Archive for the ‘Board of Directors’ Category


Highlights through Oct. 22

It’s been three weeks since my last post, and a lot has happened in SPJ and the journalism world in that short time. Here are a few highlights:

Earlier this week, we lost journalism legend Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post. He inspired an entire generation of journalists and took editing to a new level. He will be missed. Here is a nice piece in The Washington Post remembering his contributions.

SPJ Georgia and regional director Michael Koretzky fought for and supported George Chidi, a freelance journalist in Georgia, after Thomas Owens, a candidate for DeKalb County commissioner, sought a temporary protective order and filed an application for a warrant on stalking charges against the journalist. The protective order and application were both dismissed, upholding the First Amendment and helping to protect Chidi’s right to do his job. Thanks to SPJ Georgia and Koretzky for fighting on Chidi’s behalf.

SPJ, the Student Press Law Center and 18 other organizations sent a letter to education leaders to renounce the actions of the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for punishing student journalists and their adviser for refusing to use the term “redskins” in the Playwickian, a school publication. Principal Rob McGee suspended the journalism adviser for two days without pay, removed the Playwickian editor from her position for a month, and the newspaper was fined $1,200, the cost of the June edition which omitted the Native American mascot name.

In other SPJ news:

The membership committee, led by Robyn Sekula, is working on a master plan to outline its goals and strategies for the coming year. The committee also named its October Volunteer of the Month – Lee Anne Peck of the University of Northern Colorado. Congratulations, Lee Anne!

The SPJ international journalism community, led by Carlos Restrepo, is also working on a master plan, breaking its work into three primary goals and subcommittees. More on that once the community has had time to review and comment on it.

The journalism education committee is publishing a book in January titled “Still Captive? History, Law and the Teaching of High School Journalism.” The project is the result of three years of research and a survey of nearly 250 Journalism Education Association members in 47 states.

The ethics committee continues to be busy, educating others on the revised Code of Ethics, preparing supplemental materials for SPJ.org and speaking on ethical issues. Check out this post from ethics chair Andrew Seaman on the ethical reporting of Ebola.

The awards and honors committee, led by Andy Schotz, has been working with Abbi Martzall, SPJ’s awards coordinator, to review our awards criteria and make recommendations for changes. Sarah Bauer, the committee’s co-chair, is coordinating the swaps for local and regional SPJ chapter contests. If she hasn’t already, she’ll be contacting awards coordinators in the near future to plan for swaps for next year’s contest season.

The Generation J committee, led by Claudia Amezcua, has been working with her committee on its plan for the year and will be working with secretary-treasurer Lynn Walsh and past president John Ensslin on the recommendations made by the futures task force in June. Two goals for Gen J this year are to broaden the committee’s mission to include journalists at all career levels and to partner with other committees to offer training opportunities via joint Google hangouts.

Led by SPJ past president David Cuillier, the FOI committee has been hard at work, developing a blogging and tweeting strategy for the committee to handling breaking FOI news and to be proactive on FOI issues. For FOI resources, check out the FOI page on SPJ.org.

At SPJ headquarters, staff has been busy on many fronts, including planning for EIJ15 (yes, already!), sending out new ethics posters and bookmarks, working on affinity partnerships to offer additional benefits to our members, and developing communications strategies for how and when to communicate with the public and other media organizations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix on behalf of SPJ where I talked to ASU journalism students about how to get started freelancing and get those first critical clips. I also met with SDX president Robert Leger and had a fun evening with SPJ members of the Valley of the Sun Pro chapter where we celebrated some local journalism and PR successes and talked about what’s next for SPJ in the year ahead. I’ve also been working with communications staff at HQ to create an outreach plan to help promote our communities. Up next: a visit to Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, finding a volunteer to help support our communities, and planning our January executive committee meeting.

I am sure I have omitted a letter SPJ signed onto or committee projects and, if so, I apologize. The omission is unintentional, but email me so I can include it next time. As always, thanks for your support of SPJ. If you have questions, concerns or ideas, you can email me at SPJDANA @ GMAIL.COM.

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Highlights, week of Sept. 15

With EIJ two weeks behind us now, things are slowing down a little bit, but the momentum that started at the convention is still going strong. Committees, communities and volunteers are hard at work, locally and nationally. Here are this week’s highlights:

Launch of International Journalism Community: Under the leadership of Carlos Restrepo of the St. Louis Pro chapter, the International Journalism Community was launched. To date, more than 30 journalists have expressed an interest in joining the community. Want to get involved? Email Carlos directly.

Volunteer of the Month: Last week, the Membership Committee named its volunteer of the month – Victor Hernandez of CNN, for overseeing Excellence in Journalism news at EIJ14. Guiding a team of 14 student interns, Hernandez selflessly shared his expertise. Thank you, Victor!

Journalism Education Committee: Butler Cain, assistant professor of West Texas A&M, and the Journalism Education committee are getting the year off to a good start, wrapping up the editing of a book on the state of high school journalism. I anticipate lots of great work coming out of that committee this year, so stay tuned!

