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.
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.
For questions, contact the contest co-chairs: * Jim Haag, retired features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, 757.639.2675, firstname.lastname@example.org. * Sharon Chapman, features editor at the Austin American-Statesman, 512.445.3647, email@example.com
001 General Feature Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic. Entries can be a single trend story, profile, interview, news feature or general feature of 1,000 words or more. Sidebars accepted. Each entry consists of one story. Multiple bylines accepted.
002 Arts & Entertainment Feature Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic – such as architecture, art, books, dance, movies, music, opera, television or theater. NOTE: Food stories should be entered in one of the food categories. Entries can be a single trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.
003 Short Feature Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. A word count is required with each entry; entries exceeding the limit will be disqualified. Enter the word count in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. Each entry consists of one story.
004 Food Feature A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic. Each entry consists of on story.
005 Food Criticism A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry. Each entry consists of one story.
006 Features Series or Project Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. Sidebars accepted. Can include a written explanation of not more than 250 words on how the story was reported. Each entry consists of the stories that comprise the series or project. Multiple bylines accepted.
007 Narrative Storytelling A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme. Each entry consists of one story.
008 Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, health, religion, technology or travel. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Entries can be trend stories, profiles, interviews, news features, general features or narratives covering the same topic. Columns and commentary are excluded. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.
009 Food Writing Portfolio Three stories by the same writer on any food topic. Entries can be stories, columns or reviews. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.
010 General Commentary Portfolio A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work, showing a range of reporting styles.
011 Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work.
012 Sports Feature Feature treatment of any sports topic. Entries can be a trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.
013 Headline Writing Portfolio A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns. Headlines must be attached to the stories or columns and can be accompanied by related visuals. Entries will be judged on clarity, accuracy and creativity. One entry consists of three headlines and accompanying decks and stories. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
014 Video Storytelling The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length. One entry consists of one video.
015 Integrated Storytelling The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, digital, social media, video and any other platform. One entry consists of the package of stories and other elements used to cover the topic.
016 Features Podcast The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. One entry consists of links to three podcast episodes by the same person or persons. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
017 Diversity in Digital Features The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience. Diversity can include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. One entry consists of a story or a series of stories on the same diversity topic. Multiple bylines accepted.
018 Digital Innovation New or improved digital ventures, which can include new or upgraded websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. Entries will be judged on creativity and impact. Must include a description of no more than 250 words on how the innovation came about, its goals and its success. Submit explanation as a Word document attachment or enter explanation in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. One entry consists of one innovation, such as an app or a website. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
019 Special Section A special section published in 2019 either in print and/or online once a year. (For sections published two or more times, enter Niche Product.) Submit one hard copy or PDFs of the entire or provide the URL (if it’s an online-only entry) in the comments section on the entry.
Each entry must also include a PDF of the cover or homepage of the section. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.
020 Niche Product The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year. Submit two hard copies of each niche product or PDFs of the entire product of the same niche product.
Each entry must also include PDFs of the covers from both of the submitted entries. One entry consists of one copy of each of the two issues and the two PDFs. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.
021 Features Digital Presence The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit links to a website; features channel; app; and/or social-media page such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. Entries are judged on content, which includes timeliness, depth of coverage, voice and style. One entry consists of links to a website, features channel, social-media pages or app.
022 Best Section The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit five sections, either hard copies or PDFs of the entire sections, from the 2019 calendar year. One must be an arts-and-entertainment-themed section, and one must be a Sunday section. (If your publication doesn’t print on Sunday, submit one section from Saturday or from your premiere weekly section and add a note of explanation).
The other three are the editor’s choice from regularly appearing features sections. Entries are judged on content, which includes the range of topics, depth, voice and style; service, which includes the inclusion of everyday people, useful information and the level of reader interaction; and design, which includes the use of photos and illustrations, headlines, navigational tools and the “wow” factor.
One hard copy of each section or PDFs of the entire section is required. One entry consists of one copy or PDFs of each of the five sections and PDFs of three of the submitted section fronts (PDFs of the section fronts only). On the back of each section, attached a printed version of the entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.
023 Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories. No entry is necessary. Instead, points are assigned for each of the other winning entries, and the publications with the highest number of points receive the sweepstakes awards.
