N.C. FOI law doesn’t care about motivation, ‘outsiders’

Many times, I’ve heard resistance from public officials to public records requests. Sometimes, they’re right, such as when a request is unreasonably voluminous. Some “Send me all…” requests need to be reined in.

But a sheriff in North Carolina recently complained in a way I’ve never heard: He objects to an “outsider” seeking public records, poking his nose in the county’s business — even though state law makes no such distinction.

Ashe County Sheriff Terry Buchanan railed during a public meeting about a reporter requesting public records while working elsewhere in the state — Charlotte, which appears to be about 110 miles south.

For everyone at the meeting, Buchanan repeatedly held up a copy of WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner‘s records request. It’s a peculiar diatribe — watch here.

In the clip, Buchanan explains: “Now, this is unprecedented, as I checked, in the county. We have never had a Charlotte reporter come up here to inquire about anything.” The sheriff denounces the request as “a political fishing expedition.”

Curiously, Buchanan says he doesn’t mind releasing records from his government cellphone. Instead, he harps on letting “an outside reporter come in from Charlotte” to get public records while Ashe County is busy with important projects and coping with a political divide. “We don’t have time for this,” he declares, continuing to grip and hold up the records request.

Buchanan says the public records request “thwarts my efforts and thwarts my job” of keeping the community safe.

The rant gets weirder when the sheriff turns to tell “our local guys, our local media” what he wants them do to — ask for even more information than WBTV requested, involving other officials. He urges them to be more concerned with the fact that a county commissioner also is a deputy sheriff with arrest powers and with the settlement of a court case.

Buchanan urges local reporters, local residents and county officials to question the Charlotte reporter about “who brought this to his attention.”

“Why would we have an outsider come into our county, put us on state and national news,” Buchanan says. “Why? Why would we do such a thing? It’s beyond me. If we love this county, and we want to keep the county out of the national news, we should stay right here in the county.”

Clearly, there’s a back story that I don’t know, but none of that matters when someone asks for public records.

“These types of things should not be allowed,” Buchanan says about the records request. “They should not interfere with county business.”

Another county official correctly reminds the sheriff that the law allows anyone to request public information, which many people do, even from other states.

The sheriff’s screed is a wild overreach of authority and shows a disregard for the purpose and intent of public records laws.

North Carolina’s public records law (which looks much better than the loophole-ridden law here in Maryland) permits nothing anywhere near what Buchanan is calling for — closing borders on public information to “outsiders,” questioning motivation.

Here is a guide posted by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government:

“G.S. 132-6 accords the rights of inspection and copying to “any person,” and there is no reason to think that the quoted words are limiting in any way. The rights extend both to natural persons and to corporations and other artificial persons (such as associations, partnerships, and cooperatives). And they extend both to citizens of the government holding the record and to noncitizens. Furthermore, as a general rule a person’s intended use of the records is irrelevant to the right of access, and the records custodian may not deny access simply because of the intended use.”
 ***
The sheriff may complain and be as unhappy as he wants, but it’s irrelevant and beyond the scope of his duties. It doesn’t matter if he likes the law — it’s still the law.
But the sheriff is free to ignore my opinion, too. I’m another “outsider.”

Spending policy, budget, governance: What SPJ’s board did

Updated at 6:30 p.m. May 1 with information about candidates

The biggest item on the SPJ national board agenda when it met in Indianapolis on April 22 and 23 was whether and how to overhaul the society’s structure of governance.

That topic has been studied for several months and will go before delegates for one or more votes at the national convention in Anaheim in September.

For background information from the Indianapolis board meetings (SPJ and SDX), go to a page at SPJ.org with board agendas and materials. Below are highlights, with notations to corresponding pages in the board packet.

***

April 22 SPJ board meeting:

• Budget: The board unanimously approved a $1.25 million budget for fiscal year 2018. Executive Director Joe Skeel said it’s more conservative than usual. Revenue in a few key areas is down, such as advertising and contest entries (p. 24). SPJ has been losing members, but a new recruitment and retention plan has Skeel optimistic that we can regain some lost ground. Staffing at SPJ HQ will decrease as duties are reorganized (p. 25). An investment in improving SPJ’s computer system is a priority.

• New chapter: A campus chapter was unanimously approved for Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

• Conflicts of interest: The board unanimously agreed to strengthen part of its conflict of interest policy (p. 39). Old passage: “After disclosure, I understand that I may participate in discussion to respond to questions, but then shall leave the meeting before the final discussion and vote and shall not vote on the question.” New passage: “It is my responsibility to state my connection and potential conflict on any topic as it comes up during a discussion. After disclosure, I will remove myself from the discussion and leave the meeting, unless I am called on to answer questions. I will not vote on the topic.” This was sparked by an executive session discussion in which someone with a connection to both SPJ and an outside organization participated in a discussion about the other organization. I thought this was an insufficient separation and proposed a stronger one.

• Credit cards: At Skeel’s recommendation, the board unanimously approved a policy for SPJ employees using SPJ credit cards (p. 40). It clarifies the proper use of credit cards and the ramifications of improper use.

• Spending policy: The board discussed a possible policy on SPJ spending, as recommended by Region 11 Director Matt Hall: “The Executive Committee shall approve any expenditure over $5,000 that is not authorized in the annual budget.” This was largely a response to a decision by SPJ President Lynn Walsh, in consultation with SPJ’s staff, to spend $5,000 on an Ethics Week project that included hiring a consultant. Walsh said the proposal came up quickly and needed quick action. SPJ has no policy on the president getting approval for spending. But some board members expressed concern, especially when SPJ hires consultants, and thought this was a matter for board approval, like the last two times SPJ hired a consultant. The board talked about how much authority a president should have without needing to consult with the board. The proposal was sent back to SPJ’s Finance Committee to work on the wording.

• Candidates: The board heard from Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher, the nominations committee chairman, about candidates running in the next election.

