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).

What does the future hold for lobbying and ethics in Virginia following the conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife?

That’s one of the questions that panelists 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.

Our program is still developing, but here are our plans as of now:

  • We’ll start with registration at 9 a.m.
  • Our opening panel at 9:30 a.m. will explore Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Panelists will include Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel; Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans; and Jill Hanken, senior attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center. The session will be moderated by Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Michael Martz.
  • Next we’ll hear about the environmental impact of energy. Chelyen Davis, assistant editorial page editor of The Free Lance-Star, will moderate this panel. The panelists will include Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, David Botkins of Dominion Virginia Power, and Greg Buppert of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
  • Following lunch, we’ll end the day with a panel discussing statehouse lobbying and ethics reform. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University. Panelists will include Sen. Chap Peterson and Whitt Clement of Hunton & Williams.

We expect to add a few more speakers and panelists to the program in coming weeks!

Once again, our registration fee will be just $15 a person and will include lunch. Virginia Press Association has joined us as a sponsor this year and will be handling registration. A registration form is attached, or you can contact Kim Woodward at kimw@vpa.net to register. The registration deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 25.

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

What makes a Tweet retweetable?

Virginia Professional Communicators – Northern District will hold a free, interactive workshop on the art of crafting a great tweet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 at The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. Robyn Sidersky, Virginia Pro Chapter SPJ vice president, will lead the workshop.

Attendees will match wits with an algorithm developed by three Cornell University computer scientists that claims to outperform the average person in telling which of two similar tweets will be retweeted more.

Refreshments will be served, and the first 11 attendees will receive a useful item bearing the old VPW logo. For directions or to RSVP, email cjett@freelancestar.com.

The Northern District of Virginia Professional Communicators, formerly Virginia Press Women, will host a seminar on mobile journalism taught by The Free Lance-Star’s Multimedia Coordinator Alex Russell at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, in The Free Lance-Star’s community room.

It will be free and open to SPJ members, in addition to VPC members and The Free Lance-Star newsroom.

The session will cover: 

  • Basic tools for multimedia journalism, such as phones and tablets.
  • Add-on equipment (such as lights and microphones) that will improve the quality of your videos
  • Helpful mobile apps that will make your job easier
  • Basic photo/video technique Dos and Don’ts (composition, “rule of thirds,” bad audio, etc.)
  • “The deadline is always now:” The importance of sending content in quickly; the role of social media in multimedia reporting.

This will be an interactive session.  Participants are asked to bring their smartphones, tablets, and/or cameras. Most importantly, bring your ideas to share with the group.  If you have an app that you use and love, let us know.

A table will be reserved at Primavera Pizzeria, which is across William Street from the paper, for those who would like to eat dinner there after the seminar. It will be Dutch treat.

Please let Cathy Jett know if you plan to attend, and if you will plan to have dinner afterward at Primavera.

​Her email is cjett@freelancestar.com and her number is 540-374-5407.​


Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter


July 14, 2014

Contact: Chapter VP Robyn Sidersky, 954-296-4407, or robyn.sidersky@gmail.com


Richmond Times-Dispatch photojournalist Bob Brown has been selected as recipient of the 2014 George Mason Award, given by the Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter.

The Mason award, established in 1964, is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to Virginia journalism. It is named for the principal author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the forerunner of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

Brown is known, among other things, as the dean of photographers covering the General Assembly, starting in 1970. He joined the Times-Dispatch in 1968, and except for a brief stint in Charlotte from 1979-80, has been at the newspaper ever since. He was named senior photographer in 1992.

He was voted Virginia Press Photographer of the Year three times, and he has won numerous national, regional and state first-place awards. In 2005, he was the first photojournalist inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.

Brown is the author of two books, “Capitol Comics, a Humorous Look at the Virginia Legislature” (1984), and “Back Roads: People, Places, and Pie from Around Virginia” (2014), which he coauthored with Times-Dispatch columnist Bill Lohmann.

SPJVA will present the Mason award to Brown at its 51st George Mason Banquet on Sept.16 at the Capital Ale House in Richmond. The chapter and its Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation will also present two scholarships to Virginia college journalists. Tickets are $50 a person, which includes two drink tickets. There will be a silent auction benefiting the scholarship foundation.

For reservations and information, contact Robyn Sidersky at 954-296-4407 or robyn.sidersky@gmail.com.


As SPJ undertakes the process of revising the Code of Ethics, events this week remind us of the code’s importance. As reported by Romenesko, a (student government-funded) student newspaper at the University of California Santa Barbara could have led coverage of the recent shooting spree, but instead the editors cited the code’s call to minimize harm for not providing any coverage! SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Paul Fletcher will lead a discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday (tomorrow) on this news, other threats to the code and an update on how you can get involved in the revision process. This free event will be held at the second floor conference room of 707 E. Main St.

The Herald-Progress has a touching tribute to late publisher, Joseph Malcolm “Jay” Pace III. Virginia Pro SPJ posthumously awarded Pace our highest honor, the George Mason Award, in 2004.




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