November 10th, 2011
HELL, YEAH! IT’S ANOTHER SPJ COMMITTEE!
By Michael Koretzky
“A decision is what a man makes when he can’t find anyone to serve on a committee.”
– Fletcher Knebel, newspaper reporter and author (1911-1993)
Welcome to my new committee.
Anyone who knows me – or just hates me by osmosis – knows I can’t stand committees.
As president of SPJ’s South Florida chapter this year, I’ve spit on Robert’s Rules of Order and replaced them with Koretzky’s Canons of Chaos.
(First entry: “Journalists who cover long, boring government meetings for their jobs probably don’t want to sit through long, boring SPJ meetings for free pizza.”)
But at the SPJ national convention in New Orleans a few weeks ago, newly elected president John Ensslin sidled up to me…
John: Michael, I’d like to create a new ‘Blue Sky” committee and have you chair it.
John: Imagine you have $10,000. What would you do with that money to improve SPJ? What if you had $50,000? What if that was $100,000?
Me: What’s your definition of “improve”?
John: More members.
Me: And given the title of the committee, I don’t really have any money, right?
Usually, I’m a whore when it comes to committees: Give me cash for my twisted programs, and I’ll entertain your every whim. But what a tease this Blue Sky Committee is – there’s no money, but let’s pretend there is.
Still, I like John Ensslin. I haven’t always been able to say that about SPJ presidents. (Nor them about me.)
So like I said, welcome to my committee.
Apparently, this is quite an honor. SPJ simply adores its committees. No cow that wanders around India is more sacred. I’ve witnessed yelling and tears over committee appointments and dismissals. Yet I doubt SPJ’s rank and file could name more than one committee besides, maybe, the Ethics Committee.
There were 20 committees before Ensslin endowed me with the Blue Sky Committee. (Oddly, Blue Sky isn’t listed on SPJ’s committees page. I feel so slighted.)
There’s one for Digital Media but not for print media. There’s one for Freelance but not for full-timers. Then there are committees for Programming and Professional Development, which I thought were just SPJ’s missions in general, whether you’re a digital media freelancer or a full-time print reporter.
Interestingly, SPJ’s president has total dictatorial control over the committees. Ensslin has the absolute power to dismiss and appoint whoever he wants. Hell, in a moment of streamlined clarity, he could gut all of them.
So I’m only chairman of the Blue Sky Committee while Ensslin is in office. Or until I piss him off. (Maybe this blog post will do it.)
Thus, here’s my first Blue Sky idea for ensnaring more SPJ members…
1. Purge the committees. Then bankroll ’em.
Right now, six SPJ committees are chaired by current national board members. While committees don’t often accomplish much – both in and out of SPJ – they’re great ways to suck newbies into your cult. But when SPJ’s are led by its own board members, that gets incestuous.
There oughta be a rule: No current board members can preside over a committee.
Then there oughta be another rule: Each committee gets some cash.
With newbies leading committees that have, say, $1,000 to spend, shit will get done. At the very least, SPJ’s fair-weather fans might become hardcore fanatics. And we’ll train the next generation of board members. (I’ve served twice on the national board, but only because I ran unopposed both times. Good for me, bad for SPJ.)
2. Trust but verify.
If there are checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution, that should be good enough for SPJ’s bylaws. The national board should confirm the president’s appointments. Even better, the president should submit at least two nominees for the board to vote on.
Hell, the board should be able to submit names of up-and-coming SPJers from back home. Let’s get some genetic diversity into this process.
3. Send SPJers on flights of fancy.
The FAFFF is a fun but complicated event, and Gideon drove four hours with SPJ South Florida VP Michele Boyet to help organize the lunch that attracted 360 students on a campus of 6,500 – or more than 5 percent of the student body.
If I had thousands to spend, I’d let SPJers who have designed proven programs fly to other chapters to host them. It’s one thing to offer Programs in a Box. It’s quite another to be on the scene, assisting with the logistics.
Those are just three Blue Sky ideas off the top of my skull. If you have some of your own, post them below or email me. Since I can apparently appoint whoever I want to my committee, I hereby nominate you and all the other 8,000 SPJers out there. Let’s see what happens next…