Building a Resilient SEJ in 2023 and Beyond

March 2, 2023

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SEJ President’s Report: Building a Resilient SEJ in 2023 and Beyond


Photo of Luke Runyon

Dear SEJ members —

I hope I’m not jinxing myself when I say that the signs of spring are starting to emerge in my little corner of the world in western Colorado.

For me the sign came in the form of the thick icy crust that develops on the surface of the Rocky Mountain snowpack as it thaws during warmer daytime temperatures and freezes again overnight. I dug my cross-country skis through that thicker, more spring-like snow on a recent weekend and got all wistful for wildflowers and the warmer, longer days ahead.

What’s another sign of spring that has me equally excited? Now that it'’s March I can officially say I will be seeing you all in Boise next month for #SEJ2023, and I cannot wait.

I’m writing to give you an update on the Boise conference, and to give you some information on a new initiative at SEJ.


#SEJ2023 in Boise

Registration for #SEJ2023 in Boise is smashing records. I'm told the only other SEJ gathering with this much early attention was in 2011 when the conference came to sunny Miami, Florida. Is Boise the new Miami? You'll have to show up in person to find out.

The workshops, tours, plenaries and concurrent sessions have been posted to the conference website. Don't miss the keynote and Q&A with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and a special preview of Ken Burns' new film, "The American Buffalo." Consider this your invitation to start perusing the agenda and planning out your days at the conference.  

For the deadline-driven among us, make sure to register soon. Workshops and tours have already started to fill up, and we may have to start to cap registration due to space limitations at Boise State University, our host for this year's conference. Please also share sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities with colleagues who might be interested in helping us continue to keep #SEJ2023 affordable for our members.

One more thing on the conference front for you to consider. The SEJ Board of Directors is hosting a breakfast during the conference, on Saturday, April 22 from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. in the Jordan Ballroom at Boise State. Board members will be in attendance, and will be presenting a few priorities for the remainder of the year. Please make a note to attend if you'd like to speak with SEJ board leadership in person on anything that's top of mind.

As always, a big thank you to conference co-chairs Tom Michael and Christy George and SEJ’s director of annual conferences, Jay Letto, for helping put together what looks like a great program. I also want to give a hearty congratulations to this year's class of diversity fellows. This opportunity, made possible in partnership with The Uproot Project, gives journalists from traditionally underrepresented groups needed financial support to attend the conference. I’m looking forward to meeting all 30 fellows in Boise.


Launching the SEJ Future Council

I’m excited to formally launch the SEJ Future Council. The council represents a new fundraising initiative to provide financial support for SEJ's efforts to increase and improve environmental journalism.

Funds raised by SEJ from individuals are critical to supporting SEJ programs, such as the diversity fellowships to attend our annual conference, story grants for reporters, and training opportunities for members. Standing up this new council is essential as SEJ looks to evolve and grow.

Potential members of the Future Council will be invited based on their philanthropic commitment to supporting environmental journalism and their respect for SEJ's editorial independence. The Future Council's sole responsibility is to help SEJ raise funds, through personal donations or by making connections to other potential donors.

Members of the Future Council will not have any role in decisions about SEJ policy, initiatives, publications or programs. Those decisions remain solely in the hands of the SEJ Board of Directors and its designees. As an organization that relies on grants and donations, SEJ has guardrails in place to maintain editorial independence from any type of funder, donor or partner. These guidelines will also apply to Future Council members.

SEJ's leadership understands that to continue to weather the uncertain economic climate we find ourselves in, the organization needs supporters who can help ensure SEJ's financial stability through their financial commitments and through their connections to other potential donors and supporters. Unlike other nonprofits that can select board members for their connections and capacity to give, we are a membership-driven organization with an elected, all-volunteer board composed of working journalists. While our journalist members have many talents, fundraising typically isn't one of them.

Many other small nonprofits — including public media and nonprofit media —  have similar donor circles to help support their work. With its new Future Council SEJ now joins the ranks of other nonprofits building fundraising capacity.

Invites to the first group of potential Future Council members are going out soon. When those members join we'll post their names and affiliations to the SEJ website. This initiative is made possible through the hard work of Vice President for Fundraising Sara Shipley Hiles, Future Council Task Force Chair Laura Paskus and members of both the SEJ Fundraising Committee and the task force, with support from Executive Director Meaghan Parker and fundraising consultant Stephen Whisnant. I'd invite you to read more about the new Future Council here.

Luke Runyon is President of SEJ's Board of Directors. He's a managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin for NPR station KUNC in northern Colorado, where he produces stories for a network of public media stations in the Southwest. Current SEJ term: 2021-2024.


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