Covering sexual harrasment

A panel about covering sexual assault and the #MeToo movement, moderated by SPJ National President Rebecca Baker, was held on the first day of the SPJ Region 1 2018 Conference. Baker discussed the topic with Ronnie Polaneczky, a columnist for The Philadelphia Media Network, and Melanie Anzidel, a reporter for The Record — a paper based out of northern New Jersey.

Before detailing how to cover sexual assault, the three discussed sexism and sexual harassment they had witnessed in newsrooms and with sources — like the police officers who asked Baker, then a 26-year-old crime beat reporter, on dates.

“The newsroom has always felt like a sanctuary to me,” Baker said, before noting that women shouldn’t feel lucky because they avoided sexual harassment in the workplace.

An experience Anzidel had outside of the newsroom sparked her coverage of the #MeToo movement at The Record. After she posted about it on her personal Facebook account, an editor asked if the paper could publish it, Anzidel said.

Printing Anzidel’s story prompted The Record to ask readers to share their personal #MeToo stories with her — a callout that molded her article, “#MeToo: The stories of sexual assault you haven’t heard.” It featured many women of different ages and occupations.

The panelists discussed tips for reporters approaching this topic, like corroborating sources’ accounts with documents.

Polaneczky urged journalists to never deny their time to a source who says they have information about alleged sexual assaults and to consider ways to report on this topic with new and unique angles.

Most importantly, journalists need to dig into the systematic structures that allow sexual assault to be so prevalent in our society, Polaneczky said.

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NJ SPJ board opportunity; Burns scholarship

Hi folks – I’m blessed to have a very good board of directors at New Jersey SPJ. They include several people who have served as past presidents of the chapter. They are a group of people who are passionate about journalism and its role in a democracy.

John Ensslin

It’s that time of year, however, when we elect a new board. And it appears we will have one vacancy on our 11-member board. Former chapter president and long-time board member Ron Miskoff has indicated he plans to not run for another one-year term. We will miss Ron and appreciate all he has done for our chapter.

If you are an SPJ member and have an interest in serving on our board, let us know. The job involves attending one two-hour meeting each month, usually on the third Sunday. Members are also called upon to take on additional assignments during the year, such as helping organize programs, working on our annual SkillsFest event or overseeing our signature awards journalism contest.

We also tackle important topics such as diversity, ethics, open public records access and journalism advocacy.

If you would like to be part of this effort, please email our nominations chair Miriam Ascarelli at by no later than May 20. Also please put “NJ SPJ Board Nominee” in the subject line and include a JPEG photo of yourself, plus a one-paragraph bio.

Student SPJ members: Go to Baltimore with the Fran Burns scholarship

If you are a SPJ student member in New Jersey, here’s a great opportunity for a $500 scholarship to help enable you to attend our national Excellence in Journalism Conference Sept. 27-29 in Baltimore.

The scholarship is named after Fran Burns, a former SPJ New Jersey chapter president and long-time board member who passed away in September. The $500 stipend is a very good deal.

For example, it will be enough to cover your $175 early bird registration plus a $199 one-night stay at the Baltimore Hilton, which is the conference hotel.

You must, however, be a current SPJ student member to qualify for this money. All we ask in return is that you write a short story about the conference which we can later post to our chapter website.

Interested? Then please contact Karin Price Mueller at

You will need to send Karin your resume and a short statement on why you wish to attend the conference.

The application deadline is June 10. The winner will be announced later that month.



Speaking of scholarships, here’s another one: To help move the news ecosystem in the Garden State toward a goal of better reflecting the communities it serves, the Center for Cooperative Media is launching a scholarship fund dedicated to helping New Jersey journalists attend training, events and conferences in 2018 put on by organizations that work on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in media.…

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Adaptation is key in a digital world

Journalists are going to need a variety of new skills, and publications are going to need a variety of new income sources, as news organizations continue to navigate the digital world.

That was the main message of panelists at the “Going Digital” session Saturday, featuring Billy Penn’s Danya Henninger and Philadelphia Media Networks’s Patrick Kerkstra, moderated by Mike Feeley of PA Media Group, publisher of The Patriot-News and

Having a digital presence isn’t an just an option any more; it’s a necessity, panelists said, and if a publication is not online yet, they have a lot of catching up to do. As for those operating in the digital realm (and most are), there’s no question digital has its own set of dynamics. Even outlets like Billy Penn, which began their lives in the digital realm, continue to learn what works through trial and error.