Diversity Committee: Lead by chair April Bethea, the Diversity Committee has gotten off to an enthusiastic start. Read April’s blog post about the committee’s goals for the year.

Ethics Committee:  Committee chair Andrew Seaman and SPJ communications strategist Jennifer  Royer are working on a plan to publish, publicize and share the revised Code of Ethics. Late last week the final version went to the printers. Posters and bookmarks will be available soon.

Journalism Advocacy: SPJ issued a statement applauding the city of Tupelo, Mississippi for complying with open records laws. Though the laws have been in place since 1983, Tupelo is the first municipality in Mississippi to comply. Thanks to SPJ member and reporter Robbie Ward, staff writer for The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, for prodding the city to archive text messages and make them available to the public.

Journalism Advocacy: SPJ signed onto a letter by the American Association of Law Libraries to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Court urging them to restore electronic access to court records that were recently removed from PACER and a letter from the Reporters Committee to the DOJ for a dialogue following the media’s treatment in Ferguson.

Volunteer Outreach: Since EIJ14, I’ve been making calls to volunteers including new board members, committee chairs and community leaders to learn about their goals for the year and to thank them for their service. In addition, I have asked for a volunteer to help me support SPJ’s communities, including freelance, digital and international journalism. If you have an interest in working with me, please email me.

Board Training: Chapter coordinator Tara Puckey held the first of two sessions of board training via Skype to tell us more about our roles and responsibilities.

I’m traveling this weekend to meet with the Fort Worth Pro SPJ chapter for its annual “welcome the president” event. I will update you on this week’s highlights when I get back. Until then, thanks for your support of SPJ and journalism, and let me know how I can help.

~ Dana Neuts, SPJ President

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Highlights, week of Sept. 7

Last Friday I shared the week’s highlights with the national SPJ board. Tom Johnson, one of our new regional directors, asked if he could share it with his region. If his members were interested in this info., I thought maybe other members might be too. Here are a few of the things SPJ was working on last week:

Diversity:  A hot topic generating lots of interest. I spoke to Diversity chair April Bethea yesterday. Her committee’s top two projects are providing management training for journalists with a diverse background and finding a university, educator or other group willing to maintain the Rainbow Diversity Sourcebook. There are other projects and discussions in the very early stages in the works, but they will likely extend beyond the scope of this committee. This will include adding volunteers from other journo orgs like NAJA, AAJA, NABJ, NLGJA, etc. to join our committees.

International Journalism: This committee is coming back! We’ve got an enthusiastic volunteer, Carlos Restrepo, from the St. Louis Chapter leading the charge. He’s already got some project ideas in mind and we have about 10 volunteers so far. I don’t yet know if this will be a committee or a community, but we don’t need to decide that now.

- Awards:  Based on our discussion at this Sunday’s board meeting, Lynn Walsh and Sue Kopen Katcef will work on researching how other journo orgs handle awards, identifying and explaining how our awards are done, etc. They’ll provide information to be discussed by Exec. in January. Exec. will prepare recommendations to submit to the full board at its April meeting.

Chapter Support:  Alex Tarquinio and Tony Hernandez are interested in pursuing two separate but related projects to help us strengthen our chapters. As they flesh out their plans, I’ll ask them to provide periodic updates to the board.

Ethics Committee: Andrew Seaman has been working with communications strategist Jennifer Royer on a plan to implement the revised Code of Ethics approved by the delegates last week. Paul and Lynn are both on the Ethics Committee, so they’ll provide us with periodic updates.

Welcome Calls:  I plan to call each of our new board members to welcome them to the board, answer questions, find out where their interests lie, etc. I’ve talked with Rob so far, and hope to make the remainder of the calls next week. If you haven’t heard from me yet, you will.

Job Bank:  At last Thursday’s board meeting (Sept. 4), the board directed us/staff to research the Boxwood job bank arrangement and to propose changes that will better serve our members. Lynn Walsh has volunteered to take this on.

FOI: Past president and FOI chair Dave Cuillier is already getting started, forming his committee and making plans to keep advocacy on the front burner. Go, Dave!

Journalism Education Committee:  Chair Butler Cain and his committee are over the moon excited about their book on high school journalism, a project headed by our very own Becky Tallent. WTG! In addition, Butler is getting the committee organized and they are discussing their plans for the year ahead. They had a lively meeting last Friday, and Butler followed up today.

Nominations:  Per the bylaws, I need to name a nominations chair/committee by early January (Jan. 4?). I will let you know when that’s been achieved. I have made an “ask,” based on recommendations, but I haven’t gotten a response yet (because I just asked this person about 30 minutes ago).

Blogging:  I have posted a couple of blogs this week, and have at least more to go. I hope to blog 2-3 times per week. If there are topics you’d like to see addressed, I welcome your suggestions.

We have a lot of work to do this year, but I am excited that we got some much done last week. I’ll try to keep you updated, but please reach out if you think I’m missing something. Click here to send me an email. You can also follow me on Twitter for regular updates on what SPJ and I are working on.