Update: Today, Fletcher sent me a full list of the candidates so far. He shared them at the meeting, but I didn’t catch all of the names then.

Alex Tarquinio is running for president-elect. Patti Gallagher Newberry and Daniel Axelrod are competing for secretary-treasurer.

Five people were running for one at-large director seat, but one dropped out. The remaining four are: Alex Veeneman, Elle Toussi, Randy Bateman and Melissa Allison. Current at-large director Bill McCloskey is not running again.

Candidates for two campus representative seats are Rahim Chagani and Keem Muhammad (who is on the board now).

The only other contested race so far is for Region 10 director between Ethan Chung, who holds the position now, and Don Meyers, a former regional director.

Incumbent Sue Kopen Katcef is running again for vice president for campus chapter affairs. I am running again for Region 2 director. Region 3 director Michael Koretzky and Region 11 director Matt Hall are running for another term.

There are no candidates so far for one campus adviser at large seat (now held by Rebecca Tallent) and for directors in Region 6 (currently Joe Radske) and Region 12 (currently Amanda Womac).

• Membership: Associate Executive Director Tara Puckey has been overseeing a package of initiatives to boost SPJ’s membership (p. 44). They include “kudos boxes,” better invoices, working with non-journalism groups and much more. Take a look.

• Communications: SPJ also is working on a communications plan. It starts on p. 51.

T-shirts: SPJ is going to have terrific First Amendment T-shirts. More details to come.

• Executive session: In executive session, the board agreed on choices for SPJ Fellows and talked about a staffing analysis that Skeel prepared.

• Governance: After returning to open session, the board had a lengthy discussion and debate about a proposal to restructure its system of governance (p. 57). A task force has proposed cutting the board from 23 to 9 members (three officers, four at large, two appointed). A nominations committee would do “vetting.” One sticking point: What does vetting mean? A slate of endorsed candidates? Qualified? Is it better to steer voters toward “preferred/qualified” candidates or to not try to influence by applying a label? Regional directors would become “regional coordinators” and would no longer be on the board. Addendum C (p. 71) shows the phase-in timetable and process. Also take a look at feedback by the Bylaws Committee (p. 72).

*****

April 23 SPJ board meeting:

• Governance: The board continued the discussion on the governance restructuring proposal, focusing on a few key sticking points. A majority of the board opposed including term limits for members of the new board. With that change, the board approved the task force’s new governance proposal, sending it to this year’s convention delegates for vote(s) in September. The only board member to vote no was at-large director Rachel Wedding McClelland. The board also decided against the task force’s proposal to cut stipends for the regional directors/coordinators. (I was in favor of cutting the stipend, but it was not put out for a formal vote.)

• Diversity: The board and SPJ spent several minutes talking about questions raised in the SPJ Diversity Committee’s midyear report (p. 82). The committee expressed frustration that its ideas for changing the Dori Maynard Diversity Fellowship were not carried out. Keem Muhammad, a student member of the SPJ national board, said the fellowship is wasted if SPJ does not attempt to create longer-lasting connections with fellows. SDX Foundation President Robert Leger replied that some fellows have gone on to leadership positions. He said he disagreed with the Diversity Committee’s request that females be considered minorities for the purpose of the fellowship, which would change what the program is.


Region 2’s Mark of Excellence winners/finalists

Congratulations to all of the Mark of Excellence winners and finalists from 14 schools in Region 2. Here are the results.

*****

Region 2 Mark of Excellence Awards winners announced in Elon, North Carolina

4/11/2017

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the best collegiate journalism in Region 2 with 2016 Mark of Excellence Awards winners.

SPJ’s Region 2 comprises Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. Honorees received award certificates on April 8 at the Region 2 conference. First-place winners from all 12 SPJ regions will compete at the national level.

National winners will be notified in the late spring and will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, California.

MOE Awards entries are judged by professionals with at least three years of journalism experience. Judges were directed to choose entries they felt were among the best in student journalism. If no entry rose to the level of excellence, no award was given. Any category not listed has no winner.

School divisions are based on student enrollment, including both graduate and undergraduate: Large schools have at least 10,000 students and small schools have 9,999 or fewer students.

The list below details all Region 2 winners. If you have any questions regarding the MOE Awards, contact Abbi Martzall at amartzall@hq.spj.org or 317-920-4791.

This list reflects the spelling and titles submitted in the award entries.

Art / Graphics
Breaking News Photography (Large)
Winner: Fire on the Mountain – by Daniel Stein, The Breeze, James Madison University
Finalist: Israel Fest protest – by Josh Loock, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Richmond Greyhound shooting – by Andrew Crider, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Editorial Cartooning
Winner: Eva Shen, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Gareth Bentall, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Dan Kilbridge, American Word, American University

Feature Photography (Large)
Winner: Borneo’s Vanishing Forests: African Oil Palms – by Kent Wagner, Pulitzer Center’s Untold Stories, American University
Finalist: Trump’s shocking win sparks days of civil unrest in Richmond – by Casey Cole, Julie Tripp, Ali Jones, Erin Edgerton, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Tangier Island – by Diana DiGangi, WKTR.com via Capital News Service, Virginia Commonwealth University

Feature Photography (Small)
Winner: Quintana descending a ladder – by Hali Tauxe, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Matt and Kim in smoke – by AJ Mandell, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Kim Schifino crowdsurfs – by Jack Hartmann, Elon News Network, Elon University

General News Photography (Large)
Winner: SremmLife 2 takes on The National – by Geo Mirador, The Comonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn awards local hero Renita Smith – by Tom Hausman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: School Protest – by Andrew Crider, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

General News Photography (Small)
Winner: Trump has late election-night lead – by Diego Pineda, Elon News Network, Elon University

Photo Illustration (Large)
Winner: Identities of Islam – by Chris Simms and Kara Bucaro, The Towerlight, Towson University
Finalist: A Veiled Life – by Jaclyn Merica, Julienne DeVita, American Word, American University
Finalist: Down but not out – by Chris Simms and Jordan Stephenson, The Towerlight, Towson University

