The assistant professor of journalism steps into a one-year appointment on the Society of Professional Journalists National Board and Legal Defense Fund.
Assistant Professor Israel Balderas first joined the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as a budding reporter looking for resources, conferences and networking opportunities in an organization dedicated to supporting journalists. After many years in and out of the organization, Balderas returned to SPJ in 2020 with a new goal: helping his friend, Rebecca Aguilar, an accomplished journalist and journalism advocate, become the first Latina to serve as SPJ’s national president.
Aguilar was formally sworn into the top leadership position in early September. A few weeks later, Balderas was selected to serve as a member of the SPJ Board of Directors, as well as the committee chair of its Legal Defense Fund. What is Balderas’ next goal? Bringing the Elon community along with him as he serves SPJ on a national level.
“That’s what I’m excited about,” Balderas said. “It’s two for one. I get to help a friend, do some amazing things at SPJ, and I get to brag about my students. Brag about what amazing journalism they’re doing now and what amazing journalism they’re going to do after they graduate.”
SPJ is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. The national organization has regional and college chapters, including a student chapter at Elon. From awards and scholarships to conferences and networking, SPJ is a resource for journalists across the country.
In his new role, Balderas said he wants to help Aguilar achieve her vision for SPJ, which includes strengthening local chapters, supporting the next generation of First Amendment defenders, and increasing diversity in the organization.
“We want to create an organization that works for the public, empowers those that are working for the public, and that looks like the public,” Balderas said. “That’s in many ways what drives us.”
Balderas, who arrived at the School of Communications this fall, is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and an attorney. Previously, he taught journalism and media law at Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he served as the faculty adviser to The Beacon Today, the school’s student newspaper.
Balderas also worked as a journalist at several local TV stations, news agencies and cable networks from Florida to Texas. He has experience as a producer and news experience in Washington, D.C., with The Associated Press Latin America and Reuters.
As part of the Legal Defense Fund, which initiates and supports litigation that enforces public access to government records and proceedings, Balderas will head the fund committee and appoint members to the committee. The fund also is a source of support for FOI hotlines, coalitions and newsletters, as well as for legislative lobbying activities aimed at enforcing public access to government records and proceedings.