Finding the perfect club advisor can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. But last semester, several members of the William Paterson Society of Professional Journalists agreed that they found exactly that.
Dr. Nicholas Hirshon, the WPSPJ advisor and an associate professor at the university, was honored by the national Society of Professional Journalists this August with the David L. Eshelman Outstanding Campus Advisor Award.
Each year, SPJ presents the award to an advisor who has “made an exceptional contribution” to his or her campus chapter.
“It was an incredible honor,” Hirshon said. “It was surprising and rewarding, and there was a lot of work that went into that, so it’s really exciting when you are recognized after lots of hours scheduling all these events and trying to organize trips.”
Since WPSPJ was founded in fall 2017, Hirshon has organized many educational and networking events hosted by the chapter. Thanks to him, William Paterson students have attended newsroom tours, gone to regional SPJ conferences and spoken with professional journalists right in Hamilton Hall.
Last semester, WPSPJ members shadowed theatre critic Ruth Ross for a second time at Luna Stage theater in West Orange, NJ. They also participated in a Q&A with the Emmy award-winning writer Robert Seidman after viewing his documentary “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People,” attended the SPJ Region 1 conference in Boston and participated in a podcast workshop lead by the late John Ensslin.
In April, William Paterson became home to the New Jersey Journalism Hall of Fame. WPSPJ held an award ceremony that inducted its first class of honorees. The honorees were nominated by former NJSPJ presidents and approved by the NJSPJ board.
Hirshon started the SPJ chapter after getting inspired by Dr. Quicke, the chairperson of the communication department. They talked about starting a discussion series with professional journalists, which are now dubbed “Reality Checks.” But Hirshon wanted to take the journalism program a step further, so he created the WPSPJ chapter.
Organizing events isn’t always easy.
“One of the challenges is planning events that work with the schedules of both students and the journalists we’d like to shadow or have come speak on campus,” Hirshon said. “That requires a lot of back and forth, and trading lots of phone calls and emails.”
However, it’s very rewarding. Students learn a lot from the events they attend. Hirshon really enjoys being an advisor because he gets to connect with students and help them meet people who give them advice for achieving their career goals.
“I love talking to our journalism students about what they’d like to do after graduation. I try to plan activities that will help them reach their goals, whether it’s becoming a theater critic or a hockey beat reporter,” Hirshon said. “It’s fun to connect students with journalists I met during my time as a reporter at the Daily News and seeing those journalists give them advice on internships and jobs.”
Hirshon accepted his award at the Excellence in Journalism conference Sept. 6 held in San Antonio, Texas.
WPSPJ was also named Outstanding Campus Chapter in the Northeastern United States (Region 1) by SPJ, beating out campus chapters in Connecticut, Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.
This is a huge accomplishment considering Region 1 is also home to programs such as Columbia University in New York, which is double the size of William Paterson’s journalism program.