Photo Illustration (Small)
Winner: Phoenix in a Haze – by Stephanie Hays, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Photography (Large)
Winner: Touchdown – by Connor Woisard, The Breeze, James Madison University
Finalist: Goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier after Maryland soccer NCAA tournament loss – by Matt Regan, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Sophomore point guard Jonathan Williams – by Becca Schwartz, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sports Photography (Small)
Winner: Emmanuel Rivera slams helmet – by Andrew Feather, Elon News Network, Elon University

Magazines
Best Student Magazine
Winner: 22807 – by Bri Ellison, Maddy Williams, James Madison University

Non-Fiction Magazine Article
Winner: Cultivating community isn’t that easy: D.C.’s public gardens and farms dividing communities – by Lindsay Maizland, American Word, American University

Newspapers
Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper
Winner: The Diamondback – University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: The Eagle – American University
Finalist: The Towerlight – Towson University

Breaking News Reporting (Large)
Winner: A murder-suicide stuns College Park – by Michael Brice-Saddler, Andrew Dunn, Natalie Schwartz, Mina Haq, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Months after Brexit, English residents find American political divide ‘appalling’ – by Mina Haq, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Reports of racist attacks in Anderson Hall prompt student outcry – by Katherine Saltzman, The Eagle, American University

Editorial Writing
Winner: The GW Hatchet staff, The George Washington University
Finalist: The Eagle editorial board, American University

Feature Writing (Large)
Winner: In age of Trump, profile of Maryland-born white nationalist grows – by J.F. Meils, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland’s unclaimed dead become body donors – by Eliana Block, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Tiny public school teaches K-8 rural, Amish students – by Vickie Connor, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Feature Writing (Small)
Winner: Victorian charm, a Berlin mainstay – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University
Finalist: Night riders: on patrol with Salisbury Police – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University
Finalist: Years of country fun with Lee Brice – by Rachel Taylor, Salisbury University

General Column Writing (Large)
Winner: Melissa Holzberg, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: Muktaru Jalloh, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Nickolaus Mack, Sydney Young, Naomi Zeigler, The Eagle, American University

General Column Writing (Small)
Winner: Enough with white men behind podiums; Visual transcripts; Civil discourse – by Jane Seidel, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Christian privilege; Show people they matter; Let’s talk about email signatures – by Cassidy Levy, Elon News Network, Elon University

General News Reporting (Large)
Winner: Complaints filed against unlicensed counseling director – by Ellie Smith, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: White nationalist posters found at the University of Maryland – by Ellie Silverman, Talia Richman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Ex-student sues UMD after expulsion for sexual assault – by Ellie Silverman, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park

General News Reporting (Small)
Winner: Strength, energy defined Dennion on, off field – by Alex Simon and Tommy Hamzik, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Charlotte business owners grapple with new overtime pay rules – by Rachel Stone, Washington and Lee University, for The Charlotte Observer

In-Depth Reporting (Large)
Winner: Police use pepper spray on graduation party of mostly black students – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Foundation helps addicts recover as opioid deaths soar – by Sarah King, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Why experts say Virginia’s mental health system fell through the cracks – by Fadel Allassan, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

In-Depth Reporting (Small)
Winner: A shooting on campus – by Tucker Higgins; Kayla Sharpe; Sarah Smith, The Flat Hat, College of William and Mary
Finalist: Mount president’s attempt to improve retention rate included seeking dismissal of 20-25 first-year students – by Rebecca Schisler and Ryan Golden, The Mountain Echo, Mount St. Mary’s University
Finalist: Caught between fear and misunderstanding, Elon community addresses divisiveness after Election Day – by Emmanuel Morgan, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Column Writing
Winner: Callie Caplan, Kyle Stackpole, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Sophia Belletti, Zach Joachim, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Football needs improved results; Football suffers ‘humiliating’ defeat; women’s track & field best – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University

Sports Writing (Large)
Winner: Two weeks in March: A team and a school unite in a championship – by Nora Princiotti, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University
Finalist: Straight from print: 700 and counting – by Vincent Salandro, The Eagle, American University
Finalist: While not mainstream sport, falconry has dedicated following – by Robbie Greenspan, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Sports Writing (Small)
Winner: How Elon hosted a USA-USSR women’s basketball game during the middle of the Cold War – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Kicking it in San Antonio – by Jordan Spritzer, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: LGBTQIA athletes find match at Elon – by Alex Simon, Elon News Network, Elon University

Online
Best Affiliated Website
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: www.dbknews.com — The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: BreezeJMU.org – The Breeze, James Madison University

Best Digital-Only Student Publication
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: CNSMaryland.org – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: The Rockbridge Report – Washington and Lee University

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: In poor health – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: 2016 convention coverage – Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Anti-Trump protestors shut down highway – by Jesse Adcock, Julie Tripp, and staff, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Catholic Church in Ireland caught between tradition and modernity – by Michael Bodley, Meredith Stutz, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: ProtectUMD has 64 demands to aid vulnerable students. These are the stories behind them. – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Evolution of a fandom – by Danielle Ohl, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park

Online In-Depth Reporting
Winner: In poor health – by Capital News Service staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Discharging trouble – by Capital News Service staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Purple Line: a divided rail – by Brittany Britto and Jordan Branch, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Online News Reporting
Winner: Presidential election underscores Maryland’s wealth divide – by Zachary Melvin, Hannah Lang and Ben Harris, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Purple Line: a divided rail – by Brittany Britto and Jordan Branch, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland patients still waiting on medical marijuana – by Katishi Maake, Jake Eisenberg, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Online Sports Reporting
Winner: In football recruiting sweepstakes, Maryland has fallen short – by Ryan Connors and Troy Jefferson, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Nationals’ Bryce Harper is having a historically poor MVP follow-up – by Connor Mount and Charlie Wright, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Lizzie Bellinger: The strength behind the D.C. Current – by Chateau Mangaroo, www.mlultimate.com, George Mason University

