I’m running for SPJ’s national board. Here’s why.

This September, I will be running for the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Specifically, I’ll be seeking a role as a director at large.

Why? There are many reasons, each valid and important in its own way. First and foremost, SPJ has been a critical part of my journalism career, and I’d be honored to give back by serving as a leader.

The journey for me began in 2014 when I came across an announcement that something called SPJ was opening up a chapter in Georgia. Curious, I attended that first meeting, and afterward was asked to join the board.

My answer was a swift no. Me, a leader? No way.

But I did get involved, joining SPJ Georgia and serving on a couple of committees. It was a rewarding experience, though I still saw myself as simply a chapter member rather than someone who could lead.

In 2017 I was asked again to be on the board. Having recently become a full-time freelancer attempting to spread my wings, the value of joining became too much to ignore and I finally summoned the courage to lead.

Haisten Willis

Somewhat to my surprise, the experience proved both rewarding and fun, and getting to create and execute ideas for our chapter was thrilling. A year later, I was asked to serve as SPJ Georgia president, which I did in 2018. And now, in 2019, my hope is to lead SPJ at the national level as a director at-large.

My mission if elected as an SPJ Director At-Large is simple: to make the organization’s next 110 years just as strong as the first 110, and I ask for your vote in this effort. How do we do this? There are four main ways as I see it:

  1. Continue to protect freedom of information. As a member of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, I am committed to ensuring that government doings take place in full view of the public.
  2. Strengthen relationships between levels of SPJ from national to regional, local and hyperlocal. This includes representing at-large members not belonging to a local chapter, one of the primary tasks for directors at large.
  3. Commit to telling stories — including our own. At a time when outsiders attempt to define our work and profession, we must define it ourselves and convey that message to the public.
  4. Grow membership by confidently showcasing the great work we do and the values we espouse, including journalism ethics and professional development.

It’s no secret that SPJ as an organization, along with journalism as an industry, is experiencing challenges. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we support and listen to each other, and that SPJ is there to advocate for the critical work of journalists across the country.

If you are an SPJ member, I would love your support and your vote!

Haisten Willis

Written by

Haisten Willis is an Atlanta-based freelance journalist who writes for The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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