We will do better

It would be an understatement to say that the June 1 board meeting was not one of the Society of Professional Journalists’ finest hors.

It was an embarrassment. There’s no other way to put it. But we are going to do better.

For those who mercifully missed it, the meeting included a shouting match between the president and the board on the question of who should head the search committee to find a new executive director. Many of us on the board, myself included, believed that Patti Gallagher Newberry, who will take the reins of SPJ in September, was the logical choice to head the committee. But the current president, Alex Tarquinio, believed that one of the SPJ Foundation Board members would be a better choice, as they would be dealing with the new director for several years, compared to one year for Newberry.

Disagreements are not new on the board. I was there for the whole Helen Thomas affair. But it never turned into a shouting match. We usually try to disagree without being disagreeable. We could disagree in the board room, but still break bread at dinner afterward.

In the aftermath, one of our directors made multiple calls for Tarquinio’s impeachment, which he followed up with, shall we say, a rather inappropriate comment about why he was in SPJ.

Did Tarquinio not behave badly? Yes. Do I think it was an impeachable offense? No, and I say this as someone who had to vote someone off an SPJ chapter board after they were arrested for serious crimes.

But we will do better. We must. We are striving to make sure that meeting notices will get out before a meeting, so both we and you can be better informed on the meeting issues, as well as promote the same degree of transparency that we demand of government.

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.

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