Online Opinion and Commentary
Winner: Eleanor Fialk, The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University
Finalist: Big Brotha columns – by Marc Rivers, TruthBeTold.news, Howard University
Finalist: A-Greener-Merica column – by Jaclyn Merica, American Word, American University

Radio
Best All-Around Radio Newscast
Winner: The Dive, Mr. President – by The Diamondback staff, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Nov. 5, 2016, program – by Tenley Garrett, John Thomas, Jessa O’Connor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio Feature
Winner: Botanical Garden saves seeds for future conservation – by Liz Schlemmer, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: What is the Black College Experience? – by Jamai Harris, Howard University News Service

Radio In-Depth Reporting
Winner: In-depth coverage: UNC reacts to discrimination law – by Jessa O’Connor, John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio News Reporting
Winner: UNC study finds contaminated water in Wake County wells – by Jessa O’Connor, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Racial segregation survives death – by Faith Pinho, WMRA, Washington and Lee University
Finalist: Sexual assault while studying abroad common but rarely discussed – by John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Radio Sports Reporting
Winner: The psychology behind sports fandom – by John Thomas, Carolina Connection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Television
Best All-Around Television Newscast
Winner: Elon Local News, Oct. 31, 2016, broadcast – by Erik Webb, Elizabeth Bilka, Daniel MacLaury, Ashley Bohle, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: ELN Morning, Nov. 10, 2016, broadcast – by Audrey Rosegg Engelman, Daniel MacLaury, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: VCU InSight — by Darnell Myrick, Erika Robinson, Danielle Guichard and Nancy Gabaldon, WCVW-TV PBS, Virginia Commonwealth University

Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: Spellings walkout – by Paris Alston, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Protests in Charlotte after the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott – by Paige Pauroso, Andrew Feather, Kailey Tracey, Audrey Rosegg Engelman, Elon News Network, Elon University
Finalist: Prosecuting Baltimore Police misconduct reform – by Michael Stern, Alex Pacinda, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

Television Feature Reporting
Winner: Gold star mothers – by Maggie Gottlieb, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland
Finalist: The missing half – by Hannah Burton, Ryan Eskalis, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television General News Reporting
Winner: Safe drones – by Sarah Dean, Maggie Gottlieb, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Dead sea lions – by Jaclyn Lee, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Phone scams target Elon students – by Paige Pauroso, Elon News Network, Elon University

Television In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Coal ash update – by Sharon Nunn, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: Faces of the fair – by ViewFinder Fall ’16, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Forgiven – by Ricky Lasser, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television News and Feature Photography
Winner: My last chance – by Ryan Eskalis, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Twin sisters’ garden – by Drew Kurzman, Carolina Week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Television Sports Photography
Winner: Little tennis star – by Lindsey Sparrow, Sports Xtra, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: The Southern Barnyard Runners – by Hannah Burton, Mackenzie Happe, ViewFinder, University of Maryland, College Park

Television Sports Reporting
Winner: ESPN’s most powerful producer – by Jourdan Henry, Howard University
Finalist: Soccer without borders: adjusting to life in the U.S. – by Stephanie Brown, Michelle Chavez, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park
Finalist: Maryland minor leagues attendance – by Michael Stern, Craig Weisenfeld, Capital News Service, University of Maryland, College Park

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

-END-

Freedom to videotape Maryland’s Legislature

There’s a subtle free-press debate going on in the Maryland General Assembly.

Last month, while sitting in the press area in the Maryland Senate, reporter Bryan P. Sears of The Daily Record, as he has done many times, videotaped a senator’s floor speech. However, as the speech concluded, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. reminded the chamber that videotaping is allowed only if permission is granted.

The press may observe Senate actions and take notes, but may not shoot photos or video unless the Senate president says so.

This is the Senate rule: “Prior permission of the President of the Senate is required before any photographing or televising can take place in the Senate Chamber [or] Lounge.”

The same rule applies in the Maryland House of Delegates chamber: “Prior permission of the House Speaker is required before any photographing or televising can take place in the House Chamber or Lounge.”

But House Speaker Michael E. Busch doesn’t enforce the rule. Journalists may shoot photos or video of proceedings from the designated press area at any time.

Why have a rule if it’s not enforced? That’s a good question.

Miller had not been enforcing the rule before, either, but his warning to Sears/the chamber changed that. Now, journalists must ask Miller’s staff every day for permission to photograph and videotape, on the off chance they might want to do either during that day’s Senate session.

I don’t know of anyone being turned down for permission. So, why have that rule if everyone gets permission, every time?

If you don’t ask for that daily permission, you may not pick up your smartphone and videotape when an interesting, unplanned debate unfolds before you.

A few days after issuing the reminder to the chamber, in announcing that journalists had permission to videotape that day, Miller joked with senators that a video clip of their comments might show up in a campaign ad.

That ignored the fact that the audio of each day’s House and Senate sessions already is broadcast live, then archived. Anyone looking for a soundbite for later use already has a way to get it; whether the press videotapes that day changes nothing.

SPJ objects to these limitations on the press, which have a discriminatory side effect: Observers sitting above in the gallery of the Senate chamber may videotape without prior permission; the press may not.

On Feb. 10, SPJ President Lynn Walsh sent a letter to Miller, Busch and their aides, urging that the rule be stricken for each chamber. SPJ also is asking that a new rule be written clarifying the rights of journalists to fully do their jobs during open sessions of the state Legislature.

Despite the House rule, Busch has not kept journalists from photographing or videotaping without prior permission. But the rule is in place in both chambers, and could be arbitrarily enforced in either, so SPJ sent the letter to Busch, too.

(A footnote: Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a Legislative Transparency Act of 2017. A press release says the proposal “requires that all meetings of the General Assembly be livestreamed, which is done in all but seven states in the nation. The governor’s FY 2018 budget includes $1.2 million to fund the livestreaming.”)