ESPN’s Kelley Carter to kick off Society for Features Journalism’s 2019 conference
VENUE UPDATE FOR THURSDAY: We will now meet at St. Andrews, a decommissioned church on Wayne State’s campus, right next to the Communications building, Manoogian Hall. (Not to be confused with St. Andrews Hall on E. Congress, which is a downtown music venue.) If you’re staying at the hotel, the shuttle driver will drop you at Manoogian Hall, and you will see the church just next door.
If you’re coming on your own, we’re at the corner of Warren Ave. and the Lodge service drive. If you’re driving, Garage #2 is just behind the church on W. Kirby and the Lodge service drive. It’s a public, pay parking garage.
ORIGINAL POST: The Society for Features Journalism announces its 2019 conference schedule, starting with its keynote speaker, a Detroit native who’s reporting on the national stage for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Check out the full schedule of sessions below, plus everything you need to know to plan your visit:
When: Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 18-21, 2019 (Register now!) in Detroit
Tour Downtown Detroit | 2 to 4 p.m. Pick-up and drop-off, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Never been to Detroit before? Jump on this tour bus, provided by The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. A seasoned guide will show off some of the city’s most beautiful architecture, from Art Deco masterpieces to mid-century modern standards. Register here for the free tour.
Opening reception and registration | 7 to 9 p.m. Pendant Room, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Meet your fellow features creatures, register for the conference and relax. Enjoy a glass—or two—of wine, some hors d’oeuvres and good conversation. SFJ President Margaret Myers and other officers will welcome guests and introduce some special folks, such as our Diversity fellows and panelists in attendance.
THURSDAY | 09.19.19
9-9:30 a.m.| Coffee and registration, St. Andrews, Wayne State The Element hotel provides free breakfast for guests. We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.
9:30 a.m.| Keynote with Kelley Carter from ESPN’s The Undefeated We are thrilled to feature Detroit’s very own Kelley L. Carter! Kelley is an Emmy-winning journalist and the Senior Entertainment reporter for ESPN’s The Undefeated. She got her start at the Detroit Free Press, and since then has written for some of the most recognized news outlets in the business, including USA Today, Vibe, BuzzFeed, Ebony, Essence, ESPN.com, MTV News, and the Chicago Tribune. At The Undefeated, Kelley’s developed a beat that draws from the intersection of entertainment, pop culture, and race.
10:30-11:30 a.m. | The future of Detroit (and who gets to write it)
Reporters—and headline writers—like Detroit. There are news stories: “Five years after bankruptcy, Detroit’s comeback still has a long way to go.” There are stories that use Detroit as a metaphor: “Russia’s Detroit falls on hard times.” And there are stories that target potential visitors: “Detroit: The most exciting city in America?”
But how can we get a real sense of Detroit and its future? For starters, you can listen to the experts—people who live or have lived here and have made time for thoughtful observation. We have four of them on our panel: Nicole Avery Nichols, Urban Affairs Editor at the Detroit Free Press; Candice Fortman of Outlier Media; Martina Guzman, a local features reporter; and Ron Fournier, the former publisher and editor of Crain’s Detroit Business.
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.| Parenting coverage: What works, what falls flat, and why?
Some parenting stories resonate with readers so profoundly that they break traffic records for their publications and spark meaningful, important discussions. Other parenting stories garner almost no traffic at all. Why the disparity? What works and what doesn’t? Is there a magic sauce?
This panel can help you decide whether your publication should have a parenting beat and, if so, how that beat might work best in your part of the country. With Rebecca Dube, head of TODAY Parents Digital for the TODAY show; Ron Fournier, author of “Love That Boy,” a book about his relationship with his son with autism; and Amy Joyce, On Parenting editor for The Washington Post.
12:30- 2 p.m.| Lunch and Show & Steal part I
Back by popular demand! Just as writer’s block is real, so is editor’s block. Get inspiration from some of the best work by SFJ members from around the country. Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman will guide this highly visual ideas bonanza.
2-3 p.m. | Freelancer AMA
Editors, how strong—and how diverse—is your freelance roster? With shrinking staffs and audiences’ demand for authenticity, now is the perfect opportunity to cultivate your bench and uncover deeper levels of storytelling. And writers, do you know how to develop your niche and do you even need one? How do you manage the business side of things while staying focused on the creative work?