~ Dana Neuts, SPJ President

P.S. – I “owe” you a blog post on EIJ experiences from other SPJ members. It’s coming soon!

 

 

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SPJ needs to improve diversity

Update–Sept. 11, 2014, 8:28 a.m. PT–Since posting this yesterday, I have received an amazing amount of support. Folks are having confabs, but more importantly, they are discussing this openly. People are sharing their stories and volunteering to help improve diversity in SPJ and journalism. I even had one journalist join as a direct result of SPJ having this conversation now. We have much work to do, but it is encouraging to see there are many hands to do it. If you want to join the effort, contact me directly or reach out to April Bethea, our diversity committee chair. You have my heartfelt thanks.

This morning SPJ regional director Michael Koretzky wrote a post about SPJ’s awards programs and diversity. The board has directed the executive committee to make recommendations regarding changes to the awards nomination and selection process, so I won’t address that here, but it prompted some good discussion about SPJ’s lack of diversity. SPJ needs to improve diversity throughout the organization.

This was something I mentioned in my speech at the president’s installation banquet on Saturday. We have a diverse membership across the country, serving as chapter leaders and serving on committees at the national level, but that’s not enough. We need diversity in all areas, including the SPJ board, committee chair positions and future leadership roles.

To look at me, you might not think I’m diverse and maybe I’m not, but I do care about diversity.  I am a 47-year-old, white female. I was born in Gary, Indiana and grew up in a community that’s a close cousin to Chicago. I live in Kent, Washington now, a community that is 53% nonwhite. There are dozens if not hundreds of cultures in Kent, and there are 118 languages spoken in Kent schools. I have family and friends who are gay and transgendered. I prefer to look past color, race, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation to look at an individual’s values instead.

Admittedly, SPJ has a long way to go, but the organization recognizes it needs to improve diversity across the board. Here are a few ways SPJ is addressing diversity:

– SPJ has an active Diversity Committee, Diversity Resources on SPJ.org including a resource guide, tool kit and blog, and a Diversity Fellows program to recruit future leaders to SPJ.

– Last Friday, SPJ helped organize a Leadership Summit at EIJ, which included 17 journalism organizations including ACES, ONA, UNITY, NABJ, NAHJ and others. The group discussed individual challenges as well as how they could work together.

– We plan to invite members of diverse journalism organizations to join our committees and serve as advisors to help us address diversity issues journalists face.

– I will direct the nominating chair or committee, not yet named, to actively recruit candidates from all backgrounds.

Is this enough? No, not even close. Is it a start? Absolutely.

It will take time and a village to make this happen though. We need your help! If you have an interest in diversity issues or have suggestions or ideas, please reach out to me or contact April Bethea, our diversity committee chair.

2014 SPJ Diversity Fellows

2014 SPJ Diversity Fellows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHAT WE DID IN ANAHEIM

(Editor’s Note: This report is the president’s synopsis of the Executive Committee’s Jan. 19, 2013, meeting and does not represent the official minutes.)

At its winter meeting in Anaheim, Calif., the SPJ Executive Committee adopted new financial-reporting requirements for chapters, recommended that the full SPJ Board adopt proposed openness and accountability guidelines and asked me to present proposed social media guidelines to the full board at its April meeting.

CHAPTER FINANCES

 The seven-member Executive Committee unanimously adopted an immediate change in the financial-reporting requirements that professional chapters must meet when they file their annual reports with SPJ headquarters. The change requires chapters, beginning with the annual report to be filed in June, to include copies of the chapter’s bank statements for the preceding 12 months.

 The committee took this extraordinary step because of the recent discovery of financial impropriety in the Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter. This marked the second time in less than a year that a pro chapter learned that a trusted member had made unauthorized withdrawals from its bank account.

 The L.A. chapter discovered its financial losses after adopting the fiscal best practices that the SPJ Board approved last September in Ft. Lauderdale. One of the recommended practices advises chapters to create an ad hoc budget committee to craft a chapter budget. The Los Angeles chapter did that and wound up removing its treasurer from office. The chapter board hired an attorney and took steps to get a professional accounting of its assets.

National Executive Committee members were gravely concerned at this latest news of mishandled chapter finances. We asked ourselves how many more chapters might be oblivious to such impropriety because they fail to take sensible steps to treat their financial activities in a business-like manner.

Consequently, the committee acted to ensure that someone at the national level keeps an eye on all chapters to make sure they are relying on evidence rather than trust when it comes to their finances.

As it happened, President-elect Dave Cuillier’s report on openness and accountability (see next section) contained a recommendation that every chapter and regional director be required to submit copies of their bank statements as part of their annual reports to SPJ headquarters. (Regional directors aren’t required to submit annual reports, but that may be something worth considering.)

The Executive Committee also voted to recommend that the full board offer the Los Angeles chapter a line of credit up to $5,000 to help it with its legal expenses. The committee’s vote was split – 4 to 2. (I did not vote.)

L.A. chapter representative Lauren Bartlett asked SPJ’s national leaders for a grant, but the committee opposed an outright grant. While the chapter still has several thousand dollars in its bank account, its board is concerned that its legal fees may exceed its remaining treasury, Bartlett told us.

