Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blog: Michigan State at Iowa |

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech is live-blogging today's Spartans-Hawkeyes game. Unfortunately, Anthony couldn't catch a ride to Iowa, so he'll be bringing you his thoughts off of ESPN's telecast.

Feel free to discuss the game with Anthony in the chat below. For those of you on our mobile site, we will post periodic game updates below the chat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

COLUMN: Cliff (Lee) vs. Tim (Lincecum)

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 27, 2010

Probably not, he said.

I stood there, shook my head and chuckled.

I was outside of the San Francisco Giants clubhouse, and I was just turned down by Tim Lincecum.

He took my interview request – “Hey Tim, can I get a minute?” – and matter-of-factly responded to it over his left shoulder, walking through the clubhouse doors.
“Probably not.”

It was cool. You see, Tim’s kind of a big deal, and I’m kind of a big Tim fan.

So I let him slide. What was I to expect, that this cool, hippie-looking 26-year-old guy that once got pulled over with a few grams of weed in his car was going to recognize my coolness and want to talk?

Yes, that’s exactly what I expected.

So he disappointed me. And the next day, against a last-place Pirates team in Pittsburgh, he disappointed me again.

Wasn’t dominant. Wasn’t throwing hard. Wasn’t striking out guys. He wasn’t, well, being Tim.

Was this the Tim Lincecum I loved rooting for, the pitcher I’d stay up late to watch, only to be disappointed start after start after start, wondering when he’d complete a game or shut a team out?

“Probably not,” I decided, and traded him.

For Cliff Lee.

Cliff – short for Clifton – was on the Seattle Mariners at the time. They stunk. Never scored and never won.

Except when he pitched.

In those games, Cliff would take the ball, get on the mound and throw strike after strike.

He would never walk anybody, strike out everybody; he’d win games, complete games and was the fantasy ace of a manager’s dreams.

Then he got traded to Texas, did all right, got hurt, wasn’t able to pitch for my fantasy team in the playoffs, we lost, and life went on.

Still, the question loomed: Should I have traded Tim, who pitched well during the playoffs, for Cliff?

Probably not.

But after the ups and the downs, 162 games and two playoff rounds, both Cy Young-winning pitchers are still standing, saving their best for a grand ending.
And tonight, they’ll face off in the opening game of the World Series.

Tim for the young Giants, a team that beat the defending National League Champions, and Cliff for the upstart Rangers, a team that beat the defending World Series Champions.

Lincecum and Lee, a powerful San Francisco righty and a commanding Texas lefty, pitching from the same mound in October.

Anyone predict that in April?

Probably not.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blog: Michigan State at Northwestern |

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech is live-blogging today's Spartans-Wildcats game. Unfortunately, Anthony couldn't make it to Northwestern, so he'll be bringing you his thoughts off of ESPN 2's telecast.

Feel free to discuss the game with Anthony in the chat below. For those of you on our mobile site, we will post periodic game updates below the chat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Offense falls short, defense fails to keep pace with Miami

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 18, 2010

There were seven minutes left in the first half.

The Chippewas were down, looked out and trailed Miami in front of a homecoming crowd.

There were missed kicks, dropped passes, an interception and a fumble. The offense couldn’t move and the defense couldn’t stop.

“They made plays when they needed to,” said head coach Dan Enos. “And we didn’t execute.”

And just a football field away, a tailgate was dying in Lot 63.

The biggest pregame crowd in two years was dispersing, lines at the Port-O-Potty restrooms disappearing and blood-alcohol levels declining, as a student body spilled from a parking lot into a football stadium.

But the Chippewas couldn’t come alive.

“It’s very disappointing,” Enos said. “The guys are frustrated, I’ll tell you that.”

Not after a Paris Cotton five-yard touchdown run moments later, not after the half, not in the third quarter, and not in the fourth when two red-zone field goals just weren’t enough to top the RedHawks.

They tried.

Miami led by 10. CMU cut the lead to three. Miami led by six. CMU cut the lead to three. Miami led by three. And then, CMU erased the lead.

But as the Chippewas tried to keep pace, responding to an early second half Miami touchdown with a Carl Volny touchdown run here, and to an early fourth quarter Miami field goal with two David Harman field goals there, something was missing.

You could see it on the field, where the RedHawks gained more yards, took care of the football and made the most of their scoring opportunities. You could see it on the opposing sideline, where Zac Dysert stood between running confident drives, making plays and passing a yard short of 400 yards.