In this frank discussion, we will hear from veteran freelancers who are all in different stages in their careers, with different backgrounds and goals for the future. They will share advice with the editors and the writers in the room on everything from pitching to pricing. With Daniel Hernandez of the New York Times, Janelle Harris of AARP’s Sisters, and Evan F. Moore of Chicago Sun-Times.
3-4 p.m. | Innovation and on-demand audio Why the podcast and on-demand audio space is so ripe for innovation. But first, what even is innovation? And how do you know if you’re doing it? A look at The Washington Post’s approach to podcasting, with a focus on smart approaches to innovation in any medium. With Jessica Stahl, the head of audio for The Washington Post.
4-5 p.m. | How to Cover the Arts on Any Beat For years, local news organizations under financial strain have cut back on arts coverage or eliminated their arts staff altogether. Features writers and beat reporters are asked to pick up the coverage in newsrooms, while writers dedicated to covering the arts are left to navigate the freelance world.
Our panel will give resource-strapped reporters and editors creative and sustainable approaches to incorporating arts coverage in business, features and breaking news stories. With Christopher Wynn, arts and entertainment editor of The Dallas Morning News; and Joshua Barajas, deputy online editor at PBS NewsHour.
5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.
8:30 a.m. | Coffee, African Room, Department of Communication, Wayne State University We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.
9-10 a.m. | Soul for the Food
Telling the stories of a community by writing about its food. Regional cuisines are a product of the area’s history, native ingredients, colonial influences and more. So writing about Tex-Mex, Frogmore Stew, scrapple or other regional dishes gives us opportunities to write about the communities themselves.
This panel will explore how to mine an area’s food scene for the community stories that lie just beyond. With Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News; Daniel Hernandez formerly of LA Taco; Jamila Robinson of the James Beard Awards Journalism Committee; and Paul Stephen, food writer San Antonio Express-News.
10-11:30 a.m. | Are features stories endangered species? At a time when the industry is focused on investigative, project and data journalism, we ignore—at our own peril—the kinds of feature stories that resonate with our readers. Tom Hallman Jr. will lead a workshop drawn from the real world of storytelling, discussing what’s needed to find, report and write feature stories with impact. More than a class on theory, Hallman will examine his stories, and the stories of other writers, to break down what is required to bring stories to life.
Participants will learn skills they can use immediately. While Hallman has written series and stores as long as 6,000 words, he believes a story does not have to be long, nor does it require months of reporting and writing. Hallman, a senior reporter at The Oregonian, won the 2001 Pulitzer in Feature Writing.
12-1:30 p.m. | SFJ award winners luncheon, Italian Room
We laud the winners of the 2019 Excellence-in-Features Awards.
2-3 p.m. | A new beat for an old magazine
Why on earth would someone spend $50 on a water bottle? What does it say about you if you do? “If you can understand why so many people would spend 50 bucks on a water bottle, you can understand a lot about America in 2019,” writes Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic. From why we obsess over fancy S’well bottles to the reason that young Americans are so sick of booze, Mull is carving out a fresh approach to examining contemporary culture, while developing a brand new audience for a 163-year-old publication.
3-4 p.m. |Write the Power: Community stories as told through music writing Music culture coverage isn’t just cool, bringing dismissive hipsters to the fold or sending Boomers into nostalgic overloads. This arts beats is an essential part of journalism because it often tells us the stories of the overlooked and ignored. Whether it’s using a feature on a hip-hop group to showcase how people are powering pride in a crumbling part of town or examining cultural ties by explaining how K-Pop connects a second generation of Americans to their ancestral homeland, these stories unite us through art while bringing different faces and stories to news sites. In a time of representative reporting and diversity course correcting, the music beat can look on point. But the truth is music writers have been reporting on diversity and representation for years by simply finding the best stories about the best art.
We talk with a panel of veteran music and culture writers to explain how music coverage is more than snide album reviews or fawning Q&As; it’s a highly effective way to get diverse people on the front page and timely issues into the news sites. With Mesfin Fekadu, AP Music writer; Imani Mixon, freelance culture writer in Detroit; and Jim DeRogatis, author and former Chicago Sun-Times music critic; and Robert Morast, Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.
