Thank you, from SPJ

Thank you.

That’s my message today to SPJ members.

Thanks for turning to us in the midst of a pandemic that is demanding heroic efforts from you.

Thanks for using SPJ resources to help you report, help you edit, help you design, help you research, or, in too many cases, help you find work (or more work) to support yourself.

Thanks for trusting SPJ leaders to make hard decisions that impact your SPJ involvement – from canceling spring events, to keeping contests rolling, to processing member requests, to looking to a near-term and longer-out future that is being shaped by COVID-19.

Over the weekend, the SPJ Board met (via Zoom) to consider a number of such decisions:

First, we are determined to deliver more digital programming. Our staff has done a yeoman’s job of repurposing the front page of SPJ.org  in response to the coronavirus crisis. We’ve got dozens of resources – from our robust “Journalist’s Toolbox” to our comprehensive calendar of events to our own online discussions. Expect to see more, soon. In concert with the SPJ Foundation Board, we are working on plans to build our digital depth.

Second, we know those of you who have suddenly found yourself unemployed or underemployed may find it hard to pay for your SPJ membership. Accordingly, we expanded our “hardship waiver” from six months to a year. And on April 30, we’ll rebrand our annual “Day of Giving” as “Day of Giving Back” – to encourage members to help members.

Third, we are deep in conversation about our annual SDX dinner and our annual Excellence in Journalism conference. If those events cannot go forward, we’ll pivot quickly to a Plan B for both, and keep you up to speed.

Fourth, as a board, we are concerned about the Society’s short-term financial health. If you tuned into the meeting (or want to watch it now) you know we spent considerable time talking about our current operating budget. We ended up approving a FY2020 budget (which now aligns with the calendar year) that is nearly $130,000 in the red.

  • On the revenue side, we were happy to bring our Google and Facebook contracts from the Foundation budget to the SPJ budget. We were happy, too, that conference registration dollars grew and awards revenue fell only modestly. But we lost some of the work we do for other journalism associations, membership income dipped and we brought in less in sponsorship/grant dollars than we predicted.
  • On the expense side, we had new costs related to the Google and Facebook work (offset, of course, by the new revenue). But we had unexpected costs, too: HVAC repairs to our headquarters building, contractor fees for hiring our new executive director, increases in employee health insurance costs and new costs related to our database system.
  • Speaking of the database, we are beyond thrilled to be moving forward to a new system called Impexium. This decision has been a long time in the making and should address many long-standing issues with our current system. We expect to complete the transition by late summer or early fall.

Be assured that your board leaders are working closely with Executive Director John Shertzer and the staff to balance the budget. We have the reserves to cover the current deficit and we are optimistic that it will be lower than projected. We believe FY2021 will see considerable improvement, given that several expenses were one-time hits.

But we know, too, that this is an uncertain time for the news industry and therefore for SPJ. We are moving quickly to consider all of our options to return to fiscal health – even as we seek to serve members in new and different ways in the short-term.

So thanks, from all of us at SPJ, for your support at this challenging time.


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