Since the Executive Committee meeting, L.A. chapter President Alice Walton has told me that the chapter may not need the line of credit.

The Oklahoma chapter’s treasury was wiped out by its former treasurer, but the chapter has so far not asked for assistance, relying instead on donations and fund-raising.

 OPENNESS & ACCOUNTABILITY

In the wake of debate over openness and accountability at last September’s convention in Ft. Lauderdale, I asked Dave Cuillier to develop, with others, recommended best practices for chapters to make sure their actions are as transparent as possible. The proposal that Dave presented to the Executive Committee is equally applicable to the national organization.

Here is the preamble of the proposed Openness and Accountability Best Practices:

The Society of Professional Journalists and its professional and student chapters are not government entities, but members believe in the strongest principles of transparency — the business of the people should be done before the people, inviting the people to participate. The following guidelines provide tips and recommendations for fostering openness and accountability at the local, regional and national levels of the society.

The guidelines address methods for making meetings accessible and being open in our communications and with our records.

The committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the full board for adoption in April. The full text of the proposal can be found here. OPENNESS DRAFT

Dave’s report addressed the background under which the best-practices proposal was developed. The report cited the Press Club of Long Island’s openness policy, which the chapter adopted in December. And it noted that chapter leaders who responded to a quick survey are generally supportive of more openness.

Along with the openness guidelines approved by the Executive Committee, Dave’s report also included proposed action steps, some of which headquarters staff are already implementing. Such as: providing chapters with a basic level of web support to help them create and maintain websites, blogs and/or Facebook pages for posting meeting notices, agendas, minutes and other records.

During discussion of this report, the committee urged staff to make sure that important national SPJ documents can be easily found on the website. SPJ’s bylaws, IRS Form 990s and other financial reports, the conflict of interest policy, whistleblower policy and other items already are posted to the site but are difficult to find.

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

After EIJ12, I asked Brandon Ballenger, treasurer of the South Florida Pro Chapter, and staff chapter coordinator Tara Puckey to head up a small task force to develop recommended social media guidelines and to answer questions about the use of SPJ’s many blogs.

The task force ultimately included SPJ Gen J co-chair Victoria Reitano, Director-at-Large Carl Corry and former SPJ board member James Pilcher.

The group’s report stressed common sense in all digital communications involving SPJ. A copy of the full report can be found here. Digital Media Committee 1.7.2013

The group made two proposals:

  • A set of guidelines to follow when SPJ’s president asks another officer, board member or chapter leader to conduct a fact-finding mission in anticipation of an official SPJ statement or comment on an event of interest to journalists and journalism.

  • Proposed social media practices that focus on disclosure, content and live events.

I recommended to the Executive Committee that it forward to the full board the proposed social media guidelines with the understanding that a new draft with some slight changes will be prepared. The committee supported that recommendation.

WORKING PRESS

The Executive Committee gave Joe Skeel the authority to alter the Working Press program and partner with RTDNA’s student project. As a result SPJ will no longer produce a printed newspaper at the annual conference. Some members may disapprove of this move, but the committee felt the timing was right.

The time, energy and costs associated with printing a daily journal for just three days have expanded to the point that we had to take a serious look at the cost-benefit ratio. Another factor we considered is that a fourth of the students who participate in the Working Press are dedicated to production activities rather than going out and about to gain reporting experience. While there remains a need for designers and other “production” workers, we felt the more valuable experience would for students would be in honing their online and video production skills along with their reporting and writing skills.

We intend to keep the project a competitive internship for about 12 students. They will cover the convention as they always have (while making contacts within the news industry.) Working professionals will continue to serve as advisers. The only major difference will be in how the news about the convention is delivered – online via social media and other platforms.

Breaking from tradition is always difficult, but when faced with the challenges and limitations of a printed product and the need for SPJ to be perceived as relevant among the next generation of journalists, the change was relatively easy to decide.

OTHER BUSINESS

Secretary-Treasurer Dana Neuts reported on three initiatives she’s spearheaded:

  • Providing freelancers and other SPJ members with SPJ Solutions, a source of insurance and financial services products through Westpoint Financial Group in Indianapolis.

  • Creating a Contest Advisory Group to connect chapters and regions that sponsor journalism contests and facilitate contest-judging swaps among them.

  • Securing a copyright for the Freelance Guide that the Freelance Committee developed while Dana was committee chair.

One of the traditions of the winter Executive Committee meeting is deciding which officers attend which regional spring conference. Here’s the list:

  • March 15-17

Region 3, Atlanta – Cuillier and Albarado

  • April 5-7

Region 4, Dayton, OH – Ralston

Region 12, Oxford, MS – Albarado

  • April 12-14

Region 1, New Brunswick, NJ – Albarado

Region 6, Bloomington, MN – Ralston

Region 9, Santa Fe, NM – Eckert

Region 10, Spokane – Neuts

Region 11, Las Vegas – Cuillier

  • April 19-21

Region 2, Norfolk, VA – None. This is the same weekend as the SPJ Board spring meeting in Indy

  • April 26-28

Regions 5 & 7, St. Louis – Ralston

  • May 3-5

Region 8, San Antonio – Albarado

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Nobody asked me, but… On Alec Baldwin, Carl Kasell and other important SPJ and journalism topics

1) Alec Baldwin needs to take a chill pill, judging by his altercation with a New York Daily News photographer on a public sidewalk outside New York City Hall last week.