The new digital reality has changed the skillsets young journalists need to get hired. Panelists told the mostly student audience that, although reporters are occasionally hired because of their writing ability alone, most are hired based on their ability to adapt. This means shooting and editing video, reporting, photographing and the intersection of all three.

One key skill all three panelists recommended learning: Google Analytics. In a world of live updating and where online publications feature virtually every type of media, web analytics are essential for determining what people will read and how.

However, focusing on analytics can also be a detriment to journalistic enterprise, they said. Reaching a target number of page views or a certain scroll depth can obscure writers’ abilities if they dwell on it too much instead of perfecting their work and maintaining their commitment to accuracy, according to Kerskstra.

Diversification of revenue might be the most jarring part of the shift from print to digital, or, as in the case of Billy Penn, taking the plunge straight to digital. Generating revenue for an online platform can be daunting.  Display ads are not the money makers they once were, and therefore many news organizations, including Billy Penn, the Philadelphia Media Network and the PA Media group, are looking to events, sponsorships and grants alongside their advertisers to generate revenue.

Regardless of the platform or the source of revenue, journalists’ ethics are about the only thing that has not changed as they shift from print to digital. Though the traditional wall between the newsroom and advertising is crumbling and people from both departments often find themselves in the same room together talking about ways to create revenue-generating activities such as events and newsletters, newsroom leaders need to continue to uphold journalistic standards, the panelists said.

Feeley, of the PA Media Group, gave the example of how the advertising department asked his newsroom to do a newsletter about medical marijuana, but the advertising staff only wanted positive stories.

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Awesome, folks! SPJ Region 1 rocked

John Ensslin, New Jersey chapter president, and Rebecca Baker, national president at this year’s regional conference.

We had an awesome two-day spring regional conference in Philadelphia this past weekend that lived up to our theme of “For the Love of Journalism.”

The conference was a sold-out event that attracted more than 130 people to Temple University where they heard 20 sessions and 32 speakers. We had members from almost every state in the region and one person from as far away as Denver, Colo.

An event of this magnitude requires many people to make it a reality.

Today, I’d like to offer a thank you to those folks

Let’s start with Regional Director Jane Primerano and Keystone SPJ President Pat Trosky, who were wonderful partners during the nine-month process that included many meetings to plan, design and execute the conference.

Next, a big thank you to New York Deadline Club President and NJ SPJ board member Claire Regan who designed a beautiful book that helped people navigate the conference and who crafted a conference flyer and logo.

A special thanks to Deadline Club volunteer Melissa Heule who helped run our conference website.

Thanks to Keystone board members Susan Schwartz and Carol Crane, who did everything from setting out chairs to editing the stories of a group of 14 Temple University journalism student volunteers.

A special thanks to NJ SPJ Vice President Miriam Ascarelli, for coordinating those volunteer students, serving as their editor and helping organize a very successful pizza party/newspaper swap for student journalists graciously hosted by the staff of Temple News.

14 students helped out

We were fortunate to have those 14 student volunteers who did everything from reporting, writing and recording the conference session to helping with registration and cleaning up afterwards.

Thanks to New Jersey chapter Treasurer Elizabeth Oguss for tracking our finances and to chapter Secretary Emily Kratzer for overseeing registration and sending out the emails that helped build our audience.

A big thank you to NJ SPJ board member Robert Bugai for soliciting, collecting and assembling our conference “goody bags.”

Thanks to NJ SPJ board members David Levitt, Ron Miskoff and Nick Hirshon for introducing some of our sessions.

Thank you to SPJ National President Rebecca Baker for moderating one of our sessions and helping present our Mark of Excellence winners.

Thanks to incoming SPJ national President Alex Tarquino for introducing one of our sessions.

Thanks to deputy Regional Director Chris Vacarro who helped with the MOE brunch and to New England chapter President Jordan Frias who helped guide students to the brunch.

Thanks to all our speakers who gave up a lovely spring weekend to lead sessions that demonstrated our love for journalism – especially our hackathoners, who spent more than six hours over two days crafting a document on newsroom diversity (more on that later).…

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