2020 conference canceled—and other updates from our president


Hello everyone. I want to share some updates for SFJ 2020, but first, I want to say thank you.


For all the hard work you’re doing to keep your newsrooms together, even while apart, to inform readers, to take care of yourselves and your families.

What we do is more important than ever—and our industry is more fragile than ever, it seems. But we persist, and we do it together.

Earlier this month, the board met (via Zoom, of course) and voted to cancel this year’s conference in October. We are sad that we won’t get to gather in person—there is such power in our group and its energy. We don’t know what the world is going to look like in the next few months, or what newsroom budgets will look like by October, and it was the best decision we could make with what we know right now.

But that doesn’t mean 2020 is a wash for SFJ. As we navigate the new working remotely realities and the challenges and stress of covering the pandemic, we’ll be holding virtual seminars, training sessions, and happy hours. We’ll also use our members listserv to continue to list available journalism jobs and continue our mission to connect people—which is more important than ever.

So, there’s never been a more important time to be a member—and now it’s free! Here are the details:

ICYMI: We are making membership free for 2020.

Usually March and April are membership drive months. If you’re a current member, you will remain one for another year without renewing, and new members can join. We will spread the word—our organization is not just for features journalists. We are to open everyone, again, at no cost for 2020. (We will take membership donations if anyone wants to give something.) Please share the link from our website with others who might want to join: https://featuresjournalism.org/membership/how-to-join/

We will meet virtually.

We’re planning a series of Zoom/Google Hangouts/webinars. Some will have speakers and topics; some will be more casual, chances to connect with no agenda beyond hanging with people who get it. We hosted our first one with Poynter’s Al Tompkins, who shared 20 pandemic ideas in 20 minutes. We’ll send out announcements on the listserv and via our social media, so fund us and follow us.

We want to know what you want.

Look for a Google form in the next few weeks. We want to know what topics you are interested in, and we want to share your successes and good ideas.

Contest judging started April 1. 

Thanks to Jim Haag for all his hard work organizing this year’s Excellence-in-Features Awards. So many great entries! Judges have about a month, and winners will be announced in June.

— Sharon Chapman, Features editor at the Austin American-Statesman


Save the date for SFJ 2020 in St. Petersburg, Florida!


We scoped out St. Pete’s finest during our winter board meeting in February. Come join us Oct. 21-24 for another epic installment. (From the left: Sue Campbell’s toasting arm, Mesfin Fekadu, Christopher Wynn, Emily Spicer, and Madam President Sharon Chapman.)

Hello SFJ-ers!

The SFJ board is just back from two days of brainstorming and planning for our 2020 conference, and, y’all, I am excited.

This year’s conference will be Oct. 21-24 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our sessions will be at the Poynter Institute.

We have ideas for a few new events—including a book-themed brunch by the pool—and updating some old favorites.

Our core mission remains the same: The conference is a time to gather to celebrate what we do and support each other in doing it. You’ll leave both inspired and with practical take-home tips, as well as new and strengthened connections.

I hope to see you there. More details TK!

—Sharon Chapman, SFJ 2020 board president

SFJ conference 2017 in Kansas City adds college track

sfj17 banner
Contact Barbara Allen
405-744-8369 or 405-385-1345


Students will get one-on-one feedback from hiring editors and that nation’s top writers; registration is just $125 per student.

Kansas City, Missouri — For the first time, the Society of Features Journalism is adding a college journalism track to its annual conference.

In an effort to help students nearing graduation and to network with the future journalists of America, this track will include one-on-one sessions between students and professional writers and editors to provide students with direct feedback on clips, portfolios, resumes and job-seeking/interview skills.

“We are excited to be able to offer this in Kansas City,” said Kathy Lu, assistant managing editor for features at The Kansas City Star and SFJ board president. “We’re always looking for ways to build our relationship with journalism students. With the conference being so centrally located this year, it’s a great opportunity to draw from nearby campuses.”

The conference is Sept. 27-30 in Kansas City, with the college track taking place Friday, Sept. 29 to Saturday, Sept. 30.

Registration for college students is just $125, and includes a ticket to the Kansas City Royals game Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kauffman Stadium.

Hotels rooms at the conference hotel, the Westin Crown Center, are available for about $160 per night (rate available through Aug. 27).

While Friday will feature fellowship, fun and education, including a session by Lynden Steele, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Saturday will feature individual sessions among students and professionals. Students should plan on bringing several copies of their resumes and clips for on-the-spot markups, and laptops or tablets to show off their portfolios and other digital work.

“We hope this new offering will be beneficial to the students and to newsrooms in the years to come,” Lu said.

For questions or more information, please contact Barbara Allen, Oklahoma State University director of student media, at 405-385-1345 or barbara.allen@okstate.edu.

The Society for Features Journalism promotes the craft of writing and innovation in lifestyle, arts and entertainment journalism. For more information on SFJ, visit featuresjournalism.org.

Digital Tools — making headline magic


Marketing and advertising types are just as obsessed with getting people to absorb their message.

So, here’s some digital tools that marketers use to test headlines.

Coschedule headline analyzer


Click here for link

Type in a headline, and it will rate it based on its ability to connect emotionally, tell your story simply, and what “power words” you can use. It breaks down a headline on its neutrality, and gives you a preview as a Google SEO.

It’s not free, but you can sign up for a trial period.

Advanced Marketing Institute headline analyzer


Click here for link

This is a less sexy version of a headline analyzer. It lets you get your headline parsed by subject.

Mailchimp’s subject line analyzer


Click here for link

You have to be a Mailchimp subscriber to use this, but this can help you hone your subject lines, which could make the difference between a read clicking and not clicking.