And you could see it in the stands, as the once-packed student section began to thin out near the end of the third quarter, and you could certainly see it wherever Dan LeFevour was — in the stands, on the sidelines or wherever else at Kelly/Shorts Stadium the former quarterback was — in his return to Mount Pleasant, a sign that the high-scoring, never boring offensive days of the past had, well, passed.

With 19 seconds left in regulation, freshman defensive back Avery Cunningham drifted off of Miami receiver Andy Cruse. Cunningham peeked and Cruse streaked, 71 yards down the field.

Dysert would find him, wide open, feed him, wide open, and the game was over, a 27-20 Central Michigan defeat while the remains of a student section dissolved in a quiet hush.

The Chippewas are 2-5. They have lost four in a row. Three conference games for the first time since 2005. Homecoming for the first time since 2004.

“We can still make a bowl game,” said senior linebacker Nick Bellore. “As a senior that’s what I want to try to do. That’s what we do here, is go to bowl games.”

“I can’t go to Detroit now,” he said. “And that’s tough enough to take.”

That, and that there is no time left in the first half.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

CMU drops homecoming game against Miami, falls to 1-3 in MAC

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 16, 2010

It wasn’t a happy homecoming.

Saturday afternoon, as the waning seconds ticked off of a fourth quarter clock, Miami sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert dropped back to pass.

He dropped back, felt unfamiliar pressure from the Chippewas defensive line, stepped up in the pocket and spotted a wide open Andy Cruse downfield.

Way downfield.

Dysert lofted the ball, Cruse caught it, and with 19 seconds remaining, a crowd of 24,761 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium came to a collective hush as the Redhawks sophomore wide receiver scored the deciding touchdown in a 27-20 Miami victory.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos. “They made plays when they needed to and we didn’t execute.”

The loss is the Chippewas fourth straight, third in Mid-American Conference play, and almost certainly eliminates them from a berth in the conference championship game.

“The guys are frustrated, I’ll tell you that,” Enos said.

After trailing by a field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, CMU was unable to capitalize on its red zone opportunities late in the game, and two late field goals by David Harman were not enough.

Harman’s 23-yard field goal at the 4:33 mark of the final frame tied the game at 20, but after each team squandered a game-salvaging drive, the ball was back in Miami possession, and in the hands of Dysert.

The 71-yard touchdown pushed the sophomore quarterback to 399 yards on the day, on 29-of-47 passing. Cruse recorded eight catches for 179 yards and scored twice.

“It was kind of shocking,” senior linebacker Nick Bellore admitted about seeing the ball in the air with the receiver wide open down the field. “Everybody was making mistakes today.”

The RedHawks took a lead early in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Dysert to Cruse.

CMU eventually returned the favor, on a Paris Cotton five-yard touchdown run, but failed to score from what Enos called ‘the one-inch line’ minutes earlier, when Cotton was stripped at the goal-line and Miami recovered.

Down by three at the half, Miami opened the second half scoring just five minutes in, on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Dysert to redshirt freshman Nick Harwell.

Senior running back Carl Volny answered with a one-yard touchdown run eight minutes later, but all game, the CMU offense had difficulties running the football, which resulted in a career-high 52 passing attempts from quarterback Ryan Radcliff.

“There was the lack of ability to run the ball,” Enos said. “It’s a field position game.”

Harman, who replaced sophomore kicker Richie Hogan after an early missed field goal, connected on two field goals in the fourth, but ultimately, the game was decided by Dysert and Cruse, hooking up on third-and-14, with under a minute left to play.

“He played very confidently,” Enos said of Dysert. “It’s a win on them and a team loss for us.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Heart at Home

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 15, 2010

Think back to the last time Central Michigan lost to Ball State.

“Well uh,” you’re thinking. “That was two weeks ago.”

Why yes, it was. Now think back to the last time, before the Cardinals two-touchdown win Oct. 2.
Flip the calendar back a couple of years.

Nov. 19, 2008. National television. Nate Davis versus Dan LeFevour. The Chippewas would lose that game, 31-24, and the next two, to Eastern Michigan and Florida Atlantic, respectively, in the Motor City Bowl.

It was the program’s last three-game losing streak. And it’s something the program certainly would like to put an end to in order to save any chance at the Mid-American Conference championship.

This year, CMU lost a heart-breaker to Northwestern. Then they lost that Ball State game. And then the follow-up at Virginia Tech.

Now, it’s homecoming and the team walks in with a 2-4 record, two wins and two losses different than most forecasted.