In the chatter that followed the incident, Baldwin tried to describe the photographer as a papparazzi, those folks who follow celebrities around snapping pictures of their every move.

But in fact, the photographer in question is a veteran photojournalist who was on assignment that day outside City Hall where Baldwin was picking up a marriage certificate.

As for Baldwin, I think my friend and colleague Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, did a great job of airing out the issues in this open letter to the actor.

2) Eddye Gallagher deserves a tip of the fedora this week. Recently, she agreed to fill a vacancy on our national board and on June 16 the SPJ board appointed her as interim Region 8 Director after Scott Cooper resigned.

I first got to know Eddye when she attended the Scripps Leadership Institute a few years ago. If you talk with folks in our Fort Worth chapter, they describe her as a human dynamo who is responsible for many good things the chapter has accomplished in recent year.

Me, I’m just glad to have Region 8 represented again and to welcome Eddye onto the board.

3) Politics should not trump programming in public television. 

I understand that people should have the ability to have their say about what goes out on the air. That’s why it’s called “public” broadcasting.

But still, it was disturbing to read this report recently about a controversy involving Alabama Public Television.

It’s hard to say with precision what happened, because the station’s former director is not saying much. But this is certainly a situation that deserves a close watch going forward.

4) Who says there are no heroes anymore? I met three of mine in one evening recently while attending our Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter’s Hall of Fame banquet.

-Sander Vanoucur is a journalist I’ve admired all my life, from when he served as one of the panelists in the first Kennedy-Nixon debates through the Watergate era, when he wound up on President Nixon’s enemies list. He’s a bit frail now, but sharp as ever when you talk to him.

-Carl Kasell is a National Public Radio rock star for his role in the popular news  quiz program “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” But I came to admire him for all those years in which he delivered my first of news each day NPR’s top-of-hour newscasts.

-Brian Lamb revolutionized public access broadcasting when he created CSPAN. But for me, I’ve long admired his deadpan and thorough interviewing style. His program, “Booknotes,” served as a template for much of the programming I’ve done with SPJ through the years.

5) Another tip of the fedora to Michael Koretzky, our Region 3 Director, for helping kickstart our SPJ webinar series earlier this month.

Michael put together a great program called “Weird Careers in the Media” which was an updated version of a talk he gave at one of our national conventions a few years ago.

Now as then, the “virtual” room was packed with more than 100 people tuning in from around the country to listen and watch the webcast.

I fielded several emails from attendees who said they found Michael’s talk incredibly useful to their own job hunting strategies.

So stay tuned, we’ll be producing more webinars in the months ahead.

6) Holly Fisher is an excellent interviewer, doing a series of interviews with journalist who won this year’s SDX Awards. Here’s a link to a podcast, a recent conversation with Corinne Reilly about an award-winning story she wrote for the Virginian-Pilot.

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Tech tools can help knit SPJ closer

One of my goals this year as SPJ president has been to use technology where possible to improve communications within our organization.

That’s why I’ve put an emphasis on encouraging chapters to use tools like Blog Talk Radio and Google+ hangouts as a way to program SPJ activities while overcoming the usual obstacles of distance, scheduling and logistics.

And that’s why we’ve been making extensive use of our gotomeeting platform for various committee meetings.

The platform has enabled us to host our first virtual executive committee meeting last month and our first virtual board meeting on June 16.

And this month, we’re launching two new initiatives that show promise.

On Wednesday, June 13, SPJ will offer members our first webinar. Board member Michael Koretzky will present his popular talk “Weird Careers in the Media,” which offers tips on non-traditional jobs where journalism skills can be useful.

Over 175 of you have already signed up for this program, which is very encouraging.

Our Professional Development Committee is working to bring you more webinars with useful instruction later this year.

The second initiative is something that will begin later this week when we launch a series of virtual town hall meetings, one in each of our 12 regions.

These sessions will be a chance for us to talk face to face about some of the issues confronting SPJ. It will be an opportunity for those of us on the national board to talk with members about our efforts. And it will provide a forum for candidates running for office later this year to talk directly and answer questions from the membership.

Taking part will be relatively easy. You can simply dial in by telephone or use your computer to listen to the meeting and offer your own comments and questions. Those of you who have webcams will also be able to communicate face-to-face.

These virtual meetings can accommodate up to 25 people. We will fill those spots on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you would like me to send you a link to the program, please email me at spjprez@gmail.com.