Here’s the SPJ letter:

February 10, 2017

Dear President Miller and Speaker Busch:

We are writing to discuss a rule that limits photography and videotaping by the press in the Maryland Senate and House chambers without prior permission. The rule became recently when President Miller reminded Bryan Sears, a reporter for The Daily Record, as he was videotaping a floor speech in the Senate, that he needed to get permission first.

Perhaps this rule made sense years ago, when videotaping was only done by camera crews, requiring large equipment that might have been a distraction to, or even interfered with, the legislature’s operation.

The media landscape has greatly changed. Now, during chamber sessions, journalists might take notes for a future story in print or on the web, but they also might cover proceedings live through Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and other platforms, especially since the public cannot watch the Legislature’s proceedings through a video broadcast. We are no longer limited to the specialties we used to have.

All that journalists need for multimedia work is a small electronic device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. For videotaping, they hold up the electronic device from their seat and press a button; they don’t interfere and are barely noticed.

We have concerns about applying an outdated rule to a current approach to journalism. It has created discriminatory differentiation, as TV crews daily set up in the chambers and are allowed (even without asking permission each time) to get footage for their reports. Other journalists are not allowed to get the same footage for their publications and websites without permission, which is logistically impossible when news develops on the spot.

The rule also creates an imbalance in which the public, from the gallery, may take pictures or video clips from their seats, but journalists on the floor cannot without prior permission.

President Miller has expressed a concern about legislators knowing they are being taped and that their words might be replayed elsewhere. But the audio of chamber sessions already is broadcast; videotaping by journalists does not change anything, other than matching a face to a voice.

We ask that both chambers drop or amend their rule, and rely on current practice, which works well. Journalists who receive credentials through the Department of General Services should be allowed to remain in the press area of each chamber and do their jobs, involving any platform, as long as it does not interfere with the proceedings. Warnings or limitations should be based on that principle, rather than an outdated rule that hampers their work.

We also ask that a rule clearly enshrining press rights be put in place, so that there is no confusion in the future.

A suggested update to the rule is:
“From the press area, credentialed journalists may take photos or video of proceedings, as long as it does not interfere.”

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours truly,

Lynn Walsh
President, Society of Professional Journalists
Investigative executive producer, NBC 7 San Diego

 

*****
Disclosure: Besides serving as SPJ’s Region 2 director, I am a city editor with The Frederick News-Post, which covers the Maryland General Assembly.

Seized funds and communication strategy

The SPJ national board took up two topics — money and communication — during an electronic meeting on Jan. 5:

1 – In September, the board voted to revoke the charters of three SPJ chapters: Mid-Florida Pro, North Central Florida Pro and Inland Northwest Pro.

Shutting down a chapter is extreme, but only comes after years of inactivity, as was the case here. A chapter gets 60 days to come up with a plan for how its money will be disbursed, or the money will be taken and used elsewhere within SPJ or SDX. The bylaws say:

Section Seventeen. Upon the decision to terminate any professional or campus chapter, whether by dissolution, disbandment, revocation pursuant to Section Thirteen of this Article, or otherwise, any remaining chapter funds shall be distributed to another adjoining active Society Chapter then in good standing, the Society, or the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, as directed by the chapter’s governing body, or, in the absence of action of the local board within 60 days of termination, the national board of directors.

The national board later heard from the Inland Northwest Pro chapter, which wanted another chance. Region 10 Director Ethan Chung supported the request, and the board granted that second chance.

The Mid-Florida Pro chapter, which has not held programs in about four years, did not try to continue. After the 60-day deadline, a chapter representative asked that its remaining money (about $12,000) go to the First Amendment Foundation. But SPJ bylaws say the money must stay within SPJ or SDX.

During our Jan. 5 meeting, SPJ President Lynn Walsh made a motion that the board reconsider its earlier vote on seizing the chapter’s treasury and ceded to the chapter’s wishes. Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher seconded the motion.

Upon proper motion by Walsh and second by Fletcher, the board voted against the motion to “reconsider the September vote and respect the wishes of the Mid-Florida Pro Chapter, instead giving the money to the SDX Foundation or somewhere else within SPJ.”

The vote was 10-8 against the motion.

No: Keem Muhammad, Jane Primerano, Bill McCloskey, Amanda Womac, Michael Koretzky, Ed Otte, Andy Schotz, Leticia Lee Steffen, Ethan Chung, Patti Gallagher Newberry

Yes: Rebecca Tallent, Paul Fletcher, Sue Kopen Katcef, Joe Radske, Michele Day, Lynn Walsh, Matthew Hall, Kari Williams

I voted no because the process the national board used was fair. Chapters get plenty of leeway to resume their activity. They get a few years of probation before their charters are revoked. There is no point having an inactive chapter indefinitely.

The 60-day period for deciding on a place for the money also was fair. The chapter was given numerous opportunities to meet that deadline; it did not.

The bylaws are clear about money staying in SPJ or SDX, and the chapter’s request did not follow that.

I thought the money should have stayed in Florida to help SPJers there. The Florida Pro chapter is excellent and could serve the people who previously were in the Mid-Florida chapter. But there was little interest in my idea. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky assured me that the Florida Pro chapter doesn’t need the extra money to do programs that serve that region.

*****

2 – Walsh has said she wants to work on a better communication strategy for SPJ. She has created a committee to look at best practices. The committee includes:

  • FOI Committee Chairman Gideon Grudo
  • Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman
  • Membership Committee Chairwoman Robyn Davis Sekula
  • Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky
  • Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer
  • Michele Boyet, an officer in the Florida Pro chapter.

They will join the SPJ Executive Committee at its meeting in San Diego this month.

The question before the national board on Jan. 5 was a $6,860 budget.

