NJSPJ Sandy help for journalists

Dear members:

We hope you and your families are safe and warm following superstorm Sandy and the impending nor’easter.

So many journalism colleagues have been affected storm and need help, large and small. Many of you are also looking for ways to lend a hand.

Do you need a place to charge up, get access to the web or simply to have a place to work? Do you need a warm place to stay, clothing or other essentials?

If you’re in need of help, or if you’re willing to donate, please don’t be shy.

Contact us at jprim@netscape.com or call  908-399-4771 and we’ll connect you.

There are also many other ways to help people who’ve been hit by Sandy. Here are some resources:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated its transitional shelter program, which allows those who cannot return to their homes because of storm damage to stay in participating hotels, motels or other housing. You must first register with FEMA at a recovery center, by calling 800-621-3362 or by going to DisasterAssistance.gov.

Donate to the American Red Cross’s Sandy efforts


Charities is a McCormick Foundation fund that offers 50% matching donations for grants to be made to qualified nonprofit organizations with programs
that concentrate on child abuse prevention and treatment; child and youth education; housing; and hunger.…

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We’re hosting!

Yes, you heard it right. We’re stepping up to the plate to host this year’s regional. The place? The School of  Communication and Information on the lovely Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. The dates? April 12-13. Right now we’re busy planning workshops, booking venues and hammering out a million other details. Stay tuned for more information.

And, of course, if you’ve got an idea or if you want to help, contact chapter president Jane Primerano at janeprim7@netscape.net.…

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Kickstarting new ventures

The New Member Task Force of SPJ-NJ has been very busy this summer. We’ve had three events with very sizable turnouts, focusing on three goals:

  • Making SPJ-NJ a more useful organization for mid-career journalists… people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
  • Holding more activities in northern NJ.
  • Establishing new student chapters.

Seventeen people attended the “new member” meeting we held in Montclair in June. That meeting created some exciting possibilities. There was general consensus that SPJ-NJ must revitalize its website.

To that end, I am pleased to announce the New Member Task Force has spun-off its first committee. Miriam Ascarelli, who attended the June meeting, has now been named the chairperson of the SPJ Website Committee. If you’d like more information, you can contact Miriam at mascarel@ADM.NJIT.EDU.

Now to the Montclair meeting… It can be summarized in two words: Excitement and frustration.

People are frustrated with recent trends in journalism but excited about the opportunity to do something about it. When presented with a wide range of possibilities of what SPJ can become in our state, the overwhelming consensus is that we should promote quality journalism.

At the Montclair meeting, several people offered concrete suggestions:

  • There was general enthusiasm for the idea that SPJ should establish a speakers’ bureau, so that members can volunteer to go into schools in their community. To that end, I and other members will be going to Stony Brook to learn about their news literacy program. You can get general information at http://www.centerfornewsliteracy.org/
  • There are some hyper-local and alternative news websites in NJ that are making money and paying their reporters. Some of the people who work at those sites were at the meeting. One site in particular is eager to share its business model with fellow journalists. SPJ wants to use its connectivity to make it a little easier to advance quality journalism in this manner.
  • There were many suggestions regarding journalistic ethics, with specifics on how SPJ can help the public identify quality journalism.
  • There were suggestions about increased activism. Representatives from the National Writers Union were present at the meeting, as well as several NJ-members, talking about the “Pay the Writer” campaign. SPJ is not a union, but we certainly support the idea that professional journalists should be properly paid for their work. SPJ is already active in supporting First Amendment concerns and government transparency. SPJ is considering doing more in the near future. If you care about a particular cause that you feel most professional journalists would support, please contact me. I will pass along your suggestions to the board.

There were suggestions in other areas that are worth noting:

  • SPJ is a very large organization that is in a position to negotiate discounts for its members.
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alter book signing

FDR and his mistress

A goal of the NJ SPJ Pro Chapter for the past couple of years has been to enter into partnerships with other organizations.

We got the chance to do that on April 27 when we joined with the Friends of Rutherfurd Hall and the Allamuchy Township Board of Education to present author and journalist Jonathan Alter speaking about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the elegant country house that was once the home of Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, FDR’s mistress.

