Several weeks have passed since the SPJ board held its two fall meetings, but it’s still worth summarizing those actions and discussions.
In the meantime, the board met again — almost two weeks ago, electronically. We used a teleconferencing system called Zoom.
First, highlights of the two meetings from Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando.
From Executive Director Joe Skeel’s roundup of news from headquarters:
• “Our cash position remains strong,” Skeel wrote. “We have about $530,000 in unrestricted cash reserve investments.”
• Income from managing certain tasks for other journalism organizations continues to grow and could be on the verge of becoming SPJ’s second-largest revenue stream — behind membership dues, ahead of contest entry fees.
• SPJ is going to talk further with other journalism organizations to make it easier to join more than one group at the same time.
• From September 2014, to August 11, 2015, SPJ distributed 90 news releases and statements.
• This year, a task force came up with ideas for training delegates before the business meeting. [I helped lobby for this. It went well this year.]
• Eight campus chapters were inactivated this year. One was in Region 2 — Regent University, which requested the change.
• The National Association of Hispanic Journalists plans to join SPJ again for the national conferences in 2017 and 2019.
• The board approved policies that include members of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board for hiring and evaluating the executive director.
• The board approved a 4-percent raise for Skeel. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky was the only board member to vote no.
• The board went into executive session to discuss Skeel’s evaluation and for an unrelated matter.
• The board approved President Paul Fletcher’s choices for committee chairs (including me as chair of the Awards and Honors Committee). The only new chair since last year is Jonathan Anderson on the FOI Committee.
• The board approved an application for a new community for Community Journalism. The organizer is Al Cross.
• Fletcher announced that a change in the selection process for the Wells Memorial Key was voluntarily put in a place this year — a year early. The change, as approved by the board, was to have the full Executive Committee (five people) select the recipient rather than just the officers (three people). The board voted to have the change start in 2016.
• At the request of at-large director Bill McCloskey, the board approved a directive that all governance meetings (the SPJ board, the SDX board) be publicized in all print and video national convention materials.
• Some board members said they prefer that the tongue-in-cheek resolutions at the national convention business meeting — usually to thank the president and the headquarters — either be moved to the end of the session or eliminated, particularly since they often are filled with inside jokes.
• I asked for a clarification of the policy for SPJ national board members getting involved in or refraining from campaigning in national elections. The current guideline is: “Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.” This became an issue this year during a debate on the national convention app, when an SDX board member advocated for an SPJ candidate. Skeel will research the policy and report back to the board.
• The board went into executive session to discuss one matter and to talk to its new attorney.
The national board’s electronic meeting was to discuss three topics on the agenda, but a few other items came up:
• President Paul Fletcher talked about the emphasis SPJ will have in the coming year on membership. There probably will be a retreat on the topic after the Executive Committee meets in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January.
• SPJ’s communities were expected to hold their elections in late October and early November.
• The board briefly went into executive session to discuss one topic.
The items on the regular agenda were:
• The board picked Jane Primerano of the New Jersey Pro chapter as the new Region 1 director. She replaces Rebecca Baker, who was elected national secretary-treasurer in September.
• The board approved Fletcher’s appointment of Sonny Albarado as SPJ’s new representative on the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications for three years. Washington, D.C., Pro chapter member Steve Geimann filled that position for 19 years, but recently moved to London for his job. On a separate motion to set a policy that the president make the appointment in the future, subject to ratification by the board, President-elect Lynn Walsh voted no. She said the board should consider applications for the position, particularly since the president only serves one year but the appointment is for three years.
• The board discussed a proposal by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky to create a new SPJ contest for gaming journalism, at a cost of up to $1,500. There was debate about whether SPJ should get involved or steer clear of the controversy surrounding gaming news coverage and whether a niche should get its own contest. The board voted in favor of the proposal, although I’m not sure what the exact vote was. I know that four people who participated by phone voted yes — me, at-large director Alex Tarquinio, Region 6 Director Joe Radske and Region 9 Director Tom Johnson. Two others voted no — Vice President for Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen Katcef and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Baker. I don’t know what all of the digital votes were.
Finally, some news from the national election and the business meeting at Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando:
The election results were:
• President-elect: Lynn Walsh, unopposed, 682 votes
• Secretary-treasurer: Rebecca Baker had 508 votes, defeating Jason Parsley, who had 215 votes
• Vice president of campus chapter affairs: Sue Kopen Katcef, unopposed, 660 votes
• At-large director: Bill McCloskey had 459 votes, defeating Alex Veeneman, who had 260 votes
• Campus adviser at large: Rebecca Tallent, unopposed, 638 votes
• Student representatives (two seats): Kate Hiller, with 545 votes, and Monica Dottage, with 336 votes, were elected. Dustin Ginsberg was third with 35 votes.
• Region 2 director: I (Andy Schotz) was unopposed, 103 votes
• Region 3 director: Michael Koretzky, unopposed, 61 votes
• Region 6 director: Joe Radske, unopposed, 32 votes
• Region 10 director: Ethan Chung had 34 votes, defeating Don Meyers, who had 28 votes
• Region 11 director: Matt Hall, unopposed, 82 votes
• Region 12 director: Amanda Womac, unopposed, 32 votes.
More than 770 SPJ members voted, or 11 percent. This was the highest voter turnout under the one member, one vote system.
At the business meeting, delegates passed resolutions:
• Commemorating the lives of WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were fatally shot during an assignment.
• Commemorating slain journalists worldwide
• Supporting the need for legal protection for student journalists and advisers
• Urging Congress to reform the Freedom of Information Act
• Advocating for the release of police body-worn camera footage
• Criticizing excessive information control by public information officers
• Criticizing free-speech zones and speech codes, which are common on some college campuses.
Delegates also debated a resolution submitted by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky, calling for the Society of Professional Journalists to be renamed the Society for Professional Journalism. Delegates voted 54-47 to send the proposal back to the Resolutions Committee to be redrafted and reintroduced next year.