On the Record: SAC Journalism Association Celebrates Silver Anniversary

March 27, 2018

Russell Guerrero

In the early 1990s, the San Antonio College Journalism program set out to accomplish what had never been done: they wanted to bring a student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to a community college.

SPJ is the oldest professional journalism organization in the country and the most prestigious. Members include reporters and photographers for newspapers, magazines, radio and the internet. Along with professional chapters, the association also includes college chapters, which must meet stringent guidelines and practices.

The idea had been around for many years at SAC, but the mission to establish a student chapter gained momentum when faculty and students received strong support from the San Antonio Light and the San Antonio Express-News, the two major daily newspapers in the city at the time.

The National SPJ association gave SAC probationary status and two years later, in 1993, granted the journalism program an official student chapter.

"We hit the ground running," remembered Tricia Buchhorn, senior communications lab technician and part-time photography adviser. Buchhorn, who was a SAC student and the first official president of the SPJ chapter, said the students celebrated the announcement by planning a series of events during National Newspaper Week.

Twenty-five years later, the SAC SPJ chapter still plays an integral role for students going into journalism. Zachary-Taylor Wright, the current president of the SPJ chapter, said being part of the national association means students must uphold high journalism standards - no different than any working journalist.

In addition, the chapter also holds community forums to inform the public on the ethical practices in journalism. "I think we are trying to be more transparent now with what are ethics are so we can be trusted," he said.

Marianne Odom, SAC journalism-photography coordinator and a former adviser for the SPJ chapter, said there are other student benefits as well, including opportunities to network with professionals in the field. The organization also offers scholarships to students who transfer to journalism programs at other colleges.

"SPJ helps groom the next generation of journalists," she said.

To celebrate their silver anniversary, the SAC chapter hosted a conference for SPJ Region 8, which covers Texas and Oklahoma.

The conference, organized by SAC students, covered issues at the forefront of the industry, including the role of social media in covering traumatic events and copyright law.

But it also included sessions that showed where the future of journalism is headed - some of the speakers talked about the importance of being an entrepreneur and creating career opportunities were none exist.

After 25 years, the SAC SPJ chapter is still vibrant and essential to future journalists.



Nicole M. Bautista is vice president of the SAC SPJ chapter and multimedia editor of the SAC Ranger . She has created a video to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the the student SPJ chapter. You can see it on You Tube by going to https://youtu.be/pC7NoVGxIPk 

Photo courtesy of the SAC Ranger.