SPJ Board meeting: Moving forward!
We are evolving as an organization, and I am incredibly excited.
At the SPJ Board meeting April 26 in Indianapolis our elected board members accomplished amazing things that have long-term implications for SPJ, journalism, and I believe, society. The board deserves a big thanks for its willingness to look ahead and take risks.
You can download the packet materials and watch the meeting online, as it was the first time we have streamed and recorded the meeting. Transparency rocks.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Our Future: The board unanimously supported the general vision for SPJ’s future laid out by Executive Director Joe Skeel (see his SPJ vision). The idea is that SPJ becomes more collaborative with the 60-some other journalism organizations for the single purpose of improving journalism to make the world a better place. The days of journalism groups competing over members should be over. If we are all stronger then all of journalism, and society, benefits. That is our mission.
- SPJ/SDX: Similarly, we talked about the roles of SPJ (the 501c6) and the SDX Foundation (the 501c3), and how we might streamline duties. In particular, there is support for the idea of having SDX handle the bulk of journalism training/education, since its $12 million endowment already funds that via grants. Then SPJ can focus on what it is designed to do – fight for journalists. We have more talking to do, but in general the majority favors a more streamlined system with clearly delineated duties.
- Taking the Offense: We unanimously supported in principle the idea of an endowed advocacy “Legal Offense Fund” to provide sustained funding for fighting for press freedom forever. The board directed me to put more details together for a final plan that can be considered this summer or fall. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky posted a fun description of this concept. I will provide more information online in the next month. We must not only hold the line, but advance!
- Communities: We officially approved the Freelance Community, which will provide a place for hundreds, if not thousands, of freelancers to network and gain critical skills. Stay tuned for more details this summer for how to get involved, thanks to freelancer Michael Fitzgerald who is leading the effort, as well as how to start a community in other areas.
- Communications: We agreed to hire a full-time Communications Strategist to improve our communication with members, non-member journalists, policy makers and the public. Thanks to the excellent financial management of Director Joe Skeel, we can afford the position and still have a hefty rainy-day fund. Joe posted the job today. It’s time for us to move this ship forward, and let everyone know about it.
- Internal Workings: If you are an SPJ policy wonk, check out the board packet and the $1.7 million budget online. We increased board allowances a little to help regional directors and others travel to members. We recommended a technical change in the bylaws for delegates to consider regarding election timing.
- Name Change: The board voted to recommend to the delegates that they leave the organization’s name the way it is. The task force charged with gathering member input found that there was not overwhelming support for changing it to the Society for Professional Journalism (see the SPJ Name Change Task Force Report). Delegates can certainly discuss it again at EIJ14 in Nashville, and anyone can propose a resolution.
- Officer Elections: Immediate past-president Sonny Albarado reported that he has found a lot of people planning to run for election this fall, including potentially contested races for secretary-treasurer (David Sheets and Lynn Walsh), four members for director-at-large, five candidates for campus adviser, and seven for the two student board seats. Great! Sonny also agreed to serve as resolutions chair, so if you have something in mind for a resolution, or you are thinking of running for an open seat, check out the website and contact Sonny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ethics Code Revision Update: We discussed the process undertaken so far to revise the code of ethics and I acknowledged the need to improve communications (see the blog post below). More information should be forthcoming in the next month. I’m optimistic that we will have a solid draft to provide to delegates in September. Whether they decide to approve anything, postpone a decision, or ignore it – I can’t control. But the board decided to meet via conference call this summer/fall to provide a recommendation for delegates.
- College Support: We approved a second $5,000 grant from the Legal Defense Fund for the Otterbein University (Ohio) student newspaper to continue its battle to get campus police records.
That was an incredible meeting, and we have a lot of work ahead. I welcome anyone to attend the board meetings at EIJ14 in Nashville Sept. 3-6. I want to thank everyone for their outstanding work on these issues – staff, the board, executive officers, volunteer committee members, and the SDX Foundation.
What we do matters.