Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Seaman’

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.


Guest post: Be Vigilant and Courageous, SPJ

Regional director’s note: The following piece is by Gideon Grudo, a board member of the Washington, D.C., Pro chapter of SPJ. I offered this space as a platform for his opinion.

Gideon is reacting to this:

On Friday, SPJ posted this statement from Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman about journalists entering the home of suspected San Bernardino killers Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik:
“Journalists should feel free to investigate stories when and where possible. They need to minimize harm in their reporting, however. Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

Gideon’s response (from himself, and not representing the D.C. Pro board):


When I read SPJ’s reaction to the now infamous live-broadcast shooters’ apartment ransack, it pissed me off.

Why? Because when SPJ fails to stomp its foot and slam its fist at unethical journalism, it violates its own code of ethics and it loses more relevance.

Here’s a clause from the very first plank of that code: Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.

Absent are these traits in the statement SPJ’s ethics chair, Andrew Seaman, delivered about CNN’s and MSNBC’s unethical blunder. It is not vigilant and it is not courageous. It is weak and it is cowardly. It is indirect and it is fragile. It’s not a statement. It’s a friendly reminder that SPJ’s code exists, directed at no one and avoiding eye contact.

So let’s get courageous…

Seaman writes: Journalists should feel free to investigate stories when and where possible. They need to minimize harm in their reporting, however.

Don’t be afraid to call spades and write something like this: CNN and MSNBC journalists violated journalistic ethics in their apartment crawl coverage. If you get access to a suspected shooter’s apartment, be responsible.

And vigilant…

Seaman writes: Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

What the hell does “does not represent best and ethical practices” mean? Say what you mean, like this: Don’t walk into a building and live broadcast identifying information of people who might have nothing to do with killing people. You could be endangering lives with this unethical drivel. It’s irresponsible and has no place on your platform.

Get angry. Get loud. Stand up. Get red in the face. Stop being so damn polished. When you’re this clean, no one can hear you. When no one can hear you, SPJ’s membership keeps falling. It’s all connected.

If SPJ wants folks to respect its code, it should show the code some respect, too (and itself some respect while we’re at it).

To its credit, SPJ now links to material that expounds on its ethics clauses (an effort Seaman adamantly and successfully championed). Here’s backup for the clause I quoted from the likes of Poynter and Harvard. CNN and MSNBC don’t make policy like those at whom the clause is historically targeted, but they do very much set an example of what to do or not do to media across the world. They are largely influential, or as I see it, “with power.”

We know SPJ’s Code of Ethics and we belabor its importance in an effort to elevate our stature. But when shit hits the fan and smears the lot of us, we subtly forget about Strunk & White. We force our words through turnstiles of passivity and placidity. The result? No one notices. No one cares. If change is realized, it won’t be by our hand.

In an age saturated with aggregate filler, direct and deliberate speech is the currency of relevance.

Here’s my likely quixotic advice to this society I hold very dear: Be who you are or don’t be at all.

To respond, either post a comment here or contact Gideon at


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