And in the beginning, the forecast was sunny with a chance of big, puffy clouds. Breeze through MAC play with a loss or two at the most, and lose to Northwestern and Virginia Tech.

But that was before the team went searching for a kicker. Before the defense couldn’t handle the Cardinals run attack and before the Chippewas couldn’t parlay big plays with points against Virginia Tech.

These days, the forecast is a little less sunny, a little more cloudy, with the possibility of rain on the way.

But unlike recent seasons, without a standout quarterback, an established offense and a veteran head coach, Mount Pleasant is due for a small shower or two.

And just like there’s never a good time to lose to Ball State, there’s never a good time to lose four straight, especially against a team that just got beat 45-3 by your former coach.

With still an outside shot to make waves in the conference, the forecast looks good for a midseason Chippewas resurgence.

And the forecast for Saturday?

63 degrees and sunny.

Happy Homecoming.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How I (almost) bet on CMU against Ball State

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 13, 2010

It was just a crisp, dark green bill sitting in the back of my wallet, no different-looking than the $20s, $5s, and $1s in front of it, and no harder to hand over the betting counter.

It was two weeks ago and I was lounging in a plush leather chair, just behind the sports book at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, Nev., a drink in one hand and probably a cigarette in the other, talking with a few former co-workers over a table of betting sheets, pencils and parlay cards.

Tennessee, underrated. $20. Notre Dame, gotta win someday. $30. Wisconsin, because Michigan State isn’t THAT good. $40. So on and so forth, taking down numbers that totaled well over half of the cash I brought with me to Las Vegas.

“What about this, T.G.?” one of them asks me. (It’s a nickname. Long story.)

His name is Rob — 50-something with glasses and a deep voice. He leans over, pointing a mini yellow pencil at a circled game.

122 C MICHIGAN -16 Sixteen? Ball State? What?

I look at the sheet closer, thinking the game was more suited to a 19-or-20 point Chippewas spread, but predictably, nothing had changed.

122 C MICHIGAN -16

“All day,” I reply, having to be some kind of authority on the team I’m supposed to cover. “All. Day.”

Rob is a writer and admittedly hasn’t bet as of late.

“That might be the game of the year so far,” he says, with a little bit of enthusiasm.

He’s sitting to the left of me, and another guy, Andy, is sitting in front of me.

“But they ain’t got LeFevour,” says Andy, in a Kansas drawl.

Blasphemy, I think, flipping to the back of the page. Team should be 3-1, undefeated against the spread, accumulating 400-plus yards against a team that allows 400- plus yards. Sixteen? Coming off of a tough loss to Northwestern?


“They definitely cover this,” I say. “Definitely.” Immediately, I cross games off.
Florida? Too young. Virginia Tech? Too scared. Michigan State? Well, they still aren’t THAT good. $20.

This guy needs room for a hundred, because if he can’t make Las Vegas money at Central Michigan, then he will certainly make Las Vegas money on Central Michigan.

Besides, it’s just $100.

Just a few weeks worth of support for a nicotine addiction. Just a couple dozen fast food meals. Just an, OK, you get it — $100 is a lot of money.

But in Vegas? In Vegas, it’s JUST $100. In Vegas, it’s not drinks at the club. It’s just getting into the club. It’s not gambling; it’s just placing a chip on black.

So we left, without me placing a single bet (“Will later,” I said), and later that night went to a club where we drank, danced, smoked and saw Dontrelle Willis.

The next day, I woke up around 12:15 in just the kind of way you wake up when you’re in Vegas.

I grabbed a shirt, some shorts, booked it down an elevator and through a casino, but couldn’t get to the ticket window on time. Good thing, right?

Well, then I walked by a blackjack table.

Hey, it was just $100.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hagit Limor traces journey to top of SPJ

By Anthony Fenech

Hagit Limor remembers the Six Day War like it was yesterday.

She remembers the air raid, with sirens swirling and missiles flying, as she ran to a shelter in the middle of the Israeli night, a first-grader with a heart beating out of her chest.

“I do remember that very clearly,” she said. “I grew up innocently, feeling completely safe until that war broke out.”

It was June 1967 in Tel Aviv, Israel, and, during the war, Limor saw her hometown transform into a very different place.

“I grew up in a little town where nobody locked their doors,” she said. “It was a different time.”

She remembers dancing in the streets a week later, in celebration of the war’s end, but what she remembers most is the adrenaline of the whole experience.

Four decades later, that adrenaline has taken Limor overseas, across the United States and to the top of the Society of Professional Journalists as the organization’s 92nd president.

