Leticia Steffen has been a journalism adviser for 12 years and involved in SPJ since 2008.
Leticia Steffen, chairwoman of the mass communications program at Colorado State University-Pueblo, could be the next Campus Adviser At-Large for the Society of Professional Journalists national organization.
The associate professor and CSU-Pueblo Today adviser joined the CSU-Pueblo mass comm department in 2004, and has since seen the struggles facing journalism educators. It’s why she decided to run for the seat.
“I have experienced first-hand the challenges student journalists and their advisers face in maintaining journalistic integrity in light of university administrators’ failure to understand the important, independent role of student journalism,” Steffen said in her campaign bio for the election, which will be taking place in September.
“As the Campus Adviser At-Large, I want to ensure that the SPJ board acknowledges campus and, especially, student impact as the board makes decisions and considers policies.”
Steffen has served SPJ in several different capacities since 2008. From 2008-2014 Steffen was the Colorado Pro secretary and still helps organize the chapter’s scholarships.
If Steffen wins the seat — she’s up against Chris Delboni at Florida Atlantic University — that would put two Coloradans on the national board. Colorado Pro chapter past president Ed Otte is running unopposed for Region 9 director.
The following is a brief email interview with Steffen about her bid for the Campus Adviser At- Large position.
How important is SPJ at the collegiate level?
SPJ is vital at the collegiate level. The SPJ Code of Ethics provides the foundation for helping college journalists understand how to handle the complex challenges of the profession. I think every journalism course being taught at the college level touches on issues that the code addresses. I also feel that the programming provided by local chapters, along with regional conferences, are excellent opportunities for college journalists to network and obtain valuable skills and knowledge about current issues in the profession. The SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards are a great way to recognize the work being done by college journalists in programs of all sizes.
What is the biggest issue facing journalism education?
The biggest issue facing journalism education is balancing the important foundations needed in the field (excellent, clear writing; sound ethics; thorough reporting; fulfilling the watchdog role of journalism) with the technological skills that entry-level journalists are expected to have (e.g., social media, audio/video) and balancing all of these expectations with the real challenge that the profession faces: remaining relevant in this competitive age of information/entertainment overload.
Many journalism programs don’t have the resources or faculty to cover all of these things, so it becomes more important for educators to find ways to work with professional organizations like SPJ and local media outlets to help educate and train students in the realities of the profession.
You’re at a school that has a very small journalism program, does that allow you to see journalism education through a different lens?
In terms of resources, I think coming from a smaller journalism program makes you realize that you can’t teach students EVERYTHING they’ll need to know going into the profession. We try to instill the important journalism foundations, which I mentioned in response to the first question, but we have to be a little more creative in terms of providing students with the rest of what they need to be prepared for the profession.
Our students have benefitted from a variety of internship opportunities and from occasionally attending workshops or training sessions offered by the SPJ Colorado Pro chapter, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and Colorado Press Association. I’ve been thrilled to see many graduates from our program thrive as professional journalists. Even though they graduated from a smaller journalism program, they are able to be just as effective and successful in the profession as students who may have graduated from larger programs with more resources.
In your reason for running you said you’ve encountered the challenges students and advisers face with college administrations. What kind of resources make better journalism advisers, and ultimately better journalism programs?
Legal resources are crucial. The Student Press Law Center, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, SPJ Colorado Pro chapter and Colorado Press Association have all been very helpful in terms of providing resources and workshops/discussions on legal issues for me and my students.
I think more students should be encouraged to attend these sessions or have speakers from these groups come to their campuses so students can share the specific issues they may be facing and get advice and support. I know that efforts are being made to strengthen the relationships between journalism programs and professional journalism organizations/working journalists, but I’d like to see those relationships grow even more. I think the SPJ could play a big role in bringing journalism at all levels — from high school (and earlier) to colleges to working professionals — together so we can keep the journalism profession vibrant and relevant.