Society of Professional Journalists teaches journalism students important career skills

By Chelsie Gastright, Organizations Editor

January 23, 2013

Since the beginning of this school year, High Point University has seen the addition of many new organizations. The continually growing student body means there are bright new minds with great ideas coming together, and when that happens, new organizations and clubs will likely be formed.

Late last spring, the School of Communication started the process of forming a nationally recognized journalism society on campus, and this year the Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ, has been chartered.

The national organization was formed in 1909 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., as Sigma Delta Chi fraternity. It is currently the oldest standing journalism society in the U.S.

It was not until 1988 that the organization officially changed it’s name to Society of Professional Journalists. Even though the named changed, their mission and purpose has stayed the same: promote free flow of information, inspire and educate next generation journalists, and protect the First Amendment rights that promise freedom of both speech and press.

This past September, the HPU chapter of SPJ took two delegates, Dr. Bobby Hayes, communication professor and SPJ advisor, and student Kevin Russell, current SPJ Vice President, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the annual SPJ convention.

Armed with a well-written constitution, a roster of interested students, and the application, Russell and Hayes presented their desire to start a chapter at HPU.

As of this year, there are over 250 chapters of SPJ that include both student chapters and “pro” chapters in 11 different regions across the U.S.

Now, HPU is one of three current student chapters in the state of North Carolina, with the two other established chapters at Elon University and Appalachian State University.

“SPJ will really help expose our students to the best ethical and professional practices in the business,” said Hayes. “It will help them establish contacts, and it really helps them connect classroom theory to every day situations.”

While the organization is still new, Hayes and Christina Buttafuoco, SPJ president, have mentioned that they do hope to bring speakers and host other activities to enrich the organization.

Buttafuoco said that she did not want to give any specific details that gave anything away, but there are some fun activities that the student officers are planning.

When the planning began, there had only been two interest meetings, one in the 2012 spring semester and one this past fall. However, during the planning process, it was already apparent that the members were divided about how journalism should be practiced in today’s technological society.

“Journalism is changing so much. Even in the club there is the obvious divide of broadcast and print, so just being able to share and collaborate will be a great addition,” said Buttafuoco.

On Dec. 3, SPJ members were formally inducted into the organization through an induction ceremony. However, the organization is still actively looking for journalism majors who are passionate about journalism in any form and who hope to expand their knowledge of the constantly changing profession.

“It’s a great opportunity for student journalists to get connected with a larger organization and learn the inside of the field and connect with people in the field,” said Hayes. “You never know what might lead to your first job.”

Currently, SPJ is not holding designated meetings, but if you have a passion for writing and are majoring in journalism, this organization may be the perfect place for you to excel and succeed as a budding journalist. Both Hayes and Buttafuoco agree that SPJ is a place where people in the journalism field can share their advice, battle stories, and more than anything, grow into a close-knit support system.


For more information on how to join, contact Hayes, Russell or Buttafuocco through email, or visit the organization’s website,