SPJ announces partnership with Prison Journalism Project

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The Society of Professional Journalists is partnering with the Prison Journalism Project to create a national, virtual chapter of incarcerated journalists serving time in correction facilities across the country. Under the partnership, PJP members get an opportunity to join SPJ at a student rate, while still providing them with all the benefits of an SPJ membership.

“I’m so excited about this project that will give so many more people reasons to celebrate and commit journalism,” SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall said. “SPJ’s San Quentin chapter has been a bright light for SPJ, and involving more prisoners in the organization is a step toward greater inclusivity, diversity and solidarity.

“Journalism should know no boundaries, and the best journalism holds up humanity for closer inspection and holds institutions to account. I’m glad to extend an opportunity to prospective journalists to help those behind bars and their communities and look forward to working alongside them to help them live and lead lives of opportunity now and in the future.”

PJP helps incarcerated writers and those in communities affected by incarceration tell stories about their world using the tools of journalism: gathering and testing facts and writing with nuance, texture and insight. PJP gives these individuals a way to exercise their minds and serve their prison communities, while gaining real-life skills for when they leave prison.

“This is a major step toward prison writers getting recognized as real journalists doing real journalism work,” said Yukari Iwatani Kane, co-founder and co-executive editor of PJP. “As we pursue our goal to create the first nationwide network of prison journalists, this validation will mean an immense amount to our writers who are working in challenging environments to shed light on important, untold stories from behind the walls.”

The organization asked Marcus Henderson, editor-in-chief of San Quentin News, who is also an editorial associate for PJP, to be the first chairperson of the chapter.

“It’s really exciting that SPJ is expanding its support for true diversity in journalism and this further affirms the work we’re doing from behind prison walls,” said Henderson, who is also a contributing writer for the Project. “This will translate into significant opportunities nationwide for other incarcerated journalists and I look forward to continuing to help highlight the true experience of millions of incarcerated individuals in our country.”

Henderson will help manage and guide the chapter membership, which SPJ will review every year to ensure the chapter is active in its journalism work.

The Prison Journalism Project is an independent non-partisan journalism organization that works with incarcerated writers and those impacted by incarceration to train them in the tools of journalism and help them reach a wide audience through our publication as well as through collaborations with mainstream media. Its goal is to create the first nationwide network of prison journalists who know the system from the inside.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a membergive to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.

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