That covers travel, hotel and meals for the six people above. (Executive Committee members have stipends to cover expenses.) The budget also covers $2,250 for (W)right On Communications of Solana Beach, Calif., and North Vancouver, British Columbia, to lead a strategy session.

Walsh said during our electronic meeting that SPJ needs a more specific plan for how and when to speak out, particularly on issues in the news. She said an attempt to create a plan internally has not worked well.

Walsh noted that the national board, a year ago, approved a budget of $8,850 for a strategy session on membership. That also included covering the costs of SPJers who flew in for the meeting and to pay a consultant.

A motion by Walsh to approve the budget for the communication strategy session, seconded by McCloskey, passed 16-2.

Yes: Muhammad, Primerano, Womac, Koretzky, Otte, Steffen, Chung, Gallagher Newberry, Tallent, Fletcher, Kopen Katcef, Radske, Day, Walsh, Hall, Williams

No: McCloskey, Schotz

I voted against this proposal because I am skeptical of hiring consultants to run meetings. I’ve covered many “facilitator” sessions as a reporter and I’m not convinced they are worth the expense. I also don’t buy the argument that an outsider has to be brought in to help a journalism organization learn how to communicate.

For the record, I voted against the budget for the membership consultant, too.

 


Kicking out the press

The Maryland Pro chapter of SPJ released the following statement on Wednesday in response to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake banning WYPR reporter P. Kenneth Burns from her press briefings. SPJ objects to the mayor’s decision and calls for Rawlings-Blake to immediately reinstate Burns’ full privileges and rights in reporting on the mayor and city government.

 

October 12, 2016

To Whom It May Concern:

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday she has banned P. Kenneth Burns, a WYPR radio reporter and vice president of the Maryland Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, from her weekly press briefings based on allegations of “verbally and physically threatening behavior.” The Maryland Professional Chapter believes the mayor’s decision to be an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press rights.

We take threats of violence seriously, and we support any individual’s right to protect him or herself from those threats. However, in speaking with Anthony McCarthy, director of public affairs for the mayor, this afternoon, we have learned that there are no specific examples of physical or verbal threats Mayor Rawlings-Blake can reference. McCarthy said the mayor feels “uncomfortable” and “threatened” in the small briefing room space where these conferences occur.

After speaking with WYPR editor Joel McCord and viewing footage online of a hostile exchange between Rawlings-Blake and Burns during a press event last week, it is clear Burns is an aggressive reporter, and the relationship between the two has been contentious during his three years covering city government. Regardless, a public official does not have the right to ban a reporter because he or she does not like his tone or persistence during questioning.

Furthermore, a public official – particularly the mayor of a metropolitan city – has an obligation to produce evidence of any alleged threats rather than making vague allusions to violence and restricting a reporter’s First Amendment rights. Were there a real threat of violence, we feel confident a security team would have addressed those issues with Burns and WYPR. As of yet, no specific allegations have been made.

We feel this is an unacceptable abuse of power. Elected officials cannot and should not be permitted to pick and choose which reporters cover them. This incident points to a troubling trend wherein officials believe they can control the message by restricting the messenger. The consequences of this violation of press freedom are disastrous for a community, which relies on quality investigative journalism to keep public officials accountable.

The Maryland Professional Chapter calls on Mayor Rawlings-Blake to reinstate Burns’ press access immediately and allow him to continue his coverage of city government.

Sincerely,

The Maryland Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists


What the board and delegates did at EIJ16

Below is a recap of discussions and actions taken by the SPJ national board and convention delegates during Excellence in Journalism 2016 in New Orleans in September.

*****

SPJ national board meeting #1 (Sept. 18):

1) A few items from SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel’s staff report:
• The Native American Journalists Association would like to join NAHJ, RTDNA and SPJ for EIJ17.
• SPJ distributed 84 news releases from September 2015 to Aug. 19, 2016.
• SPJ’s social media followers were: 33,000 Facebook; 42,000 Twitter; 2,345 LinkedIn.

2) The board revoked the charters of three inactive chapters. It also designated 22 chapters as “inactive,” including one in Region 2 — Howard University. “Inactive” is an intermediate step. A chapter can easily be revived if there is interest, but this is a sign that there has been no sign of interest in a while.

3) On a related note, the board unanimously agreed that the money taken from the bank accounts of revoked chapters will go to a regional directors’ fund to be distributed, by request, to other chapters (and not just in the same region). First, under SPJ bylaws, the chapters that were revoked have 60 days to take action on how to distribute the money. The national board takes action if the local board does not.

3) The board went into executive session to talk about a possible investment and to do an evaluation of Skeel.

4) When the board reconvened in public session, it unanimously approved a motion by at-large director Bill McCloskey made a motion that SPJ consider reincorporating in another state. SPJ currently is incorporated in Illinois. Under Illinois law, SPJ and other nonprofit organization can’t take electronic votes. This makes it tricky for SPJ to do conference call and electronic meetings, and take any action.

5) The final action was a vote on a change in the awards process. Last year, the board voted to give the final approval on most SPJ national awards (minus the Wells Key). Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky decided this year that the board didn’t need to formally vote on these awards, but should have the right to call for a vote after reviewing the choices. At EIJ16, the board approved that update to the process. Two people voted against this change — me and Region 6 Director Joe Radske. [Note: I voted no because the new iteration of the process was not what the board decided last year — we wanted approval authority, not the ability to review.]

For more information about these and other topics, go to the board packet:
https://www.spj.org/pdf/boardmeeting/spj-board-meeting-agenda-2016-09-18.pdf

*****

SPJ national board meeting #2 (Sept. 18):

1) At-large director Bill McCloskey was again chosen to serve on the Executive Committee.

2) University at Maryland SPJ chapter member Maggie Gottlieb, who won a seat on the board as campus representative, also was added to the Executive Committee. Gottlieb and new campus representative Keem O. Muhammad were each nominated to serve on the Executive Committee, resulting in a secret vote within the board.