“I just fell in love with the whole adrenaline of the journey,” she said.

The child of a father who survived the Holocaust and a mother from Russia, Limor began composing poetry at age 4, before she could even write, by memorizing words as her parents translated them into Hebrew.

At 6, she was writing poetry. At 8, she was writing songs, a Jewish girl in the music heaven of Nashville, Tenn., where her family had since moved.

By 10, she was writing constantly.

“I think I was meant to be a writer,” Limor said. “I wrote and I wrote and I loved it before I could even form the alphabet.”

So she kept writing — all the way to Northwestern University, where she eventually received a master’s degree in journalism. Intent on a future in news reporting, she stumbled across a broadcasting class in her final year as an undergraduate at Northwestern.

She liked it, so she tried an internship. She liked that, so she tried another one.

“They were great,” Limor said. “That’s when I realized I’m really enjoying this broadcasting thing.”

She graduated in 1983, with double-digit unemployment and a job market eerily similar to today’s. She took her resume and tapes and packed into a beaten car, traveling to every television station within five hours of Nashville, a trip she dubbed the “Broadcast Tour of America.”

Limor would call ahead to set up interviews or sit in the lobbies of stations that didn’t answer those calls until they would see her. She did this for two weeks, staying in hotels that Limor said she “wouldn’t want my own children to stay in.”

Eventually, the hard work paid off with a minimum-wage gig in Bristol, Va., where she did everything from reporting to producing to sports play-by-play.

“In some ways, that job was almost better than the master’s degree,” she said. “It was just the best training I could ask for.”

After Bristol, she reported in Asheville, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., before heading to WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, where she has been for the past 16 years, winning awards while anchoring the station’s investigative reporting unit and running SPJ’s Cincinnati Pro Chapter for the past four years.

She is married and has a 5-year-old son, Jake.

Her experience with SPJ includes stints as secretary-treasurer on the national membership committee and as a board member of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

As SPJ president, she wants to spread the word about First Amendment freedoms for the press and focus on helping the public appreciate why having a free press is important.

“I fully expect that Hagit will take the reins and SPJ will be in an even better position than they are now,” said outgoing president Kevin Smith.

Limor is excited about her new leadership role at SPJ.

“We don’t just represent our members, but we speak for every journalist in the country. And we fight for laws that would support anyone that goes after the truth, not just journalists,” she said.

New president Limor takes the reins of SPJ as conference closes

By Anthony Fenech

Another successful Society of Professional Journalists National Convention is in the books.

Tuesday night, inside a ballroom at Planet Hollywood’s convention center, Hagit Limor was officially installed as the 92nd SPJ president.

“Here I am standing before you and I’m truly humbled,” Limor said. “We’re all here for a reason. We have all been drawn to this room at this moment by a common denominator.”

Her installation was the final display in a night that included laughs, cheers and raw emotion on the podium.

In his final speech as president, Kevin Smith said, “We did more than just weather the storm. We built an ark.”

Carol Rosenberg, a reporter at the Miami Herald, was one of three awarded the SPJ First Amendment Award. Rosenberg fought for access to public records involving the Guantanamo Bay controversy.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she said, her voice trembling. “They banned me, they smeared me and they tried to get my editors to take me off the case.”

There were two winners of the First Amendment Awards. Lawyer Herschel Fink was honored for his work to keep Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter out of jail for refusing to reveal his sources. Dave Cuillier, a professor at the University of Arizona, was honored for his work as chair of the Freedom of Information committee.

“The First Amendment means everything to us,” Cuillier said. “I’ve seen it with my eyes. Journalism is not dead, it is alive and well.”

Smith also presented Cuillier with a President’s Award in the form of a statue of the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, known as a staunch defender of the Constitution.

David Perlman, a 91-year-old science writer from the San Francisco Chronicle, won the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Perlman started a 78-year journalism career at age 12 with his junior high paper but was unable to attend the banquet, instead blaming his “mean editors” through Chronicle city editor Audrey Cooper, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Newspaper-closing casualty regroups, returns with InvestigateWest

By Anthony Fenech

Rita Hibbard didn’t realize how much she loved journalism until she lost her job.

Hibbard was assistant managing editor for news at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when the newspaper closed its doors in 2009. On Monday, at the Society of Professional Journalists conference, she summed up those feelings by displaying a picture of a young girl shielding her face from a wicked rainstorm.

“Doing a good job isn’t good enough,” she said, at the “Crap! My Paper Closed!” session.

