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.

Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter

Aug. 4, 2015


Retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor Wilma Wirt has been selected the recipient of the 2015 George Mason Award from Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter.

The Mason award, established in 1964, is presented annually 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.

Wirt will receive the award at the chapter’s George Mason Award Banquet on Sept. 9, 6 p.m., at Capital Ale House, 623 E. Main St., Richmond. Tickets are $50, and proceeds benefit the Virginia SPJ,SDX Education Foundation, which supports newsroom internships for promising collegiate journalists. For more information, contact Robyn Sidersky at rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

Wirt taught writing, editing and other subjects at VCU from 1987-2006. She mentored a generation of collegiate and high school journalists in her VCU classroom and through the partnerships she forged with the Virginia High School League to train both students and teachers. They included low-cost advanced training for journalism advisors and the annual VHSL Publications Workshop.

She also founded the VCU Capital News Service, with two goals: to give VCU’s journalism students experience covering and writing about the Virginia General Assembly; and provide the state’s non-daily and community newspapers with carefully monitored and edited reporting on the legislature.

“In an age when the number of public relations ‘spin doctors’ vastly outnumbers working journalists, encouraging young people to become career journalists is increasingly difficult and increasingly important. Ms. Wirt’s life work has been to do precisely that.” Wrote John Edwards, publisher of The Smithfield Times, in supporting Wirt’s nomination for the Mason award. “Nothing more directly or positively impacts the First Amendment.”

SPJVA is not the first organization to honor Wirt’s accomplishments in journalism education. She is a two-time recipient of the Media Citation Award from the Journalism Education Association (1981 and 2003), as well as a member of both the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame (2006) and the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame (2002).

A graduate of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and the University of Texas at Austin, Wirt has been a member of SPJ since 1974, not long after women were first welcomed into the organization. Nationally and through local chapters, SPJ fights for freedom of information and First Amendment rights, promotes high ethical standards and professional development, and supports journalism education.

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.


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.


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