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Board of Directors

Ashley Hiruko

President

Ashley Hiruko, a Western Washington University graduate, is a journalist at KUOW Public Radio. She’s the winner of multiple WNPA awards and enjoys exploring the intricacies of the systems in power and inequalities that exist within them.

Her involvement with SPJ started with her college chapter, where she planned events and helped bring speakers before other student journalists to cultivate a growing community of aspiring writers and photographers.

As a professional, she’s focused her reporting on the diverse communities within the western side of our state. As a woman of Mexican and Japanese descent, Ashley is an advocate for supporting people of color in the field.

 

 

 

Chetanya Robinson

Vice president

Chetanya Robinson is a freelance journalist and managing editor at the International Examiner newspaper in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. He is passionate about the importance and potential of hyper-local, community journalism.

Born and raised in Seattle, he has written for several local publications and spent a summer interning for a newspaper in Sierra Leone. He served as secretary for University of Washington SPJ chapter for a year. Most recently he reported a series funded by the Solutions Journalism Network’s first Renewing Democracy grant about the challenges facing Northwest Chinatowns. In his spare time he enjoys photography, travel and cooking.

 

 

 

Michael Whitney

Treasurer

Michael Whitney is the editor of the Snohomish County Tribune weekly newspaper in Snohomish. He has reported on Snohomish, Monroe and Everett issues with the Tribune since 2008, covering everything from city government to schools to food banks to regional economic growth. He lives in Monroe with Stephanie and a laundry list of animals, including a flock of backyard chickens.

The Tribune is a rare, independently owned newspaper; its office is in downtown Snohomish and it commenced publication more than 125 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh Farley

Secretary

Josh Farley is the military affairs reporter at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton. He created and anchors the Beat Blast, the Sun’s weekly news video, and the Story Walk, a monthly experience that takes readers to the people and places making the news. He also started the Bridging Bremerton festival, a daylong event that highlights history and culture in the city.

Farley previously covered city hall and criminal justice at the Sun, where he started in 2005. He’s a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California, where he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, the Collegian.

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Gillespie

Past President

Kaitlin Gillespie is the education reporter for The Columbian, where she reports on K-12 schools as well as area colleges.

In her role, she’s uncovered elevated radon levels and structurally unsound roofs at school campuses, dived into complex state data to report on the challenges low-income children face from their first day of kindergarten, and offered an intimate portrait of families recovering from the suicides of their children.

Prior to that, she was the education reporter with the Redding Record-Searchlight in Redding, Calif., where her work on kindergarten readiness was recognized with a statewide first place Better Newspapers Contest award.

She also helped launch Washington News Nerds, a data training workshop for women and gender non-binary journalists.

In her spare time, Kaitlin enjoys exploring Vancouver and Portland’s restaurants, hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and taking photos of her cat.

 

 

 

Susannah Frame, SPJ Western Washington board of directors, 2018Susannah Frame

Board Member

Susannah Frame is the Chief Investigative Reporter at KING 5. Her stories have exposed many wrongs, including government waste, real estate fraud, homeland security breaches, civil rights violations of the disabled, and the mismanagement of nuclear waste. Frame’s investigations have led to changes in public policy, congressional and Dept. of Justice investigations, federal indictments and created new state laws.

Frame is on the Board of Directors for the Society of Professional Journalists, Western Washington Chapter, and is a frequent lecturer for groups such as the Society of Professional Journalists, the Washington State Bar Association, Rotary, and the University of Washington Department of Communication.

Frame has also won many journalism and civic awards for reporting in the public interest.

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Mills McKnightMatt Mills McKnight, SPJ Western Washington board of directors, 2018

Board Member

Matt Mill McKnight is staff visual journalist at Crosscut.com and KCTS 9, where he finds himself covering the news of our city as it is happening. He previously worked as a freelance photographer in the region for various news organizations. During that time, he was also a photo editor & content producer at MSN News & Bing’s editorial apps.

