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Society for Collegiate Journalists meet in Atlanta for Biennium

Samuel Pontarolo, seen in the white shirt, is working with rest of the Society for Collegiate Journalists on the future policies of the Society (Northern Review photo/Shane Tilton)

Samuel Pontarolo, seen in the white shirt, is working with rest of the Society for Collegiate Journalists on the future policies of the Society (Northern Review photo/Shane Tilton)


Members of Ohio Northern University's Society for Collegiate Journalists [SCJ] represented ONU at the Society for Collegiate Journalists Biennium in downtown Atlanta, Georgia in late October. Junior creative writing major and news editor Nick Pesetsky, sophomore multimedia journalism major and opinion/editorial editor Sam Pontarolo, and Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Shane Tilton gathered in Atlanta to attend various panels and workshops.  

SCJ is an honorary society for students participating in the journalism media field. The society was founded as a merger when Pi Delta Epsilon, which was founded in 1909, merged with Alpha Phi Gamma, which was founded in 1919 at ONU, making ONU’s chapter one of the founding members.

ONU’s SCJ chapter became dormant and inactive for several years until the fall of 2014 when the chapter was reinstated with five new members. Throughout the spring of 2014 and fall of 2015 the chapter held multiple activities, including the speaker’s forum. These campus engagement activities have allowed the chapter to receive the SCJ National’s Outstanding New Chapter Award and Tilton was honored with the award for Outstanding New Adviser.  

It was a deep honor for ONU to be recognized as a leader in collegiate journalism by the Society. The Society tries to drive student engagement by having them work with the Society to promote the goals to honorable journalistic practices," noted Tilton.

The SCJ Biennium functioned as a meeting where students did actual work on several sections of SCJ’s organization, including the bylaws, ritual, contests and philanthropic goals.

Students present at the biennium gained experience influencing and altering the activities of a large established national honorary. Some redundancies were taken out of the ritual to make it more accessible. The contests that SCJ hold every year were redistributed regarding their funding. 

SCJ also partners with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) as their main philanthropy. The SPLC is an advocacy center for student journalists to understand what they are allowed to do within their first amendment rights. The group of directors, advisers and students agreed to continue and centralize their efforts in raising money for the center, and any money raised by SCJ chapters would be matched by the national organization. 

The Biennium hosted David Wickert, a writer and editor from the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Atlanta’s only major daily newspaper. Wickert told about his involvement in relevant but not extraordinary cases he covered, also discussing the responsibility of journalists to report even though there may be consequences involved. 

"It's been a privilege to cover these events during the course of my career." said Wickert during the SCJ keynote. 

After dinner, the biennium hosted another speaker, constitutional rights activist Mary Beth Tinker. Tinker came to notoriety as a young girl in Des Moines, Iowa for refusing to remove a black armband in protest of the Vietnam War. She was suspended, and her family took the issue to court, leading to the Tinker vs. Des Moine case. This case established the Tinker Standard, giving freedom of speech to students in public schools under a particular set of standards. 

Tinker told her story to the SCJ gathering. Also in attendance was Steven Listopad from Valley City State University. Listopad is a founder and activist for the New Voices movement that is developing in small groups across the Midwest that aims to reverse the Hazelwood decision from 1988, that knocks down the Tinker Standard, allowing in some cases, prior review. Listopad received the Freedom of Speech Award from SCJ.  

Changes were made to the SCJ national board of directors, which includes journalism professors and media advisers from around the country. Tilton became the Vice President for Philanthropy and Programming. Outside of the meeting, the board of directors agreed to establish a Constitution Day event for all chapters to serve the community in educating them with tools for being well informed.

The ONU chapter plans to spearhead the efforts of the national board and help further develop its platform. 


EDIT (Thursday, Nov. 17 @ 11:53 a.m.): Corrected grammatical error

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