3) Bill McCloskey and I were chosen for the Finance Committee

4) The board talked about the process for choosing the Wells Key, resulting in a proposal to have the national board, and not just the Executive Committee, review nominations. After a period of debate on this and other points, the proposal was tabled. Three people voted against tabling the proposal — Koretzky, Radske and me.

*****

Conference business session (Sept. 20):

1) Delegates approved several resolutions as a group:
• Commending Mark Thomason for standing up to a Georgia judge who had him arrested and jailed because of a public records request he made
• Urging the University of Kentucky to comply with Kentucky’s public records law
• Urging President Barack Obama to abandon restrictions to getting government information
• Support increased protections for student journalists
• Support women in journalism
• Recognize Alistair Cooke’s contributions to British-American relations
• Thank outgoing SPJ President Paul Fletcher and the SPJ staff

2) A change in the bylaws to create a “supporter” category, in which people can donate money to SPJ without becoming full members, was approved by a voice vote.
First, there was some concern that the new category would steal people who might otherwise be members.
By a 69-31 vote, delegates supported preserving a provision that anyone in the “supporter” category would be ineligible for full membership.

3) Delegates approved a bylaws change that addresses a gap in representation of SPJ members who don’t belong to a chapter. The new process is to choose delegates in each region to represent unaffiliated members, at the same same rate (one delegate per 50 members) in place for chapter delegates.
The measure passed by a voice vote, with only D.C. Pro chapter President Kathy Burns opposed.

4) A resolution to start the process of renaming “Society of Professional Journalists” to “Society for Professional Journalism” was defeated 57-44.
[Note: After being opposed to this idea for a few years, I voted in favor this year. I think the proposed name now matches changes underway to make SPJ more open and inclusive.]

5) By a predominant voice vote, delegates tabled a resolution opposing requirements that college faculty give mandatory “trigger warnings.” The resolution did not oppose the warnings, which might precede possibly objectionable discussion topics in class; it challenged making those warnings mandatory. Ben Meyerson of the Chicago Headline Club, who moved to table the resolution, said it strays from SPJ’s journalism mission.

6) By a predominant voice vote, delegates approved a resolution supporting the rights of journalists to report on political campaigns without threats or reprisal. A first draft of the resolution was amended to remove references to specific presidential candidates, so it would apply to all presidential candidates and all journalists.

7) Delegates approved a resolution supporting transparency in media ownership.
An early draft of the resolution was aimed at Sheldon Adelson for his family’s secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, condemning “the manipulation of news outlets for personal gain by wealthy media owners everywhere.”
The broader revised version that passed condemned “the clandestine behavior of Adelson’s group leading up to the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and subsequent manipulation of news coverage.”
The revised resolution passed by voice vote, with two people voting no.

*****

Election results:

1) President-elect: Rebecca Baker — unopposed (926 votes)

2) Secretary-treasurer: J. Alex Tarquinio — unopposed (919 votes)

3) Director at-large (one open seat):
Rachel Wedding McClelland — 444 votes (winner)
• Jason Parsley — 271 votes
• Elle Toussi — 173 votes
• Alex Veeneman — 69 votes

4) Campus adviser at-large (one open seat):
Leticia Lee Steffen — 522 votes (winner)
• Chris Delboni — 395 votes

5) Regional directors
• Region 1: Jane Primerano (unopposed) — 142 votes
• Region 4: Patricia Gallagher Newberry (unopposed) — 77 votes
• Region 5: Michele Day (unopposed) — 88 votes
• Region 7: Kari Williams (unopposed) — 32 votes
• Region 8: Eddye Gallagher (unopposed) — 65 votes
• Region 9: Ed Otte (unopposed) — 47 votes

6) Student representative (two open seats)
Keem O. Muhammad — 414 votes (winner)
Maggie Gottlieb (of the University of Maryland) — 387 votes (winner)
• Emily Bloch — 282 votes
• Jessica Hice — 241 votes
• Katherine Rosenhammer — 84 votes

There were 1,016 votes, for a turnout of 16 percent.


Annual report observations (students)

Some items of interest as I reviewed this year’s Region 2 annual reports for campus chapters:

Appalachian State University:

  • The chapter worked with the university’s student publication to host a conversation about First Amendment rights on and off campus.
  • It raised $137 by collecting a percentage of profits at a restaurant one evening.
  • It held a screening of “Spotlight.”

Elon University:

  • It was a transition year as the school’s broadcast and print entities merged into one, called Elon News Network. The SPJ chapter is getting a makeover, too.
  • What better way to re-emerge than by hosting the next Region 2 conference? It will be April 7 and 8, 2017, at Elon.

George Mason University:

  • The chapter had a lengthy list of programs, including visits to the Newseum and WTOP radio, numerous speakers, a career media panel and a résumé workshop.
  • It used a wide range of methods for communication, including a listserv, email, kiosks, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and word of mouth.
  • Its FOI program was a kiosk in which visitors answered a question: What does FOI mean to you? Prizes were given out.

High Point University:

  • It attracted a good crowd for a First Amendment Free Food Festival.
  • At a joint program with a local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, hosted a public relations person from Krispy Kreme. (yum)
  • Heard from a TV news producer (who has since become communications manager for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance)

James Madison University:

  • Held a screening of a professor’s documentary about cerebral palsy
  • An ethics program covered difficult reporting situations — approaching victims, consequences
  • Bylaws have clear, detailed descriptions of the responsibilities of the officers on the board

Salisbury University:

  • Sent its entire executive board to both EIJ 15 and this year’s Region 2 conference
  • Had a record year for fundraising at local establishments
  • Journalism service projects included a food drive and participating in a school recycling drive

University of Maryland:

  • Held three blood drives
  • A wide variety of programs included movie screenings, résumé and cover letter critiques, a look at comics journalism and newsroom tours.
  • Raised money by busing tabes, working the grill and tending bar at a cookout at the dean’s house for faculty. The dean donated $300 to the chapter for EIJ costs.

