The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest and one of its largest journalism associations, has canceled its 2024 national convention that was to be held in Indianapolis, citing a budget crisis and falling membership.
The organization’s board of directors voted this week to cancel the conference, tentatively scheduled for late September 2024, as it wrestles with a projected year-end budget deficit of $391,000.
The board voted 7-1 on Wednesday to cancel the Indianapolis convention, with one board member absent.
“We do continue to face challenges with the budget,” SPJ President Claire Regan said at the board meeting, according to an archived video. “On behalf of the board, I want to say we hear your concerns. We hear the members’ concerns.”
The organization did not say which Indianapolis hotel had booked the convention, how many people were expected to attend, or what the projected costs and revenue for the event would be. About 500 people have registered to attend this year’s national convention, being held this weekend in Las Vegas.
SPJ was founded at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1909, and grew into a large, national, broad-based journalism association. But its membership has fallen from more than 10,000 a decade ago to about 4,100 this year.
“Looking at our finances, looking at our projections for the end of this year, I am not comfortable signing contracts that encumber us to pay anything,” SPJ Vice President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins said.
The organization said it would use the time it normally spends to plan a convention to focus on fundraising and bolstering regional conferences.
“We are staring down the barrel of a huge deficit, and I cannot in good conscience expect us to have a convention,” board member Kevin Smith said.
The organization has been looking high and low for ways to raise money in recent years. Last year, it sold its three-story office building on North Meridian Street that has served as its national home for more than two decades for more than $1 million to Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization. The building had also been home to the SPJ Foundation, a sister organization.
Staff members have since been working remotely. The staff has fallen from 13 in pre-COVID days to seven. And the board this week voted to hear a presentation with a national association management group on possibly transferring some of its functions, such as membership and conferences, out of house, which could result in further layoffs and restructuring.