Caroline Cardwell, Shawn Day, Robyn Sidersky, Greg Gilligan, Nicole Livas, Jeff South, Wayne Farrar, and Peter Vieth.

The board members who attended Wednesday were (from left) Caroline Cardwell, Shawn Day, Robyn Sidersky, Greg Gilligan, Nicole Livas, Jeff South, Wayne Farrar, and Peter Vieth.

Two board members were also elected to serve on the SPJ/SDX Foundation Board. Dorothy Abernathy of the Associated Press,  and Caroline Cardwell of the Virginia Retirement System, will serve through 2018.

If you are interested in attending the 2015 George Mason Banquet, honoring Wilma Wirt, we have two convenient options for purchasing tickets.

You may buy a ticket online using a credit card through our Eventbrite site. Here is a link to the site. 

You may pay at the door with a cash or check, but please send an email with the subject line ” George Mason Ticket Reservation” and the names of the people attending to Robyn Sidersky – rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

As in the past, we have two ticket prices.

A $50 ticket gets you dinner and two drink tickets from Capital Ale House.

A $75 ticket makes you a member of the George Mason Club, which not only gets you dinner and two drink tickets, but also your name is listed in the program.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9 at Capital Ale House in downtown Richmond.

We’re also accepting donations for the silent auction. Please contact Caroline Cardwell at 804-356-5675 or cardwelldesign@yahoo.com if you’d like to donate an item or have questions about the auction.

All proceeds from this event benefit the Virginia SPJ/SDX Educational Foundation.


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