Here’s a list of the town hall meetings we’ve scheduled so far. All times are Eastern:

Region 1 – Saturday, June 30 at 11 a.m.
Region 2 – Saturday, August 25 at 11 a.m.
Region 3 – Saturday, July 7 at noon
Region 4 – Saturday, June 16 at 3 p.m.
Region 5 – Saturday, June 9 at noon
Region 6 – Saturday, August 11 at 1 p.m.
Region 7 – Saturday, June 30 at 1 p.m.
Region 8 – to be determined.
Region 9 – Saturday, June 23 at 2 p.m.
Region 10 – Saturday, June 23 at 3 p.m.
Region 11 – Saturday, July 14 at 3 p.m.
Region 12 – Saturday, July 14 at 2 p.m.

Hope to see you at your regional meeting.

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Notes from the Executive Committee meeting in Charlotte

Live from Charlotte

Our recent winter meeting of the SPJ Executive Committee on Jan.  28 in Charlotte, N.C., marked an important first: a live webcast of most of our daylong meeting.

It was not without some technical snags. We couldn’t access a WiFi network and the cord to the desktop computer was a bit short.

And the configuration of the room made it difficult for the Web audience to hear everyone.

But we made adjustments, moved some furniture closer and spoke a more clearly to the webcam.

About 11 members tuned in, and by the afternoon, several of them were emailing us with questions and observations that were helpful.

It was a good first effort, one that I’m sure we can improve upon when the full board meets in Indianapolis in April.

A tip of the fedora here to board member Michael Koretzky who has been advocating for these webcasts for several years.

Strategic Plan Revisited

During our meeting, we began work on updating our long-range strategic plan, which the SPJ board first adopted about five years ago.

When it was originally drafted in November 2007, the Executive Committee wanted the plan revised periodically.

In Charlotte, we quickly reached a consensus that no major overhaul was needed. In fact, many of the goals set in the document describe the work we’ve done since then.

But we did agree to update that plan, and we’ll take up the section that deals with Society operations when the Executive Committee reconvenes in Washington D.C. in July.

Prepping for the DNC

We heard a presentation from leaders of the Greater Charlotte chapter on their plans for raising SPJ’s profile when the Democratic National Convention is held there in early September.

The chapter has some ambitious plans, including a training seminar for journalists who will cover the convention, and a style guide that would help visiting journalists get to know the city.

The committee endorsed the chapter’s application for a grant to help them carry out these plans, subject to the approval of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board.

We also agreed to send a letter questioning Charlotte officials about a recently adopted ordinance that could make it difficult for photojournalists covering the convention to do their jobs (as well as for residents who live in that area).


International SPJ members

We heard a report from the International Journalism Committee on ways in which SPJ might go about growing its membership in other countries.

The committee’s overall sentiment was to welcome such members and charter chapters oversees while taking care to build in safeguards that will promote journalism that is independent and professional.

After some discussion, the board agreed to focus first on individual members, noting that SPJ already has a small number of members overseas.

We also instructed the committee to come back with specific policy proposals that we can put before the full SPJ board in late April.

Virtual chapters/Affinity groups

We discussed a report from an ad hoc committee that examined the feasibility of organizing members into virtual chapters or affinity groups based upon mutual professional interest such as court reporting or online journalism.

The ad hoc committee recommended against creating virtual chapters with some members seeing it as having a potentially negative effect on geographic chapters. We agreed.

But we also decided to further explore setting up some affinity groups on a trial basis. Our first step in this direction will be to poll members and see what sort of groups they might be interested in joining.

In other matters

The committee also endorsed several proposals, including:

-A strategic communication plan to bring some uniformity when SPJ issues press releases as well as a means to measure the impact of those statements.

-A plan to create a public service announcement consisting of a series of eight one-minute videos that feature various journalists and how their stories helped members of the public. We suggested some ways in which production costs of the video can be minimized. The plan will be subject to a vote by the SDX Foundation board.

-A plan by the Diversity Committee to continue with the diversity fellows program at the Excellence in Journalism 2012 conference as well as finding ways to work with the fellows during the rest of the year.

We also heard report from a committee that is working on implementing the one-member, one-vote system approved by delegates in 2011. Watch for more details on this plan in the months ahead.

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The state of SPJ – remarks to the Greater Charlotte chapter

While the SPJ Executive Committee visited with members of our Greater Charlotte chapter in North Carolina on Jan. 27, I gave a talk on the State of the Society.

Below is a copy of my remarks (although not an exact transcript.) Or watch the video, uploaded by the Charlotte chapter:

I’d like to take a moment here to share a few thoughts on the state of SPJ — on where we are and where we’re going.

First off, tonight we’ve reached another milestone in SPJ’s long and storied history. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Quill, our signature magazine.

What started as a fraternity newsletter in January 1912 has evolved into an outstanding magazine that helps our members stay current with what going on in journalism and within the Society.

And think about it. How many magazines in America have survived a century or more? Well, there’s Scientific American at 167 years old and Harper’s at 162. But there aren’t a lot more, and as I like to tell our editor, Scott, we’re older than Time.

The pages of Quill tell the history of journalism in America, and later this year, we’re going tap into some of the magazine’s images to tell our history as well. SPJ member Jennifer Peebles is building an interactive timeline of significant events in SPJ history. So, watch for that.