4-5 p.m. |Breaking down R. Kelly In 2000, The Chicago Sun-Times was the first news outlet to publish a report that alleged R. Kelly had engaged in sex with minors. Veteran music reporter Jim DeRogatis has been reporting on this tragic story from Day 1. Now, as the pop singer awaits arraignment on federal sex crimes, we have this special opportunity to sit with DeRogatis and discuss this 20-some-year tragedy.
5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.
7-9 p.m. | The SFJ Foundation Auction, The Detroit Writing Room
Meet us two blocks from the hotel at Detroit’s only co-working space for writers! And it was co-founded by a former features reporter for the Detroit News. We’ll have an open bar and apps. We hope you will bid big to help support the SFJ Foundation’s Diversity Fellowship program. Emily Spicer and Jim Haag will lead the craziness, with able assistance from those in the crowd.
SATURDAY | 09.21.19
Stevie Wonder Room, michigan.com
9 a.m. | Coffee and doughnuts
9:30-10:30 p.m. | Digital storytelling—10 things digital editors wished you knew
Barbara Allen and Kristen Hare from Poynter will lead this session. Come with questions!
10:30-11:30 a.m. | Show & Steal part II Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sue Campbell of Star Tribune Magazine showcase more great feature ideas from SFJ members.
11:30 a.m.-noon | Changing of the guard It’s a time-honored tradition: The current SFJ president, Margaret Myers turns over the gavel – and few surprising pieces of clothing – to the incoming president, Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman. Then, sadly, it’s time to wrap it up.
Editor’s note: We have updated this post to reflect a few changes from the original. Namely, Detroit’s Aaron Foley will not be joining us due to a scheduling conflict. We will miss him! Also, Sue Campbell from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune will be joining Show & Steal this year.
INDIANAPOLIS, July 10, 2019 – The Society for Features Journalism (SFJ), an organization promoting the craft of writing and innovation in journalism is proud to announce that Wei-Huan Chen, the Arts + Culture Writer and Theater Critic for the Houston Chronicle will receive SFJ’s 2019 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship.
Additionally, a generous first-time grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will fund fellowships for five journalists of color to attend SFJ’s September conference in Detroit.
The Society for Features Journalism is a member-based organization whose members write for large and small publications nationally, covering stories about race, identity, culture and community. Every year, SFJ hosts a conference for writers, editors, students and journalists interested in learning about honing their craft. Through the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program, journalists of color can attend the conference for free. The conference allows fellows to gain insight on the workings of features departments nationwide, to network with outstanding journalists, and to share their insights with the journalistic community.
“My aim is foremost to raise awareness, leaving artists and administrators to take action,” said Wei-Huan Chen. “And perhaps most important: during a time of national trauma and distrust, I love writing about beauty, joy, inspiration and brilliance.”
Chen has written for the Chronicle since 2016. He combines arts criticism and investigative reporting to produce groundbreaking coverage that highlights diversity. The SFJ Foundation will cover Chen’s all-expenses paid fellowship to the conference.
Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, assisted the SFJ in funding these fellowships through a generous first-time grant. These funds will give five additional journalists of color the opportunity to attend the conference: helping cultivate conversations about tech trends, the #MeToo movement, social media, and the media’s coverage of communities of color nationwide.
The five Craig Newmark fellow recipients are:
– Nicole Clark, Vice Media, Staff Writer, Los Angeles. Nicole writes on film, television, book reviews and was previously a legal writer.
– Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press, Music Editor and Senior Journalist, New York. Mesfin has worked at the AP since 2008, overseeing the text music coverage as well as video and photo production.
– Chris Ip, Engadget, Associate Features Editor, New York. Chris writes features on the intersection of culture, society, and technology.
– Prince Shakur, Freelancer, Columbus, Ohio. Prince has written for a variety of publications including Teen Vogue, AfroPunk and Vice. His Two Woke Minds video project won the 2017 Rising Stars Digital Innovator Award from G.L.A.A.D.
– Vanessa Taylor, Afrotech, Writer and Editor, Philadelphia. Vanessa covers politics, culture and religion. As a teenager, she co-founded the Black Liberation Project, a grassroots collective of Black youth based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
SFJ is excited to bring such a diverse class of fellows to this year’s The Society for Features Journalism National Conference, taking place September 18-21, 2019, in Detroit.