Archive for June, 2018


Gleanings from chapter reports (campus)

After reviewing this year’s SPJ chapter annual reports for Region 2, I’ve already summarized the latest with the pro chapters.

Now, some highlights from the campus chapters:

• Western Carolina University: One of its two programs in the past year was a Google training session.

• Washington & Lee University: The chapter had a down period a few years ago, but is coming back strong, roughly tripling in membership in the past year. Its program of the year was a keynote speech by alumna Alisha Laventure, a WFAA Dallas morning news anchor, who decided to respond on air to comments President Trump made about Haiti.

• Virginia Commonwealth University: The chapter co-hosted this year’s Region 2 conference. Its programs included a screening of the documentary “Obit,” a joint dodgeball tournament with the Public Relations Student Society of America and the Ad Club, and a resume workshop.

• University of Maryland: The chapter is solid every year. Its program of the year was called “Free Speech in the Age of Trump” and included multiple angles on free speech, including what limits are in place on campus. Other highlights: Creating a video on open government for Sunshine Week; raising $300 for the University of Puerto Rico School of Communication after it was damaged by Hurricane Maria; a nice variety of journalism and social events; and the sale of “Not the Enemy” T-shirts.

• Salisbury University: The chapter’s program of the year was “Fact or Fake? Media Literacy in Politics.” The Maryland Pro chapter and the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement were cosponsors. There was a First Amendment podcast with Delmarva Public Radio. Other programs examined citizen journalism, the MeToo moment and “sensitive” journalism when reporting on crime.

• James Madison University: The chapter got its name out there with a successful sale of T-shirts (more than 200) on behalf of the Media Arts and Design major. There were two movie screenings (“The Post” and “Nightcrawler”), a social media seminar and a program with an ethics scenario.

• High Point University: The program of the year was “Is Time Really Up”? Female journalists shared stories and advice about working in journalism. The chapter held a First Amendment Free Food Festival, had a speaker from “People” magazine and showed the film “Christine.”

• George Mason University: In a busy year, the chapter hosted speakers from various media and news organizations and helped with a RealNews forum. There was a simulated press conference, a look at election coverage, a panel on creative careers and broadcast journalism training. The chapter went on tours of The Washington Post, the National Press Club and the Newseum; held a toy drive; wrote postcards to incarcerated journalists; and interviewed candidates for the school’s next director of journalism.

• Elon University: The program of the year was a panel discussion on fake news. Adviser Anthony Hatcher spoke to two large continuing education classes on the topic, as well. In a separate program, an alumnus spoke about filing FOIA requests.

• Appalachian State University: One program was about ethnicity in the newsroom. The chapter also attended a presentation by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Thanks to students and advisers for their good work for SPJ and journalism in the past year.

Gleanings from chapter reports (pro)

As SPJ chapters know, it’s annual report time. That’s when chapters lay out what they have been doing, particularly with programs, as well how they are doing financially. It’s an important process, and I thank chapter leaders for the time and effort they put into them.

In recent years, there have been six pro chapters in Region 2.

• Last year, the Delaware Pro chapter folded.

• Both the North Carolina and Greater Charlotte Pro chapters have had a downturn, but committed volunteers (Ken Ripley for North Carolina, Frank Barrows for Charlotte) are working on plans to revive them.

• I know that the Virginia Pro chapter has been active, but was late in turning in its report, so I have not seen it yet.

Virginia Pro chapter members Robyn Sidersky and Jeff South did the heavy lifting on this year’s Region 2 conference near Richmond. The conference went well thanks to their work.

• The Maryland Pro chapter has been in transition lately, as officers and members have come and gone. Kudos to Jennifer Brannock Cox for holding the chapter together and recruiting new volunteers to help. Anna Walsh has enthusiastically taken over as president.

The chapter’s program of the past year was a panel on fake news, in collaboration with the Salisbury University chapter (which Cox advises) and the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.

• The Washington, D.C., Pro chapter has been a standout (disclosure: it’s my chapter). The quantity and quality of programs in the past year has been very good, including Google News training, FOIA training and happy hour mixers. An annual job fair, in partnership with other journalism organizations, is successful.

The annual Hall of Fame and Dateline Awards dinner at the National Press Club always draws a big crowd.

Investigation into Region 10 money still underway; new SPJ financial regulations approved

Some people have asked about the May 21 email from the SPJ board of directors (see below) about the possible misuse of money in a regional fund in Region 10.

The investigation is still underway, but these are some basic details:

• The board and SPJ HQ have been working with chapters in Region 10 (which covers Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska) to figure out what happened.
• A member of the Western Washington SPJ chapter filed a report with the Seattle Police Department on May 10.
• The police report (a public record) says that while Ethan Chung was Region 10 director, thousands of dollars of SPJ money was taken out of the bank during a two-year period for use that was unauthorized.
• Chung was Region 10 director from about October 2015 to January 2018, when he resigned.
• In February, the board appointed Donald W. Meyers as Region 10 director to replace Chung.
• The local chapters and SPJ HQ have gotten access to the bank records and are reviewing them.
We will share more information about the case as it develops.
***
As the May 21 email notes, SPJ has strengthened its oversight on how money in regional funds is kept and monitored. I was part of a task force (along with at-large national board member Lauren Bartlett and regional directors Michael Koretzky, Kelly Kissel and Ed Otte) that came up with the new measures. We presented them to the full board, which approved them in April.
The task force is working on additional measures to strengthen financial practices for pro and campus chapters.
At the chapter level, SPJ has had a few cases of money being taken from bank accounts without authorization.

The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter went through this with unauthorized withdrawals from 2009 to 2011.

The Oklahoma Pro chapter learned in 2012 that money was missing. Scott Cooper, who was the chapter’s secretary-treasurer and Region 8 director, later admitted to embezzling more than $43,000 from the chapter. He was ordered to serve four weekends in jail and repay the money.

***
This was the May 21 email on the current Region 10 investigation:
In the interest of transparency, we are writing to alert you that we have filed a police report with the Seattle Police Department over alleged misappropriation of funds from Region 10 bank accounts.
An internal investigation is ongoing. Based upon information to date, it is our understanding that the alleged misappropriation is isolated to one individual.
The national board, headquarters staff and local chapter leaders are cooperating with authorities to get as clear and complete a picture as possible of the extent of the unauthorized activity. Donald W. Meyers, the new Region 10 director, is helping to lead our efforts. We will update you as we get additional information.
To help avoid a similar situation in the future, the national board adopted new rules for regional accounts at its April 14 board meeting. The new rules further enhance the organization’s accountability measures.
If you have any questions, please contact Alison Bethel McKenzie, SPJ executive director, at abmckenzie@spj.org.
Sincerely,
National Board of Directors
Society of Professional Journalists

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