In 2015, McKnight was awarded the inaugural SPJ WW Passion Projects grant for his work covering Big Oil in the American West, after traveling on numerous occasions to follow life along the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Lystra

Board member

Tony Lystra has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, much of it in the Northwest. After graduating in 1998 from the University of Oregon with a journalism degree, he became cub reporter for the Los Angeles Times’ Ventura County bureau, covering two naval bases as well as government, politics and crime. He also worked on a team of reporters covering the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. In New York, he wrote about the mutual fund business for Thomson Financial and sent post-9/11 dispatches back to several Northwest publications.

Tony returned to the Northwest in 2003 and covered government and politics at The Daily News in Longview, Wash.. He dispatched stories from court rooms, murder scenes and drug raids, chronicling the timber town’s struggles in the earliest days of what would become known as “the opioid epidemic.” He’s currently a Seattle freelancer, writing technology and business stories for GeekWire and the Puget Sound Business Journal.

 

 

 

 

Taylor Mirfendereski

Board Member

Taylor Mirfendereski is a special projects reporter at KING 5 in Seattle, focusing on digital storytelling. She uses video, photos, text, graphics, and emerging digital tools to produce multimedia stories that take a deep dive into complex issues – from the nationwide heroin crisis to the sex trafficking of American women and children.

Prior to moving to the West Coast, Mirfendereski was a digital reporter at WCPO in Cincinnati, where she covered public safety and justice. In 2014, she embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan to produce a special report about the military medical teams who treat the country’s most severely wounded soldiers.

Mirfendereski is a longtime SPJ member, who served two terms on the group’s National Board of Directors. She also led the SPJ Digital community and was the president of Ohio University’s SPJ chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia Vanni

Board Member

Olivia Vanni is a staff photographer at the Everett Herald where she covers assignments in and around Snohomish County. She is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism and was the Multimedia Editor of the student paper, the Montana Kaimin. Olivia previously worked as an intern at the Victoria Advocate and Naples Daily News, where she covered Hurricane Harvey and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Having grown up in Seattle, Olivia enjoys covering the Seahawks, Mariners, and Storm, and appreciates assignments that get her outside to explore new areas of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, you’ll more than likely find her eating her way through the food options at T-Mobile Park or enjoying live music.

 

 

 

Julia Sanders

Board Member

I write about the environment, agriculture and local news for the Daily Herald, a publication covering Snohomish and Island counties. I geek out over fish, and I’m happiest on a farm. Writing about the ways our climate is changing and how that impacts everything from how we grow food to what infrastructure looks like is a privilege, and I love that my job often takes me outside.

Before the Herald, I worked at a small daily paper in Mount Vernon, Wash., and also reported in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the Cambodia Daily as a fellow with the University of Washington. Outside work, you’ll most likely find me searching for the best river swimming spot, working on a house renovation project or trying to convince people that Everett is a cool place to live.

 

 

 

Charter

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The Western Washington Professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists received its charter on Nov. 14, 1947.

The charter was presented by John McClelland Jr., national secretary of Sigma Delta Chi and editor of the (Longview) Daily News, in a ceremony in the Communications Building at the University of Washington.

One professional and 14 student chapter members were initiated at the same event, according to a 1948 Quill magazine story.

The welcoming address was made by Sol Lewis, editor and publisher of the (Lynden) Tribune and a past national president of Sigma Delta Chi, later renamed the Society of Professional Journalists.

First Members

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The account doesn’t give the number of chapter members at that time, but said a group of them met informally every morning at the Boeing Airplane Company. Carl Cleveland, another chapter member mentioned, was advertising manager there and was perhaps one of the earliest members in the area. He joined the national society in 1926.

The initial organization of the chapter actually began in the first decades of the century. In 1935, the national fraternity “approved” the chapter, and finally granted the charter 12 years later.

The chapter’s members come from all areas of journalism, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, wire services and on-line news. The roster includes reporters, editors, publishers, media owners, freelancers, educators, students and nearly every kind of journalist, as well as some who have moved to other fields and some associate members.