To the Columbia Journalism School student body,

We are currently training to enter the media industry amid a world in chaos. The global coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 200,000 Americans, long-standing democracies are under attack and the rights we enjoy as journalists in the United States are under constant threat by those who fear the power of the pen.

That is why your brave decision to embark on this chapter right now is more important than perhaps ever before. As Henry Grunwald, former editor in chief of Time, Inc once said: “Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”

What we learn here at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and how we manage to successfully apply those lessons in the real world, can help shape society for decades to come. It will be our responsibility to uphold the school’s virtues of truth and transparency as members of the press during the unforeseeable future.

I am honored to serve as your President of the Society for Professional Journalists’ student chapter at CJS. My goals in this role include important priorities like advocating for our diverse student body and finding innovative ways to foster community-building during the COVID-19 pandemic. A commitment I made while running for President was to create a new diversity representative on our SPJ board to help ensure we are considering all of our students, from part-timers and folks with late starts, when coming up with new initiatives. I am happy to say the SPJ board now officially has its first Diversity & Inclusion representative.

I also hope to help ensure our graduating class is best placed to own the next era of digital journalism. To do that, I am calling on all of you to begin your primary consultation process with the career office, which will allow you to overhaul your resume, target your dream internships and job opportunities and get a head start on your career while guided by our school’s experts. Also, get connected with the school’s professional affinity group chapters, which offer perks like job news for student members, and become familiar with the resources already provided by the Dart Center and Tow Center

There will be much more to come in the days ahead, including an invitation to join our SPJ committees. For now, however, the board wants to hear from you: fill out this student survey so we can make sure you have a seat at the table and your voice is heard as we begin preparing for the year: http://bit.ly/SPJStudentSurvey

I’ll be writing to you again soon, but in the meantime, please feel free to reach out with any questions, or to simply introduce yourself. I’d love to help you in any way I can, as your President and new friend. 

Chris Riotta, President of SPJ 2020-2021