News anchor alumna shares industry tales with revamped club

Alisha Laventure, ‘09, was invited to speak by the campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists


Lily Horsley, News Writer

Since it’s return to campus in 2015, Washington and Lee’s chapter of Society of Professional Journalists has worked hard to increase its membership among students.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is the nation’s largest journalism organization. It is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and ethical behavior.

Each year, SPJ hosts a networking event and a speaker event on campus. On March 26, SPJ hosted Alisha Laventure, ‘09, who studied journalism and romance languages at W&L and now works at the ABC news affiliate in Dallas, WFAA.

Laventure was in the national spotlight earlier this year for her controversial on-air response to demeaning  comments President Trump made about African nations and countries within the African diaspora, including Haiti, her parents’ home country.

She spoke to students about the ethical journalist’s role in the modern media age.

Chapter Adviser and Journalism Professor Kevin Finch said the students in SPJ did a great job organizing the Laventure event.

“It really put us on the map on campus,” Finch said. “It showed the value of the organization to be able to bring in someone like that, to understand and to promote the value of journalism.”

SPJ member Frances Connor, ‘20, said she was impressed with Laventure’s speech.

“What stuck with me the most about her speech was her confidence,” Conner said.

W&L’s SPJ President Julia Gsell, ‘18, said it was important to have a speaker who could talk about ethics in journalism.

“I think that the ethics conversation is really fascinating for journalists, especially in this day and age,” Gsell said. “We wanted to have someone come that would be able to speak both about the important, but extremely

complicated issue, of how journalists are supposed to be a human but also a journalist at the same time.”

SPJ was founded at the national level in 1909 and has roughly 75,000 members across the United States. said the club has come a long way since its colonization at W&L.

“I remember going to one SPJ meeting in 2015 and I remember going to a second one last year, and I was the only one who showed up besides [a senior],” Gsell said.“It hasn’t been as active as it could be.”

This year, though, the club has strongly recruited new members. At the start of the year only six students were officially registered, but now over 20 students have joined the organization.

“We wanted to make it more of an organization that has a presence on campus,” Gsell said.

Gsell added that her main goal as president of SPJ is to attract more students to the journalism major.

“It’s really a hidden gem because we’re the oldest journalism school in America,” Gsell said. “Our strat comm and journalism [department] is the second biggest in the school after the C school.”

Though SPJ will not host any other events this year, Gsell encouraged students from any major to consider joining SPJ.

“It’s going to show people that you are serious about your career after college,” Gsell said. “Journalism is one of those fields that no matter what you want to do, it’s always going to overlap with something else.”