The Society of Professional Journalists at the University of Arizona Global Campus (SPJ@UAGC) is one of the most unique student organizations available at Global Campus. As one of 250 nationwide chapters, it is the society’s only fully online student chapter. Under the advisement of faculty members Dr. Teresa Taylor-Moore, Dr. Andrea Dilworth, and Matt Lewerenz, along with support from Global Campus Student Organizations and Student Development Coordinator, Ben Gothia, SPJ@UAGC operates virtually through its website, blog, and LinkedIn group. Current chapter membership is open to Global Campus students, alumni, and faculty.
We recently talked to the club’s current president, Sherri Robinson, who is currently studying journalism at UAGC. We asked Robinson to share some insight on the organization and how it fits into today’s journalistic landscape.
Global Campus: Why is it important to be invested in quality journalism in today’s world?
Robinson: Professional journalism, when performed with integrity and autonomy, is a people’s most powerful defense against orchestrated manipulation, deception, inequity, propaganda, or other intended malicious chaos. Journalism operating in any manner to cause any of those is her greatest enemy.
The information volume we experience in 2018 precludes the average citizen investing time or thought too far beyond headlines, hashtags, or hitting the “like” or “anger” button. This overwhelming amount of information creates vacuums constructed of circles of influence often perpetuating beliefs, values, or opinion without factual evidence, corroboration, or author credential. Journalism is tasked to inform, not indoctrinate, instigate, irritate, innovate, or eliminate; journalism is much more. It delivers the factual information presenting all sides, without favor or fear, so the people may debate as an informed citizenry.
Holding the mirror of evaluation up for societies, organizations, governments, businesses, or groups, journalists claim a stake in our humanity. As medical professionals are paramount to our limbs and organs, spirituality or religion integral to our souls, journalism introduces and constructs our collective conscience. This is why we need more professional journalists.
Anybody anywhere can publish instantly according to any agenda serving their purpose, but journalism has only one agenda: the truth. Being able to distinguish and communicate that truth using fact, evidence, verification, and integrity take education and understanding. Augmenting enhancement to lessons and practical comprehension await the UAGC student and can be realized through membership in SPJ@UAGC.
Global Campus: How might joining the club contribute to a student's overall experience at UAGC and/or in the journalism world?
Robinson: As the world increasingly embraces technology to learn about and understand people, places, and things, the role of journalism continues to expand. Our digital dome offering instant, unrestricted access without universal rules governing content or its authors makes training today’s student journalist essential to upholding the integrity of the profession. With active membership in our SPJ chapter, those student members gain the collective knowledge and experience accrued within the organization’s overall membership through initiatives, online forums, podcasts, and other platforms. They also gain the ability to submit to SPJ challenges, efforts, or sponsored platforms. Most important, those students gain the opportunity to lay the foundation for what will become their professional network.
Anybody anywhere can publish instantly according to any agenda serving their purpose; but, journalism has only one agenda, the truth.
I recently attended the SPJ Excellence in Journalism Conference taking in a variety of workshops and sessions addressing topics that included diversity in newsrooms, fake news, hashtag movements, election coverage and, tragically, how to properly cover a mass shooting. Notwithstanding the educational benefit, the conference also delivered contact with representatives from CNN, CBS, FOX, USA Today, McClatchy, and scores of others. This representation illustrates the impact membership can have on access.
Global Campus: What are some of the benefits of operating within a virtual space?
Robinson: Generally, online students reflect our society more accurately than a traditional college class with many using online flexibility to augment skills or acquire new skills needed to adapt and thrive in today’s economy. The online student is more likely than not to be employed, older than the average college freshman, cognizant that increasing value will elevate compensation, and economical in expending time or energy without achieving a useable result. Membership in student organizations such as SPJ@UAGC ensure those students the opportunity to interact with their peers, access to resources within the chapter and national networks, competitive contests, and events to introduce, explain, and reinforce required elements that must be learned to assure truth and integrity triumph, keeping journalism an honorable profession adhering to a code of ethics, professional responsibility, and industry standards.
Global Campus: Any notable projects in the works?
Robinson: While some interesting projects are on our horizon and, tentatively, scheduled to launch in spring 2019, the constant evolution in the profession of journalism dictates projects being developed may very well change as their currency fluctuates. Some under development include topic-focused blogs, interactive survey initiatives mining SPJ@UAGC specificity on journalistic topic-centric subjects such as: the primary function of a free press, what makes fake news fake, when does reporting become commentary, and defining truth, accuracy, perspective, and bias.
Global Campus: Are there any membership requirements for your specific chapter?
Robinson: Membership in SPJ@UAGC is an annually renewable transaction administrated through the national SPJ organization and currently does not include any additional fees payable to the chapter itself. Please visit spj.org where you will find very affordable rates. Most chapter student members are journalism or communication majors but active membership in SPJ@UAGC would certainly be beneficial to students of other majors. I can’t think of any industry or institution that is not reliant on the fair, balanced, accurate, and timely delivery of information. We certainly invite the entire online Global Campus community to join us. Journalism is important to our society and crucial to the republic.
Since SPJ@UAGC enjoys the distinct position as the nation’s only fully online student chapter, Robinson describes the club as “the Lewis & Clark of virtual digital vitality exploring, mapping new territory, and adapting to an ever-changing environment.” If you’re interested in helping chart the club’s course, visit the website for more information on how to join the adventure.
Written by University Staff