This past weekend I attended my first Society of Professional Journalists event. It only took me 27 years.
The event was about leadership. I am always interested in learning about different ideas about leadership, it was only an hour away in Columbus and the Scripps Foundation picked up almost all of the cost.
As a professor and student media faculty adviser, I wanted to use this weekend to learn at least one thing about leadership that would help me. And I wanted to learn about getting an SPJ student chapter started at Cedarville. I learned both of those things.
The most important thing I brought home from the seminar/workshop came out of an exercise we did called the “5 Why Process.” We paired up and asked five why questions about why we had come. I learned that we could really get to the root why. Most importantly I got to my root why, which is to do whatever I can to help the Cedarville journalism program grow. That’s ultimately why I went. Coming to that realization, I hope, will increase my intentional acts to help the program grow in numbers and influence.
With program building more firmly in my mind, I was more engaged than I would have been when it came time to talk about putting our leadership skills into practice at the chapter level. I soaked up all I could about how to get started and make it relevant to journalism students, student media and even the rest of the campus. To sustain an active and successful SPJ student chapter will take a lot of work and encouragement. But it can be done. And I will use the “5 Why Process.”
An added benefit to the “5 Why Process” knowledge I gained is that it will be a good teaching tool for fledgling reporters. When you can’t get somebody to open up, I will teach them to tactfully dig into that area you want them to talk about with this process. Because most sources are probably a lot like me. They probably really don’t know why until somebody makes them talk about it.
If you wonder if a Ted Scripps Leadership Institute is for you as a student leader or as a professional, SPJ does a great job of recapping it online. The Storify also gives you a flavor for what the event is like.