Sep. 22, 2009  

SPJ Names New Executive Director

This is a SPJ press release issued September 21, 1009

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists hired Interim Co-Executive Director Joe Skeel as its permanent Executive Director today. Skeel follows Terry Harper, who passed away on June 2 after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

“After an exhaustive search of 180 candidates, we feel we have the best person to lead SPJ into the future,” SPJ President Kevin Smith said. “Joe distinguished himself from the field with his passion for journalism and his intimate understanding of our organization.”

Skeel joined SPJ in December 2004 as editor of Quill magazine, the Society’s magazine that focuses on journalism industry issues and provides how-to content for members. In 2008, he was named Associate Executive Director of SPJ, overseeing SPJ’s communication and membership efforts.

“Joe is passionate about journalism, and passionate about SPJ,” said Steve Geimann, president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, SPJ’s non-profit educational arm. “His enthusiasm for the journalism principles we cherish and defend, and his eagerness to help the journalists we serve and support will assure SPJ remains the leading voice for our profession in the years to come.”

When Harper was diagnosed with brain cancer, Skeel helped manage the day-to-day operations of SPJ and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation while fulfilling his responsibilities as Associate Executive Director.

Smith went on to say that Skeel, who will also serve as executive director of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, won’t just be a good leader for the Society, but he will have a much needed stabilizing effect on its national headquarters after several years of difficulties surrounding Harper’s illness.

“It’s been a pleasure to have Joe serving SPJ over the years and I think the membership will come to quickly realize that he has everything this organization needs to be the executive director, not just in name but in his vision for our organization,” Smith said. “I’m very confident, based on what I knew about Joe and what I learned about him in this interviewing process, that he is the right person to help guide us in the coming years.”

After graduating from Ball State University in 1994 with a B.S. in journalism, Skeel worked in community newspapers around central Indiana for nearly a decade. He held many newsroom positions at the Daily Journal in Franklin and the Republic in Columbus before joining SPJ.

“The current challenges facing journalism and our members are unprecedented,” Skeel said. “My focus will be to ensure that SPJ is providing unparalleled services and support so that our members will be prepared to thrive in whatever climate the future brings.

“At the same time, we will work to cement SPJ as the key voice when it comes to journalism advocacy. As one of the few journalism organizations with the power to lobby Capitol Hill, I want all journalists to know we will continue to fight for their rights.”

The search committee, which was assembled in June, consisted of eight people who collectively have a variety of experiences and backgrounds. The committee included SPJ President Kevin Smith; SPJ President-Elect Hagit Limor; Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Steve Geimann; SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Darcie Lunsford; former SPJ FOI Committee chairman Ian Marquand; Executive Director of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press Lucy Dalglish; University of Alabama journalism professor George Daniels; and Ball State University journalism instructor Renee Petrina.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit

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