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The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter, seeks nominations for its 52nd George Mason Award, to be presented in June ​2015.

The annual award recognizes a person in Virginia has done something extraordinary for journalism and the public: reporting and writing that has righted a wrong, caused a sea change in attitudes, changed a law, started a watchdog group that exposed violation of the public trust, defended a reporter or news organization from unjust persecution, forced a reluctant government to make the people’s business public, mentored young reporters who went on to outstanding careers, or some other specific, noteworthy accomplishment.

Past winners have included reporters, columnists, editorial writers, publishers, broadcast station owners, attorneys, directors of public interest organizations and professional development associations, among others. They have worked for organizations large and small.

SPJ Virginia Pro named the award for Mason, Virginia’s “forgotten founding father,” because he risked lifelong friendships and personal fortune by insisting that the fledgling United States protect freedom of the press and the other civil liberties by enacting a Bill of Rights. He was born in Fairfax County in 1725, helped frame the Virginia Constitution and in 1776 wrote its Declaration of Rights, the first authoritative formulation of the doctrine of inalienable rights. Mason’s work influenced Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

The chapter has presented the George Mason Award annually since 1964 to journalists and others who have supported freedom of the press and made significant contributions to Virginia journalism. It expresses the esteem of SPJ members, who are committed to ethics, freedom of information, education and legal defense of reporters in the practice of journalism. The award plaque carries Mason’s conviction regarding the role of the press: “Freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of Liberty and can never be restrained but by despotick governments.”

Nominations should be made in letter form, complete with reference to supporting information, to the chapter’s George Mason Committee chair, Paul Fletcher, at Pfletcher.spj@gmail.com.

Deadline for nominations is May 15, 2015.

Richmond author Nancy Wright Beasley will be the featured speaker at VCU’s Fifth Annual Monroe Scholars Book and Authors Luncheon April 15.

The event is set to begin at noon at Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond.

Beasley is the author of “Izzy’s Fire,” which describes the tale of a poor Catholic farm family who risked their lives to save 13 Lithuanian Jews.

Her career has included time as a state correspondent for the Richmond News Leaders and as a columnist/contributing editor for Richmond magazine. She has been a freelance writer since 1992.

The cost is $75 per ticket or $700 for a table of 10. Tickets can be purchased at vcualumnoi.org/bookluncheon.

For information, contact Diane Stout-Brown at (804) 828-7020 or dstout@vcu.edu.

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Fellowships fund internships for students seeking journalism careers

Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter
Virginia SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation

SPJ members in Virginia will award two $1,500 fellowships that will require – and help pay for – a supervised summer newsroom internship for any rising junior or senior at an accredited Virginia college. The 2015 internships require at least six weeks’ full-time work at a bona fide news organization.

Winners will have the entire responsibility of securing a summer internship, although the foundation trustees will assist with placement upon request. Payment of the fellowship stipend to the student will be made in advance upon confirmation by the host news organization and approval of the internship proposal by the Virginia SPJ/SDX Educational Foundation trustees. The stipend will be paid in addition to any internship salary offered by the host news organization and can be used at the student’s discretion – for example, to defray living expenses, transportation or miscellaneous costs.

Applicants are not required to be journalism majors, but they must demonstrate intent to pursue a career in journalism (print, broadcast and/or online media). The internship experience must relate to the area of journalism the student plans to pursue and include writing for publication for the chosen media. Both fellowship winners will be recognized at SPJ’s George Mason Banquet, held annually to honor a person who has supported freedom of the press and contributed significantly to Virginia journalism.

Applications are now being accepted through an online form (with some documents provided by email). The deadline to apply is April 1, 2015. We plan to announcement the winners of the fellowships by April 15.

Information about the fellowships also will be sent to every college in Virginia, to the attention of the student newspaper and any journalism/mass communications/English department.

The SPJVA Freelancer Academy program, featuring national SPj President Dana Neuts, will be held Saturday, Feb. 21, at the studios of WCVE-FM, 23 Sesame Street, in Richmond.

Here are directions to the studios, from the WCVE website:

From Powhatan
Anderson Hwy/US-60 E to traffic light at intersection with Courthouse Road.
Turn left onto Huguenot Rd/VA-147 N. (Chesterfield Towne Center)
Take Huguenot Road to 4th traffic light (Robious Road).
Take slight right onto Robious Road at the railroad tracks.
Go 1/2 mile to Old Farm Road
Turn right onto Old Farm Road; go to Stop sign; turn right, then a quick left onto Sesame Street (our driveway).
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From the South
Route I-95 North from Petersburg/Colonial Heights
Exit #62 – Route 288 North to Chesterfield
Follow Route 288 to Courthouse Road exit
Turn right at the light onto Courthouse Road northbound
Follow Courthouse Road to Route U.S. 60 – Midlothian Turnpike
Cross Midlothian Turnpike, go approximately one mile to 4th traffic light (Robious Road.)
Take slight right onto Robious Road at the railroad tracks.
Go 1/2 mile to Old Farm Road
Turn right onto Old Farm Road; go to Stop sign; turn right, then a quick left onto Sesame Street (our driveway).
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From the West End: (Huguenot via Three Chopt & River Road/Cary St. Road)

