[UPDATED] Society of Professional Journalists considers changing its name to Society for Professional Journalism

SPJ is considering changing its name from Society of Professional Journalists to Society for Professional Journalism.

Some at SPJ, according to a Romenesko tipster, favor “changing the focus of the organization to upholding and advocating the principles of professional journalism rather than the people performing the craft.” The SPJ member added: “It’s also a reaction to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others trying to define who is and isn’t a journalist. It’s a proposal that the national board will be debating for quite a while, I suspect.”

SPJ’s newly elected president David Cuillier confirms this in an email:

On Monday, SPJ delegates considered a resolution that would have changed the name to the Society for Professional Journalism. There was healthy debate and ultimately it was voted down. If it were passed it wouldn’t have changed the name immediately – that would have required a separate action for a bylaws change. But it was a great opportunity to discuss an important issue.

The SPJ board met Tuesday morning to talk about the issue, as directed by the delegates. Reaction was mixed, as I imagine it would be throughout the profession, but I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and willingness to explore the topic. As a result, I am creating a task force to look into it further and provide recommendations to the executive committee and then the full board, which could then make a recommendation to the delegates at a future convention.

There are a lot of factors we need to examine, such as the costs to the national organization and local chapters in changing their banners/letterhead, etc. More important, there are compelling philosophical issues, such as how do you define “professional journalist”? How do you define journalism, or “professional” journalism? This is especially relevant as we talk about the federal shield law. I’m not sure if we’ll have any definitive answers right away, or even if we vote on it at EIJ14 Sept. 4-6, 2014, in Nashville. It might be later.