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SPJ’s Delaware Pro Up and Running, Attracts Biden to Speak

New Chapter Joins DC, Maryland Pro in Mid-Atlantic
By T.C. Cameron

It started last October, when a handful of local Wilmington journalists wondered openly why there wasn’t an official professional chapter representing the Society of Professional Journalists in the state of Delaware.

That group, comprised of Ashley Barnas, Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Starkey from Wilmington’s News Journal, and Amy Cherry, Chris Carl and Rick Jensen from WDEL-AM, had a vision for what is now SPJ Delaware Pro.

They put together an impromptu happy hour on Feb. 5 in Newark at a pub called Catherine Rooney’s to gauge interest. When 40-50 people showed up, signed in and became members, they had their answer. Having easily made the minimum number of SPJ members to form a chapter, the newly chartered group is now preparing for a dynamite first professional development event.

On March 5, Delaware Pro will host state Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden at the University & Whist Club, located at 805 N. Broom St. in Wilmington. The forum topic is FOIA requests; the event is sponsored by Wilmington University.

“They’ve really grabbed the bull by the horns,” said SPJ Region Two director Brian Eckert, a public information officer at the University of Richmond (Va.). “We have a dynamite chapter in D.C., a re-emerging professional chapter representing the state of Maryland and now a chapter in Delaware. I think it’s fair to say we’re really well-represented in the Mid-Atlantic.”

There will be a half-hour of cocktails and networking, offering free appetizers and a cash bar starting at 6 p.m., followed by a Question & Answer program with Biden, the son of Vice President Joseph Biden.

One of the group’s founding members, WDEL-AM assistant news director Amy Cherry, says the chapter was long overdue.

“The idea to start an SPJ chapter was really born out of the idea that Delaware is the only state without a chapter,” Cherry said. “There's a number of dedicated multimedia journalists in Delaware who really wanted to change that and help preserve the free flow of information."

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