The Society of Professional Journalists has named veteran journalist and association leader Alison Bethel McKenzie its 20th executive director. She succeeds Joe Skeel, who took the executive director position with the Indiana State Bar Association in December.
Bethel McKenzie previously served for five years as executive director of the International Press Institute, the world’s oldest global press freedom organization, in Vienna. She was the first American, first woman and first African-American to hold the position since it was founded in 1950. In addition,
Bethel McKenzie has worked as a visiting professor of print and investigative journalism at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore, India.
Bethel McKenzie is the first African-American to serve as SPJ’s executive director. She was a Knight International Journalism Fellow in Ghana in 2008-09, managing director of the Nassau Guardian in the Bahamas in 2007 and executive editor of the Legal Times in Washington, D.C., in 2006-07. She has also worked at The Los Angeles Times and The Miami Herald.
Earlier in her career, Bethel McKenzie worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Louisiana, New York and Michigan. She was deputy business editor and senior assistant city editor at The Boston Globe and served as Washington Bureau Chief for The Detroit News.
In 2010, she was named one of the 60 Most Influential Black Women in Europe by Black Women in Europe. She is also on the Advisory Board of the Center for International Media Ethics, and is founder of the Media Institute of the Caribbean. She previously served on the board of the now-defunct Al Jazeera America.
Bethel McKenzie is a graduate of Howard University, with a degree in journalism. She studied non-profit leadership at Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education and is nearing completion of an MBA in media leadership at the University of Cumbria (U.K.) in collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy College (Switzerland).
She is the second woman executive director for SPJ. Vivian E. Vahlberg was the first, serving from 1987 to 1990. The top leadership positions in SPJ are all currently held by women: president, president-elect, immediate past president, secretary-treasurer, associate executive director and now, executive director.