SSU chapter joins Society of Professional Journalists

PORTSMOUTH, OHIO — Journalists don’t buy the mantra that no news is good news.

This fall, the nationally recognized organization, Society of Professional Journalists, comes to southern Ohio with the creation of the SPJ Southern Ohio Chapter (SPJ/SO).

Spearheaded by Shawnee State University grad Ryan Scott Ottney, a news writer for The Portsmouth Daily Times in Portsmouth, Ohio, and sponsored in part by the SSU Department of English and Humanities’ Communication Concentration and the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences — the SPJ/SO hopes to connect professional and student journalists alike to form a network of individuals with a common goal of creating a free and responsible media. Terry Hapney, professor of English at SSU and the adviser for the student newspaper, The Chronicle, has been named student coordinator for SPJ/SO.

SPJ chapters are typically divided between professional chapters and student chapters, but the SPJ/SO plans to combine the two groups to allow for an environment of diverse needs, issues and journalism styles.

Ottney joined SPJ last year and was disappointed to realize there were no local chapters, the closest being in Columbus and Cincinnati.

“I thought it would be fun and valuable to open up the region to the resources of the SPJ,” said Ottney, a member of the national SPJ Public Outreach Committee. “Most chapters choose to be either a professional or a student chapter. By combining both worlds, we’re exposing them to one another – showing the students what they can look forward to, and showing the professionals what the next generation is doing. We want to support the community, and we hope it will support us, as well.”

The group also plans to participate in many fundraisers and activities that promote its purpose and foster a growing relationship with the community. According to Hapney, the SPJ/SO chapter will provide students great opportunities to network

“I encourage my students and any journalist who truly cares about his or her discipline to join this organization that promotes freedom and responsibility of the press,” Hapney said. “Today, as much as ever before, journalists need to have a full understanding of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as a thorough understanding of the ethics related to operating as a responsible, professional journalist.”

According to the Web site,, the Society of Professional Journalists is “dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.” SPJ/SO members can be working professional journalists or student journalists. According to Hapney, the internship and job opportunities for SSU journalism and communication students are maximized by being a member of SPJ.

The Department of English and Humanities at SSU offers a four-year, bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in communication.

“This degree program is well-suited for students who want to work for newspapers, radio stations, and television stations as journalists, or individuals who wish to work as professional public relations practitioners,” Hapney said. “The opportunity to get a high-quality credential that enables one to work in journalism and communications already exists at SSU.”

There will be a free informational meeting on Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Howland Recital Hall of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at SSU. The meeting is open to journalism students and professionals who are interested in obtaining more information on the SPJ, and can meet other journalists and sign up for membership if so desired. Speakers from other state SPJ chapters, as well as the national organization, have been invited to attend to share their experiences.

All journalists in the tri-state area from professional newspaper, radio and television newsrooms have received invitations to the meeting; however, anyone with special interest in journalism and SPJ is welcome to attend. Those planning to attend are asked to please RSVP by e-mailing [email protected].

Currently, the Southern Ohio chapter is working to gain official status from the SPJ board of directors at the SPJ National Convention in Washington, D.C., Oct. 4-7.

For more information regarding the SSU student chapter, contact Hapney at (740) 351-3478, or Ottney at [email protected]. For information about the meeting or SPJ/SO in general, please visit