Looking ahead in that history, I’m hoping we can increase our online version of Quill so it’s something members can turn to every day instead of six times a year.

SPJ has a long history of advocating for journalists and the public’s right to know, and this year that has certainly been true. We protested the arrests of several journalists who were wrongfully detained or arrested while covering various “Occupy” demonstrations across the county.

We’ve committed $1,000 from our Legal Defense Fund for a freelance photojournalist who was arrested while covering an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

We’ll continue to fight these good fights and to stand with journalists who are in that often lonely place of taking fire for simply doing their jobs.

Another thing SPJ is known for is its ethics code, which some folks have called the gold standard for our industry.

Last year, we reached an important goal with the publication of the 4th edition of a textbook of ethics case studies. This year, we’re taking that a step further by writing a series of white papers on various ethics topics.

I’d urge you to take a look at these essays. They are posted on our website, spj.org. They show that for us, journalism ethics is not just a textbook on a shelf, but an on-going set of values that are useful when doing our jobs every day.

SPJ is also about to do something we’ve never done before: be a landlord.

Thanks to some hard work by our Executive Director, Joe Skeel, we are on the verge of signing a lease with a global recruitment firm that wants to rent the underutilized second floor of our headquarters in Indianapolis.

This will require us to invest some funds into renovating that part of the building, but in the long run, it will create a new stream of revenue.

Now you would be right to ask: What does this have to do with journalism? Nothing really. But at time when other journalism organizations are struggling just to stay afloat, we’re doing something that will help stabilize SPJ’s finances and ensure our future.

And finally, I have some good news about SPJ’s membership.

For the first time since 2008, we are starting the year with more members than we had the year before. Not a lot — just about 200 to 300 more — but it has been that way consistently for more than two months.

Part of that increase may be due to an increase in the number of entries were seeing for our annual Mark of Excellence college journalism awards.  But I think some of the credit also goes to our membership committee, which has been reaching out to lapsed members and talking them into sticking with SPJ.

I hope you’ll help us continue to build on this small trend. I’m asking that every chapter, student and pro, do one membership-building event in the month of March.

We’re calling it our own March Membership Month. You’ll be hearing more about it in the next few weeks, and when you do, please do what you can to ensure that our Society continues to grow in the year ahead.

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Recap of the April 16 SPJ Board of Directors meeting

The SPJ board of directors met April 16 at national headquarters in Indianapolis. Although the weather outside was rainy, cold and dreary, the atmosphere inside was friendly, spirited and welcoming. I’m always reenergized by SPJ gatherings – of the board, of chapters, at a conference or just a few members gathered for a drink. Sure, we have differing opinions on any number of topics, but our commitment to SPJ, journalism, and improving and protecting its ethical practice is unwavering.

As usual at the spring meeting, the big agenda item was reviewing and approving the SPJ budget for the next fiscal year (2011-12), which we did. Here’s an overview of what the board discussed on Saturday (a day before SPJ’s 102nd birthday). See the full agenda and meeting materials here.

BUDGET

–          Executive Director Joe Skeel and Controller Jake Koenig presented the budget, which they and the rest of the staff have been preparing since January. SPJ’s fiscal year runs August to July, and this proposed budget would encompass revenue and expenditures for August 1, 2011 to July 31, 2012. You can review the full budget in the meeting materials. Overall, it was described as lean and conservative and projects what Joe Skeel described as “an incredibly modest $3,808 surplus.” Though SPJ is a membership organization, and your membership dues make the organization possible, there are other sources of revenue, such as outside grants, convention sponsorship and advertising in Quill.

–          The budget includes $323,300 in grant requests from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, which specifically helps fund SPJ and other journalism education programs. The Foundation board, which is separate from the SPJ board, approved the grant requests on Sunday, April 17, at its spring meeting, also held in Indianapolis.

–          Another source of significant grant revenue in the budget comes from the Scripps Howard Foundation, which funds our annual Ted Scripps Leadership Training Institute. This program, held every June, brings student and professional chapter leaders to Indianapolis for a weekend of chapter management and leadership development training.

–          While reviewing the budget, one board member asked a very intriguing question: Is a dues increase necessary now or in the near future? After all, the organization hasn’t raised dues since 2002 (even then it was just $2), and costs to do business have increased significantly over the past 10 years. It was a good question, one that any membership organization has to deal with from time to time. That started a very robust discussion. Increasing dues is, of course, a hard topic to address. Though the board, under SPJ’s bylaws, has the authority to increase dues by up to five percent without approval from delegates, we’re in no position to do so without seeking input and having more discussion. So, while the board could have said, “What’s $3 more per year? It’s less than going to Starbucks!” that wouldn’t be a prudent action. I imagine this issue will come up again, and surely there are people who think dues ($72 for pros, $36 for students) are already too high. If you have some input on the matter, please contact your representative on the board of directors and let him or her know.

