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The Virginia Pro Chapter of SPJ is launching a mentoring program for the fall. Our goal is to match journalism students with professionals throughout the state. Fostering the next generation of journalists is part of SPJ’s mission and we hope to support that through this program.

We ask students and professionals to fill out the applications below so that we can make the best matches. We ask that each pair check in at least once per month, and arrange at least one in-person or Skype meeting.

Students: apply here.

Professionals: apply here.

Have questions? Contact Bob Bennett, the mentoring program coordinator, at bobfox61@yahoo.com.

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The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter honored a leading journalist during the 2013 George Mason Award Banquet Tuesday, June 18 at the University of Richmond.

Dick Hammerstrom of The Free Lance-Star received the George Mason Award for his relentless efforts in the arena of freedom of information.

Hammerstrom told the crowd of about 50 journalists that during his first job covering government, he and a colleague found out that the janitor emptied the city manager’s trash into a third-floor bathroom. Those discarded documents became a gateway to understand what was really going on in the city. Today, “Hammer” is noted as a go-to for FOI and a mentor to his newsroom and beyond.

Also during the event, which serves as the annual meeting of the chapter, two local students were honored with the Virginia SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation scholarships. Recipients are Mark Robinson, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Katherin Johnson, also a rising senior at VCU.

A silent auction during the event raised more than $400 for the Virginia SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation.

In a surprise, Region 2 Director Brian Eckert received the George and Francine Crutchfield Distinguished Service Award from outgoing President Paul Fletcher and Francine Crutchfield. Eckert, who serves on SPJ’s national executive committee, is also a past president of the chapter and most recently served as treasurer.

Newly elected officers include President Pat Kane of The Progress-Index, Vice President Robyn Sidersky of The Free Lance-Star, Secretary Jeff South of VCU and Treasurer Mary Ellin Arch of TransUrban. New to the board of directors this year are Peter Vieth of Virginia Lawyers Weekly and Rachel DePompa of WWBT-TV NBC-12.

See more photos from the banquet on our Facebook page.

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Dick Hammerstrom, local news editor for The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, has been selected as recipient of the 2013 George Mason Award 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. Hammerstrom has worked for newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina and been an editor with The Free Lance-Star since 1997.
Journalists throughout the state know Hammerstrom as the go-to guy for Freedom of Information Act and open government issues. He also helps promote better access to courtrooms and court-record laws for journalists and the public around the state. He has been the chairman of the Virginia Press Association’s FOI Committee for more than a decade and involved in open government issues since the 1980s. He also served as vice president of the Virginia Co- alition for Open Government and as Virginia’s Sunshine Chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists.
Hammerstrom has conducted training sessions on press law issues to journalism organizations, on college campuses and in The Free Lance-Star newsroom.
“Dick is a most worthy recipient of this award,” said Nick Cadwallender, publisher of The Free Lance-Star. “He is a recognized expert on FOIA law and has always been willing to share his knowledge, especially with young jour- nalists starting their careers.”
Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, said Hammerstrom is well known to what she referred to as “the access community.” Stanley has known Hammerstrom since the mid-1980s and said he “has put his heart and soul” into the open government cause.
She praised him for leadership of VPA’s efforts fighting for open government and better access laws and noted his work to with other open government advocates and law en- forcement officials to make police information more acces- sible to the public.

SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter will present the Mason award to Hammerstrom at its 50th George Mason Award Banquet on Tuesday, June 18 at University of Richmond. The chapter and its Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation will also present two scholarships to Virginia college journalists.
Tickets are $50 a person and include an open bar reception, silent auction, dinner and the program. Proceeds benefit the scholarship foundation. For reservations and information, contact Brian Eckert at (804) 287-6659 or beckert@richmond.edu.
The Mason award is named for the Virginian who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, but refused to sign the Constitution because it did not include a declaration of individual rights. The Bill of Rights, eventually added to the document, is based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written principally by Mason in 1776.

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Thanks for your support this weekend as we hosted the Region 2 Spring Conference concurrently with the Virginia Press Association’s annual meeting in Norfolk. We had nearly 100 student and pro members in attendance and about 20 volunteer panelists, moderators and presenters. Students learned their places in the Mark of Excellence Awards contest, and everyone heard from Tumblr’s Media Evangelist, Mark Coatney.
 