Hibbard led staff investigations that won several prestigious awards, including the 2009 George Polk Award for Military Reporting and the 2009 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Doing good journalism is important, but it’s not enough,” she said. “It’s not enough for survival.”

In the hourlong workshop, Hibbard detailed how she rebounded from her job loss by founding a startup investigative news organization called InvestigateWest.

InvestigateWest is comprised of three staff members, three contributors, four student interns and a host of board members spread across the country. The site is gaining attention in media circles around the Pacific Northwest – a region that, according to Hibbard, lost 35,000 jobs between September 2008 and August 2009, and 1,000 journalism jobs since 2004.

“It’s all a risk,” she said. “From day one, part of that risk is being willing to change.”

And the risk seems to be paying off.

The organization’s first story, an investigation into health care workers’ exposure to chemotherapy that resulted in cancer, was sold to

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Lucy Reed, who attended the session. “Obviously she has passion and wasn’t going to give up no matter what. She’s doing this and making it work.”

InvestigateWest tries to work every story into multiple platforms, and the non-profit organization collaborates with other news organizations to spread its name.

“It’s all about learning,” Hibbard said. “Learning new business models as the industry is in transit.”

Other stories InvestigateWest has covered include cruise lines dodging state rules by dumping water in Canada and sexual assaults on college campuses.

Despite the long and difficult hours, along with challenges such as gaining familiarity with the public, building social networks and learning new business skills, Hibbard summed up her present-day feelings with a picture of a beach, which she calls her “sabbatical.”

“I don’t think I’m out of the storm yet,” Hibbard said. “Just a little sheltered and a lot happier.”

To learn more about InvestigateWest, visit

Outgoing leader Smith to continue shield law push

By Anthony Fenech

Somewhere high in the sky between Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, Kevin Smith stopped what he was doing to think for a minute.

He thought about his past year as president of the Society of Professional Journalists, about all the places he had gone, all the people he had met and all the hard work he had put in.

“And I’m thinking, ‘Really? Was that really a year ago?’” he said Monday.

It really was a year ago when Smith took hold of the most prestigious position on SPJ’s board of directors. And it really will end Tuesday after 13 months on the job.

“It seems like it was just a couple of weeks ago,” he remembered thinking during that six-hour journey to the West Coast.

“It has flown by, it really has,” he said.

Smith’s time as SPJ president is ending, but he isn’t going anywhere. He plans to remain active, particularly on pushing Congress to enact a federal shield law.

He sat inside an empty conference room at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Monday, wearing a colorful tie with ribbons dangling from his name tag, and gave at least one reason that he won’t fade away after his term as president ends.

“I wish we had the shield law passed,” he said. “That was my number one focus.”

Never mind that under Smith’s presidency, SPJ increased membership, created a budget surplus for the first time in a few years and opened its first international chapter in Qatar.

He still wants a federal shield law to protect journalists who use anonymous sources from prosecution or jail time. Some states already have such laws to protect journalists.

Smith wants a free flow of information from the press to the public and he wants two senators to stop holding up the bill.

He said the law is about more than protecting journalists.

“This is about believing in democracy, and if you believe in democracy and the citizens’ right to decide, then the citizens deserve the information to make those decisions,” Smith said.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Charles E. Schumer of New York have blocked the bill for months over concerns about extending protection to bloggers and others who do marginal amounts of journalism.

The fate of the bill is “out of our control to a certain degree,” Smith said. “You can advocate it and work with people, but it’s ultimately Congress’ decision and sometimes it’s an enormous dinosaur to move.”

He was on Capitol Hill last week, handing out letters and urging senators to support the bill.

A native of West Virginia, the 53-year-old Smith is divorced and lives in Harrisonburg, Va., a few hours away from the nation’s capitol. He plans to continue pressing for the shield law and has approval from Hagit Limor, SPJ’s incoming president, to do so.

Limor and Joe Skeel, SPJ’s executive director, spoke highly of Smith’s leadership. Skeel met him in the back of a bus in Seoul, South Korea. Limor met him in a boardroom in Cincinnati.

Both said they instantly knew Smith had the makings of a leader.

“I knew by the end of the bus ride,” said Skeel.

Limor said Smith “made a great first impression.”

Smith was inducted to Sigma Delta Chi (SPJ’s former name) as a college student in 1978. He joined SPJ’s ethics committee in 1988, and spent 18 years there before leaping to the board of directors.

Perhaps fittingly, Smith will ease into his role as immediate past president by serving as chair of Limor’s ethics committee.

