Tarleton hosting regional journalism conference today, tomorrow

Beth Frerking

Beth Frerking


Friday, March 22, 2019

STEPHENVILLE, Texas —For the second time in three years, Tarleton State University is hosting the annual Region 8 Conference of the Society of Professional Journalists. The region includes campus and professional chapters in Texas and Oklahoma.

The event takes place today and Saturday, March 23, with Tarleton SPJ the host chapter. The conference took place at Tarleton for the first time in 2017. Last year it was at San Antonio College.

“SPJ is a great organization for students and professionals alike because it not only teaches them about the growing, changing industry of journalism, but it also creates opportunities to get to the next part of their career,” said Quanecia Fraser, president of the Tarleton SPJ chapter. “I am so incredibly excited about the group of journalists we have. We have such a diverse mix of journalists from different concentrations. There’s something for everyone.”

The conference is taking place in the Department of Communication Studies’ Texan News Service facilities, which feature a state-of-the-art TV studio, control room, newsroom and media labs. All are on the third floor of the O.A. Grant Humanities Building.

A meet-and-greet reception at the Tarleton Writing Center, 6-8 p.m. today, precedes sessions and panel discussions Saturday, along with the Mark of Excellence student journalism awards luncheon in the Dining Hall upstairs. Luncheon keynote speaker will be Beth Frerking, the new vertical editor at The Dallas Morning News.

Frerking worked more than three decades as a reporter, editor and educator in Washington, D.C., before returning to her home state. Last October she joined the Morning News and oversees a team of 40 editors and reporters in Dallas, Austin and Washington. Her career in the nation’s capital included stints at The National Law Journalwhere she served as editor-in-chief beginning in 2013, and before that at Politico.

Previously,Frerking directed the Journalism Center on Children & Families, a program of the University of Maryland’s journalism department. She joined the center after reporting for nearly a decade as a national correspondent for Newhouse News Service. She also previously served as bureau chief and congressional correspondent for The Denver Postand a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald. The newspaper’s investigative series on air traffic safety following the crash of Delta Flight 191 in August 1985 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 1986.

Returning home to Texas in September 2017, Frerking served a brief stint as editor-in-chief of the Rivard Report in San Antonio, a nonprofit online news site. She is an honors graduate of the UT Austin School of Journalism and was editor of The Daily Texan.

“We are so happy to have Beth Frerking as our keynote speaker because she has witnessed the transformation of journalism over her decades-long career,” said Kathryn Jones-Malone, SPJ Region 8 coordinator and an instructor of journalism at Tarleton. “Beth brings a unique perspective and depth of experience. She will be an inspiring and invigorating speaker.”

The conference is dedicated to the memory of Washington Postjournalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered last year after he wrote numerous columns critical of the Saudi Arabian regime.

“Journalists — students and professionals — are under attack as never before from so many different fronts,” Jones-Malone said. “Politicians, social media and even foreign governments are trying to undermine the work of journalists and sow distrust. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Conference speakers include media leaders from throughout Texas and Oklahoma, including three Pulitzer Prize winners — photojournalist Robert Hart, Tarleton Assistant Professor Dan Malone and independent journalist and author David Wood.

Hour-long conference sessions beginning at 9:15 a.m. Saturday will cover issues such as how to spot and combat fake news; Google tools and Facebook training for journalists; launching careers in TV news and sports reporting; Oklahoma tribal media and their battle for a free press; and covering the military and the aftermath of war.

An afternoon wrap-up panel will tackle journalism in the age of Donald Trump and how demonizing journalists as “enemies of the state” is having an impact beyond the Beltway and major mainstream media outlets.

Jones-Malone pointed out that a 2018 Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the news media, up from a record low of 32 percent in 2016. A Knight Foundation/Gallup survey found that most Americans believe the media still have a crucial role to play in U.S. democracy.

“Our SPJ members adhere to a code of ethics,” she said. “The first directive in that code is to ‘seek truth and report it.’ This conference is dedicated to helping journalists in our region do their jobs better, as well as rebuild public trust and demonstrate that a free press is vital to keeping our communities informed.”

Tarleton, founding member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven education marked by academic innovation and a dedication to transform today’s scholars into tomorrow’s leaders. It offers degree programs to more than 13,000 students at Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, RELLIS Academic Alliance in Bryan, and online, emphasizing real-world learning experiences that address societal needs while maintaining its core values of tradition, integrity, civility, excellence, leadership and service.

Contact: Kathryn Jones-Malone

A founding member of The Texas A&M System, Tarleton State is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of more than 16,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.