On the heels of this major event, we have two upcoming programs to announce.
This Wednesday, April 24, learn how the SPJ Code of Ethics can be used as a weapon against you. SPJ Virginia President Paul Fletcher will discuss how misguided public officials, public relations officers and others are twisting the ethics code against working journalists. This program, co-hosted with the Virginia Commonwealth University student chapter, will begin at 7 p.m. in Temple Hall room 2219 at VCU’s School of Mass Communications in Richmond.

This Thursday, April 25, we’ll discuss diversity in today’s newsrooms with Irv Harrell, urban team leader for The Virginian-Pilot. This program will begin at 7 p.m. at the Pilot, 150 W. Brambleton Ave. in Norfolk. We hope to see you at these upcoming events!

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140 characters at a time, journalists are finding sources, uncovering story leads and breaking news. The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter is offering a free Twitter for Journalists workshop Thursday, Feb. 28 in Richmond.
Learn the ins and outs of using Twitter in your day-to-day reporting from Robyn Sidersky, city hall reporter(@fxbgcitybeat) for The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. Bring your smartphone, laptop or tablet for hands-on help!
The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Eighth and Main Building on Main Street in Richmond. Pizza will be provided by the chapter. Please RSVP to virginiaprospj@gmail.com or Tweet @SPJVA. See you there!

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The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce the Region 2 Spring Conference April 19-20 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott in Norfolk, Va. Registration with special early-bird pricing for pros and students is now open at http://2013spjregion2.eventbrite.com .

We will kick off the weekend with a cash bar reception just down the street from the hotel in on Friday night.

Saturday, plan on an event packed with compelling speakers, panels, workshops and networking opportunities. During sessions, panelists and presenters will address the pressing issues of journalism, including social media, data journalism, how to navigate jobs in the tough market and more. We will close out the day with a set of small-group workshops on topics such as mobile phone photography, coding for journalists and more.

We will recognize regional winners of the collegiate Mark of Excellence Awards during an included luncheon. Luncheon-only tickets for parents and supporters will be released closer to the event. Registrants of the Region 2 conference are also welcome to attend all non-meal events during the Virginia Press Association’s News Conference at the hotel Saturday.

If you or your organization are interested in taking part in a panel or workshop, learning about sponsorship opportunities or have other questions please contact Conference Co-Chairs Pat Kane and Robyn Sidersky by phone at (804) 986-6804 or e-mail at virginiaprospj at gmail.com

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Left to right, Julie Asher, Paul Fletcher, Caroline Cardwell and Brian Eckert read during a wreath-laying ceremony at the George Mason Memorial Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro chapter, will hold its annual tribute to George Mason, founder and the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the Bill of Rights, Dec. 16.

Honoring Mason around his birthday (Dec. 11) has become a tradition at SPJVA, and this year’s program has two parts:

WREATH-LAYING. At 11 a.m. we will hold a wreath-laying ceremony, including a public reading of the Virginia Declaration, at the beautiful George Mason Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. There is plenty of parking, and the walkway to the memorial is well-marked. Information about the memorial, including directions, can be found at http://www.nps.gov/gemm/index.htm

NPR COUNSEL’S TALK. At 2 p.m., Ashley Messenger, associate general counsel of National Public Radio and 1st Amendment expert, will speak at Gunston Hall, Mason’s historic plantation, 10709 Gunston Rd., Mason’s Neck, Va. (near Lorton). Gunston Hall information and directions can be found at http://www.gunstonhall.org.

In addition to the program, SPJ members may tour the preserved plantation house and grounds and shop for holiday gifts at Gunston Hall’s outstanding museum store. Admission will not be charged to SPJ members, although a $10 donation is recommended.

In between the wreath-laying in D.C. and the program at Gunston Hall, SPJVA members and guests will stop for lunch in the Lorton area, just off I-95.

Transportation from Richmond will be by carpool from (???), leaving at 8:30 a.m. sharp and returning around 6 p.m. All SPJ members and friends are invited to meet up with the Richmond group at the Mason Memorial.

Mason is sometimes called the “forgotten founder,” because he refused to vote for or sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights. Mason’s call for abolishing slavery under the Constitution left him an outcast among Southern political leaders. The Virginia Pro chapter gives an annual award named for Mason to someone who has made a lasting contribution to journalism in the commonwealth.

For more information, please contact SPJVA President Paul Fletcher at paul.fletcher@valawyersmedia.com or 804-783-0770, x 14016.

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