Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Womac’


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.

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.

 

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.

Three board meetings, one election, one business session

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.

 

Sept. 18:

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.]

 

Other business:

• 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.

 

Sept. 21:

• 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.

 

Oct. 27:

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.

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