Remarks by J. Alex Tarquinio
The Society of Professional Journalists Secretary-Treasurer and Candidate for President Elect
Delivered during the SPJ Opening Business Session, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time, at the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.
Welcome to EIJ! I want to thank all of you for making the effort to be here, and to those Texans and Floridians who couldn’t be, our thoughts and hopes go out to you.
Let me start by saying how proud I am to have played a part in putting together this conference, our most diverse ever, which I hope will be a turning point, bringing more diversity to all levels of SPJ. I was chosen to represent SPJ on the EIJ programming committee, a role typically filled by the President-Elect. If I win your vote, I’ll make next year’s conference even more awesome and inclusive than it is today.
Ultimately, of course, I’m asking you to select me as your president — someone who is expected to wear many hats, chiefly as a spokesperson to our members, and an ambassador to our partners and the public. I’m confident that each of the dozen hats I’ve already worn at every level of SPJ has prepared me to take this on.
But there’s another hat of particular relevance to this conference — leading a major transition. There’s a plan afoot to reduce the size of the national board. I ought to add that the real credit for this plan goes to the hard-working chair of the task force, Patti Newberry. I can empathize with her, having chaired last year’s Governance Task Force.
Like my colleagues on the national board, I know this proposal back to front, having worked on it in focus groups and board meetings. But you, the delegates, will make the final choice. Should you vote for it, the next President-Elect will need to manage a smooth transition. Can I do this? You bet. And with my deep knowledge of the current board, I can speak to its challenges, as well as its successes. Bottom line, I stand ready to lead the society whatever the delegates decide.
In either case, my primary goal is to lay the foundation of a strategic plan. Why does it matter? Does anyone need reminding that our First Amendment freedoms are in dire jeopardy? As a member of the Legal Defense Fund committee, I know that SPJ supports journalists embroiled in legal battles, especially freelancers who lack support from media outlets. Under my leadership we’ll continue to advocate against restrictions on public information, and loudly proclaim our ethics code as the model for the profession.
And when the need arises, and it will, I can wield an organization’s advocacy. While serving as chapter president, our city was gripped by the Occupy Wall Street protests, and once journalists were arrested, we made a beeline to the New York City Police Commissioner. As SPJ President, I will not shy away from taking bold steps. We’ll partner with like-minded groups, nationally and internationally. And create an advisory committee composed of media influencers — because there is strength in numbers.
Above all, it’s imperative we rebuild the public trust. A while back I belonged to SPJ’s Project Watchdog, which educated the public about credible journalism through its campaign, “consider the source.” We’ll revive this SPJ mission.
Such goals will galvanize membership. Speaking of: Our numbers are trending up. Many new members stand by SPJ as a proven First Amendment advocate. So, together, let’s spread the word, go forth and multiply.
Do visit my website, alextarquinio.com and check out this speech. I’ll be sharing results from the site’s one-minute survey using the hashtag #futureofSPJ.
Many thanks and I’d be so grateful for your vote.