Cross Huguenot Bridge; go to seventh traffic light (Robious Road). There is a railroad crossing at this intersection.
Turn left on Robious Road (at the railroad crossing)
Go 1/2 mile to Old Farm Road.
Turn right onto Old Farm Road; go to Stop sign; turn right, then a quick left onto Sesame Street (our driveway).
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From the West (Charlottesville)
I-64 East to Richmond
Exit – Route 288 southbound
Go 7 miles on Route 288. You will cross the James River
1st exit after the James River bridge is Robious Road/Huguenot Trail (Route 711)
Turn left at the traffic signal onto Robious Road eastbound (Route 711)
Drive 5.4 miles to the traffic signal at the intersection with Huguenot Road (Route 147.)
Cross Huguenot Road, go 1/2 mile to Old Farm Road. Watch for sign: “Public Broadcasting Station”
Turn right onto Old Farm Road; go to STOP sign; turn right, then a quick left onto Sesame Street (our driveway).
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From Downtown Richmond
Follow Powhite Parkway to U.S. 60 – Midlothian Turnpike
Exit on U.S. 60 WEST (toward Midlothian)
Exactly 1 mile on U.S. 60 (5th traffic light), turn right on Robious Road.
Approximately 1.3 miles on Robious Road is a traffic light at the entrance to Huguenot Park on the left. The next left turn after the light is Old Farm Road
Turn left on Old Farm Road
At the stop sign turn right, then turn left on Sesame St.
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From the North
Route I-95 south from Washington/Fredericksburg toward Richmond.
Exit 79 (I-195; Powhite Parkway)
Immediately after exiting, take left fork (I-195; Powhite Parkway)
Stay on this road. Follow signs for Powhite Parkway only. (There is a .50 toll after the James River Bridge.)
Exit at Route 60 – Midlothian Turnpike (pay .25 toll)
After leaving toll booth, take first right. (Route 60 W – Midlothian)
Go to 5th traffic signal (1 mile)
Turn right on Robious Road.
Approximately 1.3 miles on Robious Road is a traffic light at the entrance to Huguenot Park on the left. The next left turn after the light is Old Farm Road
Turn left on Old Farm Road
At the stop sign turn right, then turn left on Sesame St.
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

From the East (Norfolk, RIC Airport)

I-64 West into Richmond
Exit to I-95 South (toward Petersburg) (left lane exit)
Exit 74A – Downtown Expressway (Route 195)
Follow Downtown Expressway through Richmond and exit left to the Powhite Parkway (both are toll roads).
Follow Powhite Parkway to Route U.S. 60 (Midlothian Turnpike)
Exit to U.S. 60 West (toward Midlothian)
After leaving toll booth, take first right. (Route 60 W – Midlothian)
Go to 5th traffic signal (1 mile)
Turn right on Robious Road.
Approximately 1.3 miles on Robious Road is a traffic light at the entrance to Huguenot Park on the left. The next left turn after the light is Old Farm Road
Turn left on Old Farm Road
At the stop sign turn right, then turn left on Sesame St.
We are in the tan building at the base of the TV tower.

SPJVA will host our second annual College Media Day on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

We’ve invited professional journalists from around the state to share their expertise with college journalism students. Topics include: how to get a job or internship, covering campus crime, drone use in journalism, FOIA, tips for interviewing and story structure, how to use journalism skills to land other jobs not in traditional media, and how to add a multimedia element to your stories with smartphone photo and video.

The goal of the day is to prepare students for the job world, outside the classroom and things they may not pick up at their internships.

We’ll begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration and breakfast, and have panels until about 3 p.m., with a break for lunch. Students will pay $10 and get breakfast and lunch.

To register, contact Robyn Sidersky at rsidersky@freelancestar.com

Have you considered making the switch to freelance journalism but not sure what you need to know?

SPJVA is here to help.

National SPJ President Dana Neuts will be in Richmond on Feb. 21 for the SPJVA Freelancer Academy, a workshop on how to get a freelance business started, and the issues freelancers face as they contemplate making that transition.

Based in Seattle, Dana has been a freelance journalist for 12 years, specializing in magazine and online content. Her work has appeared in AARP Bulletin, The Seattle Times, Seattle Metropolitan, Seattle Business, American Profile, GSN: Government Security News, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine and more. She is also the owner/publisher of the award-winning iLoveKent.net.

Topics to be covered include:
– How to get started
– How to market yourself and your services
– How to target and pitch potential clients
– How to set up your business (and whether to incorporate or not)
– How to deal with business details (insurance, taxes, etc.)
– And more

There will be a Q & A session, so bring your questions! This great program will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in Richmond. Exact location to be announced soon.

Please RSVP to Paul Fletcher at pfletcher.spj@gmail.com or Robyn Sidersky at rsidersky@freelancestar.com. Or visit the SPJVA Facebook page.

See you there!

Celebrating George Mason

CELEBRATING GEORGE MASON

Join the Virginia Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as the group pays a birthday tribute to George Mason, on Sat., Dec. 13.

Mason, born in Fairfax County on Dec. 11, 1725, helped frame the Virginia Constitution and in 1776 wrote its Declaration of Rights, the forerunner of the Bill of Rights.

Mason recognized the importance of a free press, writing, “Freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of Liberty and can never be restrained but by despotick governments.”

SPJVA will honor Mason with the laying of a wreath at the Mason Memorial in DC and with a group reading of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. We’ll stop for lunch on the road to Mason Neck, where we will visit Gunston Hall, Mason’s home which is now a museum.

Tentatively joining us are members of SPJ DC Pro, Maryland Pro and the George Mason U. student chapter.

The day’s festivities will begin at 10 a.m. at the Mason memorial in DC.

Here are directions to the memorial: http://www.nps.gov/gemm/planyourvisit/directions.htm.

For further details, please contact Robyn Sidersky (rsidersky@freelancestar.com) or Paul Fletcher (pfletcher.spj@gmail.com).

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