Virginia Commonwealth University:

  • Held diversity programs during Hispanic, Native American, Black and Women’s history months.
  • Planned programs at Region 2 conference; the chapter was a co-host.
  • Co-hosted a town hall on the Virginia Senate election

Virginia Tech:

  • The chapter, which held six programs during the annual report period, is looking at long-term growth: “Strategic focus has been to position ourselves for long-term growth: conserving resources, boosting recruitment, retaining current members and developing mutually beneficial relationships with other individuals, leaders and organizations.”

Washington & Lee University:

  • Went from one member to 18 members (!)
  • Supported two ethics institutes held by the journalism department
  • Held programs on portfolios and getting jobs after graduation

Western Carolina:

  • Its fundraisers were a T-shirt sale and a chili cookoff
  • Held programs on “New Tools in Communication” and “How to Freelance.”
  • Bylaws also have an openness clause: “All membership meetings and programs of the WCU SPJ shall be on the record and open to coverage by any or all communications media on an equal basis.”

 


Annual report observations (pros)

Some items of interest as I reviewed this year’s Region 2 annual reports for pro chapters:

Washington, D.C., Pro:

  • A job fair held jointly with other journalism organizations for the second straight year did well. There were 235 job seekers, 22 media companies and 74 volunteers.
  • The journalism service project was interesting: working with interns at Street Sense, a biweekly newspaper written largely by people who are or were homeless.
  • The chapter co-sponsored the D.C. Open Government Summit.

Delaware Pro:

  • One program was a joint screening with the ACLU of a film called “Shadows of Liberty,” a look at media “censorship, cover-ups and corporate control.”
  • The chapter hosted a discussion on criminal justice reform with the state attorney general.
  • There is a special rate on chapter dues for retirees and students.

Maryland Pro:

  • Cool program idea #1: A look back at coverage of the Baltimore protests and riots
  • Cool program idea #2: A talk with Maryland’s new Public Information Act ombudsman
  • Cool program idea #3: A joint meeting with Tweetmasters of Anne Arundel County to look at the best ways to use Periscope

North Carolina Pro:

  • Worked with the Triangle Association of Black Journalists
  • Held a meeting and dinner to hear from local authors
  • A neat statement in the chapter bylaws: All membership meetings and programs are on the record and open to coverage.

Virginia Pro:

  • The chapter stood up for journalists covering the statehouse in Richmond after their seats were moved off the floor and into the gallery.
  • It awarded two fellowships — for one professional and one student — to attend EIJ 15.
  • Under its bylaws, the chapter board includes a representative from the Virginia Commonwealth University chapter.

Greater Charlotte Pro:

  • Programs included a tour of the ESPNU/SEC studios, a discussion of career resilience for journalists and another on good writing.

Board votes 13-3 against new boundaries, contraction

On Monday, the SPJ national board met electronically to discuss a proposal to change the board structure.

Region 3 Director Michael’s Koretzky’s proposal had four parts, including cutting the number of SPJ regions from 12 to 9. Also, one of the two campus adviser at-large positions would be cut. That would decrease the size of the national board from 23 to 19.

Some of the savings by having less stipend money could be distributed to chapters for programming.

The board had a conference call about the idea on May 9, but held off taking any action, to gather reaction from SPJ chapters and members.

On Monday, during our second meeting about the proposal, the board voted 13-3 to reject it. There was one abstention.

The only three votes in favor were by Koretzky, President-Elect Lynn Walsh and Region 6 Director Joe Radske.

I voted no. I’m not against contracting the board, and I appreciate the window of opportunity we have with no declared candidates yet for the three regional director positions that would be cut. But I’d like to see a more comprehensive review of the board makeup and structure than this one change.

Cutting three positions without people in them might seem like a simple change, but the board heard feedback from people across the country who didn’t like the new groupings of states and chapters. Some cited cohesion between certain chapters. Others questioned the much longer distances they would have to travel for regional conferences.

Koretzy’s response to the travel question was that people can attend whichever regional conference they want. That’s true, but it doesn’t answer the legitimate concern about Mark of Excellence Awards that are given out at regional conferences. A student wouldn’t enter in one region, then attend an MOE award luncheon in another.

We could try to fix that, too, by letting students enter the MOE awards in whatever region they want. But that could get sticky. Could a student in Los Angeles enter in the Northeast? Maybe we could require students to enter their own region or one that is contiguous.

Perhaps these details could be worked out, but we didn’t work them out in advance and didn’t provide answers. Thus, the objections.

Over the weekend, I posted my thoughts about the proposal, as well other possible changes we could make to the national board.

The most significant part of my idea is to remove regional directors from the board. We could have a set number of at-large board members instead. The regional director positions could remain and the boundaries wouldn’t be affected.

I will be part of a task force President Paul Fletcher has created to study the function and structure of the national board. I will pitch my idea as part of our review.

Some points raised during Monday’s electronic board meeting:

• Region 11 Director Matt Hall: If we change the structure of regional conferences first, it might be easier to change the regions afterward.

• Region 12 Director Amanda Womac: Grassroots representation, through regional directors, is important.

• Region 9 Director Tom Johnson: The chapters in his region are strongly opposed to the new boundaries.

• Radske: The changes make sense for his region, but cutting a campus adviser position on the board is a mistake.

• At-large Director Bill McCloskey: This is a solution looking for a problem. If money for chapters is the point, let’s figure out how to free up money in the budget.

• Walsh: It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a change worth doing now. We can work on finer details later.

• Region 5 Director Deborah Givens: The size of the board is not a problem. We have other topics to address.

There were amendments to Koretzky’s plan (such as eliminating Kentucky’s switch to Region 2) before the board voted.

The board received a fair amount of comments on this, although not as many as if we had tried to publicize the proposal earlier, such as before the first meeting.

I heard two comments from Region 2 — both from North Carolina folks who want to see their state remain in this region.


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