 

CHAPTER ACTION

–          It’s a good sign that so many new and reactivating chapters are coming forward, and the board reviewed a number of them seeking some action. In all, the board approved 13 chapters seeking provisional or chartered status. Additionally, nine chapters have indicated they’re trying to reactivate after a period of inactivity. Now, let’s hope these chapters – student and professional – continue their forward momentum and recruit new and sustaining members.

 

NOMINATIONS FOR SPJ BOARD

–          With the national convention in September, this year a joint conference with RTDNA, will come elections. SPJ HQ sent an email to all members on Monday informing them of the upcoming elections and an important change this year. President-elect Darcie Lunsford has opted not to assume the SPJ presidency. She has taken a job outside of journalism and will resign from the board at the convention. This means voting delegates will elect a President and President-elect (among the other open seats) for the first time anyone in the room could remember. The person elected President will serve until the 2012 convention, and the President-elect, as the bylaws state, would serve on the board for a year before becoming President. Darcie reported that this was a very difficult decision and that she truly wanted to serve SPJ as President. She will remain a supporter and said she absolutely still believes in the work we do. We’ll miss Darcie and her contributions to journalism but certainly wish her well in her new line of work in real estate.

Aside from President and President-elect, the other open positions are:

-Secretary-Treasurer (elected every year)

-Vice President for Campus Chapter Affairs (two-year position)

-At-Large Director (two-year position)

-Campus Adviser At-Large (two-year position)

-Student Representative (two positions, elected every year)

– Directors for Regions 2, 3, 6, 10, 11 and 12 (two-year position)

Look for more information in the Leads e-newsletter and on SPJ.org in the coming weeks about the board election.

INTERNATIONAL CHAPTERS

–          At the 2010 spring meeting, the board approved the application of the Northwestern University-Qatar chapter, making it our first official international chapter (though it is closely associated with NU, and the adviser is Richard Roth, a former SPJ regional director). The chapter has been extremely active. Past president Kevin Smith and I visited the students in Qatar last fall. This means we need to consider more international chapters and how to administer the many considerations, such as finances, what region they’re in for reporting purposes, IRS tax issues, etc.

 

OHIO SUNSHINE SUMMIT

–          In February, the SPJ and RTDNA chapters at Ohio University put together the Ohio Sunshine Summit. One of the organizers was Taylor Mirfendereski, an OU journalism student and campus representative on the SPJ board. I attended the Summit and was very impressed. Students from the region gathered to learn about and discuss access and openness issues facing student media in Ohio. They crafted a resolution calling for greater access and transparency on Ohio college campuses. Taylor asked the board to formally endorse the resolution, which we enthusiastically did.

 

BYLAWS CHANGES

The Bylaws Committee, led by chairman Bob Becker, has been looking at the SPJ bylaws and crafting recommendations for the board and voting chapter delegates to consider. Remember what I said above about coming together but having differing opinions? That was evident here. The discussion was fruitful and productive – with many viewpoints expressed. Becker explained three changes to the SPJ bylaws that the Committee developed. All changes would require approval from delegates before taking effect.

–          ONE MEMBER, ONE VOTE: It’s not a new proposal, but it comes up from time to time. Chapter delegates currently elect the board of directors at the convention, as the bylaws stipulate. The number of delegate votes is determined by the chapter’s size. Larger chapters get more delegate votes. Bob explained that the time may be right to seriously consider going to a one-member, one-vote system, where all active, dues-paying members are eligible to vote. The last time the idea came up (in 2006) it was voted down by delegates. But, given the advances in technology, perhaps it’s time to rethink SPJ’s voting process. This was the single most debated topic at the meeting and consumed a good chunk of time. Board members on both sides presented convincing arguments for and against the proposal. The biggest argument for a popular vote system is to give voice to SPJ members who aren’t in chapters (most often because of geographic considerations). An opposing viewpoint and proposal is to create “virtual chapters” that encompass such members, thus giving them delegate votes at the convention. The board voted 15-8 against sending the bylaws change to the delegates at convention.

–          STUDENTS IN PRO CHAPTERS: Some chapters allow students to join and participate in their chapter governance in varying capacities. SPJ chapter bylaws can approve or disapprove such membership standards on a local level. However, there is nothing in the national SPJ bylaws the expressly approves of the practice. This minor technical change to the bylaws would simply say that professional chapters are allowed to do so. The board approved the proposed change, and delegates will consider at the 2011 convention.

–          TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS: Upon reviewing the bylaws, the Committee found several errors or inconsistencies that, while not controversial, should be corrected. One involves SPJ’s relationship with the Quill Endowment Fund, which was set up over 80 years ago to ensure continued operation of Quill magazine. The members of that trust are now effectively the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, but the bylaws don’t fully spell out that relationship. This technical update would correct that and minor typographical errors found in the Committee’s review.

 

Those are the major highlights of the meeting. The board will meet next during the convention in September, preceded by a July Executive Committee meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Of course, if you have feedback or input on anything SPJ related, please let your elected leaders know.

Remember, if you want to participate in this organization’s governance, please step up. Elections will take place at the convention, and positions are open to all qualified members.

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