Houston Pro Chapter President Receives National SPJ Recognition

The Society of Professional Journalists has selected Ruth Nasrullah and Steve Lubetkin to each receive a Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Award for contributions to their SPJ chapters and regions.

Each year, this award is given to no more than two members — one from a chapter of 75 or more members and one from a chapter of less than 75 members. The award is in honor of Howard Dubin, longtime member of SPJ’s Chicago Headline Club. Dubin not only contributes time and money to the Society, but also remains dedicated to service at the chapter level and as treasurer of the SPJ Foundation Board of Directors.

Ruth Nasrullah is president of the SPJ Houston Pro Chapter. After industry layoffs took their toll and membership languished, Nasrullah reinvigorated the chapter. In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, the chapter shined as one of the most active in Region 8, continuing to add members. Even when a massive snowstorm and freeze hit Texas, the chapter continued to sponsor programs. Fundraisers for a student scholarship and virtual webinars about “Politics and Covid” and drone journalism were among its offerings under Nasrullah’s leadership.

“As a Muslim journalist, Nasrullah has encountered obstacles and prejudice,” Region 8 Coordinator Kathryn Jones said. “She has written freelance pieces trying to demystify Muslim culture and has been a champion of marginalized communities.”

When the New Jersey Press Association announced it would no longer give press credentials to non-members, it stranded hundreds of journalists. Seeking help, the New Jersey Pro Chapter (NJ-SPJ) reached out to Steve Lubetkin, who had the skills to make the chapter’s press card program a huge success. He worked on the site almost daily, personally contacting members and making corrections to the database and PayPal.

“He is personally responsible for helping hundreds of journalists continue to do their jobs with minimal hassle,” New Jersey Pro Chapter President Bob Schapiro said.

When the need arose, Lubetkin assumed the duties of the chapter’s secretary. He sent out announcements of events, facilitated communication among members and ran the website. Later, he presented the board with several options of software it could purchase to eliminate problems the chapter was experiencing. Once approved, Lubetkin installed the new modules, while personally migrating the information of over 200 members. The board then voted to expand its membership, making him a trustee. A few months after that, the nominating committee selected him as the new secretary. Moving beyond the press cards, he unveiled the new website, with ongoing news feeds.

“Steve put out a lot of fires and gave people many opportunities,” Schapiro said. “He truly deserves an award.”

Nasrullah and Lubetkin will be recognized virtually at the SPJ21 conference.