The new position will give him a chance to boost SPJ’s ethics policies, including promoting and marketing the organization’s new ethics book being released in January.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Journalism Expo showcases graduate schools and talking geckos

By Anthony Fenech

Why is Karen Burns here, at a journalism expo inside the grand ballroom of Planet Hollywood’s convention center, sitting behind a desk crowded with car insurance goodies?

Burns is an event coordinator for Geico, the car insurance company most famously known for its gecko mascot that reminds television viewers “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.”

Today, she is sitting in the back corner of the ballroom, behind a desk littered with Geico letter openers, Geico hats and yes, Geico gecko pens.

“I’m here to spread the word,” she says.

She’s here to spread the word about Geico, about car insurance, and about membership benefits some Society of Professional Journalists convention-goers might not know about. SPJ members may be eligible for the savings depending on what state they live in.

“It does turn some heads,” she admits, “Especially if it’s my first time at a place.”

Monday was Burns’ first time working at a SPJ convention and with an organization that can save you up to eight percent on car insurance with Geico.

It’s a slow day for her, but a fast day for her ballroom neighbor, Leon Braswell III.

Braswell, director of admissions and financial aid at Columbia University, travels to conventions across the country to meet prospective graduate students.

“Even with the light traffic right now, this year has been the best for me,” he says, nearing 5 p.m. “In years past, it has been tumbleweed slow.”

But the first of three expo days for Burns has been slow, not exactly tumbleweed slow, but slow.

“There were some people earlier,” she says, “But I heard it’s supposed to be busier tomorrow.”

She points at two stacks of black Geico hats to the left of her.

“And let’s hope so, because I have 250 of these hats to give away.”

She hands out pens that look – and talk – like the Geico gecko and funny ribbons that convention goers can stick to their name tags, reminding others that “I know what you did last convention.”

“A lot of the people aren’t aware of the benefits,” she says. “This stuff gets more people to the booth.”

And it’s that stuff that keeps the journalists coming to a car insurance booth among media companies, colleges, advocacy groups and government agencies.

“It’s worthwhile being here,” Burns says. “These are the people that we want to get to.”

From pro chapter to national: the journey of new SPJ President-elect Hagit Limor

By Anthony Fenech

They were two journalists sitting inside of a boardroom in Cincinnati, talking about life, journalism and the future.

It was the summer of 2007 and Kevin Smith, then-Society of Professional Journalists’ region 4 director, had a message for Cincinnati Pro Chapter President Hagit Limor: We want you.

Smith saw how the award-winning WCPO-TV investigative reporter had resurrected a chapter that was once breathing its last breath.

He knew that SPJ needed someone to step into the secretary-treasurer role. He thought Hagit Limor (Hah-‘GEET LEE-more), 50, was the woman for the job.

“She’s amazing,” Smith said. “What a fantastic job she did of taking that chapter and making it viable again. That really stood out.”

And so, in town that day as a congratulatory gesture, Smith told Limor she had done a great job. He told her she’d make an excellent addition to the board of directors and asked her to think about it. He told her she should give it a shot.

“Now I’m here,” Limor said Thursday, days before becoming president of SPJ, the nation’s largest journalism organization, with about 9,000 members. “I have to give credit to him.”

Limor will take the presidential reins from Smith on Wednesday.

“It’s the biggest honor I can imagine,” Limor said. “To think about the tens of thousands of people in this country working to get the truth out to their communities, I’m deeply honored.”

Her journey to the top of SPJ began as a student at Northwestern University in the 1980s, as part of Sigma Delta Chi. That journey was put on hold during the two decades that followed as she moved from Bristol, Va., to Asheville, N.C., to Tampa, Fla. in pursuit of a broadcasting career.

That all changed in 2006 when she took over the Cincinnati Pro Chapter, which – with not a lot of money in the bank and not a lot of members in the fold – was on the verge of extinction.

Things began to change quickly under Limor’s watchful eye.

Membership increased. Bankroll exploded. According to Smith, the once-crippled chapter became one of the country’s best.

“We were able to show that you can take a chapter from nowhere and quickly ramp it up if you get excited about the mission at hand,” Limor said. “I think people on the national level took notice of that.”

And they did.

“What she did there showed a lot of character and a lot about her leadership abilities,” Smith said. “I think it was perfect training to give her the kind of perspective to be a leader.”

Smith said he told Limor, a native of Israel, all the right things and that, these days, he tells her something else.

“I tease her,” he said, laughing, “And I let her know that she owes everything she’s earned in SPJ to me.

“I’m happy because she’s marvelous, energetic and will be a fantastic president,” Smith said