The house, Rutherfurd Hall, constructed by Winthrop Rutherfurd in the early 20th Century, it is now owned by the Allamuchy Board of Education and it serves as a school, museum and event venue.

Although he constructed the mansion for his first wife, after her death, Rutherfurd married Lucy Mercer, former social secretary to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Alter brought those figures to life to an audience of about 150 people in the chapel that was created when the old country house was used as a nursing home for retired nuns.

Alter’s book, The Defining Moment, about the early days of FDR’s first term, didn’t mention the affair, but Alter, like most Roosevelt scholars, is interested in the intricate interactions of this complicated threesome.

“She was not Rielle Hunter,” Alter said about Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. She was also no Nan Britton (Warren G. Harding’s mistress who had a child, author of the book The President’s Daughter.) She was not Kay Summersby or Judith Campbell Exner or Monica Lewinsky, Alter insisted. Mercer was a class act, “she took her secrets to the grave and, different from other mistresses and famous men, they were in love,” Alter said.

Also a class act was Eleanor who never shared a bed with Franklin after she learned of the affair, in 1918, but stuck with him.

She discovered the affair when FDR, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, returned from a trip to Europe. He was ill and because this was in the midst of the Spanish Flu pandemic, he was rushed to their home on East 65th Street. Eleanor was unpacking her husband’s bag when she discovered letters from Lucy.

The discovery, and how she handled it, created the Eleanor Roosevelt the world came to know, a strong woman with her own causes and a great leader. Alter compared it to Theodore Roosevelt becoming the TR the world knew after the death of his first wife, Alice, when their daughter was born and the death of his mother the next day. That sent TR west and he returned with the persona that led him to the presidency. Eleanor, daughter of TR’s brother, Elliot, was Teddy’s favorite niece.

Even Eleanor’s cousin, Alice, Teddy’s eldest child, didn’t spill the beans, although she knew for years and was no fan of Franklin.…

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John Ensslin elected new SPJ prez

NEW ORLEANS —The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce John Ensslin as its 2011-12 president. Ensslin will serve the largest and most broad-based journalism association for a one-year term.

Immediate Past President Hagit Limor gave Ensslin the oath of office at the President’s Installation Banquet Tuesday night, Sept. 27, at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans . He was elected Sunday, Sept. 25, at an SPJ business session at the conference.

Ensslin accepted his new role by first thanking those who have been close to him during his career, including Limor.

“Watching Hagit handle the issues that arose this year was like having my own graduate course on SPJ leadership,” he said.

Ensslin’s presidency will focus on two major issues: membership and chapter health. In his speech he called attention to SPJ’s slight decline in membership in recent years, attributing this trend to the slow economic recovery, although he said confidently: “My hope is that this will be a year that we take SPJ membership to a whole new level.”

To achieve this goal, Ensslin will encourage every chapter to do a membership drive in the month of March. He will ask each chapter – professional and student, large and small – to hold at least one event aimed at retaining current members or recruiting new members. He recognizes that membership is just one of many areas of SPJ’s work that are important to support, but as he explained, many of those activities are already spearheaded by talented, productive committees.

He believes in the importance of SPJ, asserting in his installation speech: “In hard times, you learn who your true friends are, and you learn about your core values. And one thing these last few years have taught me is the true value of our Society of Professional Journalists.”

Ensslin was a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News for 27 years before moving to the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2009 to be the paper’s legal affairs reporter. He recently moved to Bergen County , N.J. , to cover local government for The Record.

Just as important as Ensslin’s professional experience is his experienced leadership in SPJ. He has served as membership chairman for the Colorado Pro chapter, Region 6 Director — including receiving the honor of Regional Director of the Year in 2010 — and 2010-11 national secretary-treasurer. He said he began thinking of running for president in 2004 when a colleague sitting by him at that year’s President’s Installation Banquet said, “You know, I can see you up there.”

Since then, Ensslin brainstormed all that he would aim to accomplish for the Society. Eventually he realized he had skills that could truly make a difference.…

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