Posts Tagged ‘April Bethea’


SPJ overhaul, election, Journalist on Call, and more

One of the most significant parts of this year’s SPJ national conference was a radical change in the society’s governance.

The SPJ board will drop from 23 members this year to 9 members in 2019. The board no longer will be elected to represent parts of the country (12 regions across the country) or certain constituencies. It will be a smaller, more nimble board, elected because of expertise. Seven members of the new board will be elected; two more will be appointed after the election, filling gaps in voices or expertise.

This page explains the bylaws change in more detail.

I supported the overhaul, for a number of reasons. It makes sense to remove regional directors (who will be called “regional coordinators”) from the board and have them concentrate on working with their local chapters. Until now, they were the only board members with dual roles; often, one role suffered at the expense of the other.

Convention delegates approved the bylaws change 86-14. Some of the opposition was from students objecting to the elimination of student representative positions on the board. It’s a legitimate concern, but the board (thanks largely to the advocacy of Vice President of Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen Katcef) is required to appoint a campus voice (student or faculty) to the board if one is not elected.

Another good feature of the new structure is the creation of a seven-person nominating committee to recruit good candidates. This will be an improvement on the current process, which falls on the shoulders of the past president.

The transition to the board structure will happen over a two-year period. The board probably will have 14 members next year, then 9 the following year.

The Press Club of Long Island, worried about future representation for chapters, proposed an amendment that would have guaranteed having at least one regional coordinator every year on the new board.

The current board did not support this proposal. I was against it because it reverted back to the representational model in a way that wasn’t necessary. Every year, almost every member of the national board came up through involvement in a chapter.

Delegates defeated the PCLI amendment 76-27.

A separate proposal to change the new board to 11 members instead of 9 members also was defeated. The vote was 67-39.

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Convention delegates also approved resolutions:

• Condemning “corrosive actions and words of the Trump administration toward the news media and journalists”

• Denouncing a culture in which governments prohibit “public employees and private experts from communicating with reporters”

• Praising the Student Press Law Center’s work on New Voices legislation guaranteeing broader free press rights for students in several states

• Commending journalists covering hurricanes Harvey and Irma, even as their offices, studios and homes flooded

• Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act

• Thanking Executive Director Joe Skeel and Associate Executive Director Chris Vachon, both of whom are leaving SPJ for other jobs, and thanking the rest of the staff.

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This year, five SPJ races for the national board were contested, including an unusually high seven people vying for one at-large seat. The results were:

• President-elect:

  • J. Alex Tarquinio – 780 (winner)
  • Jason Parsley – 224

• Secretary-treasurer: Patricia Gallagher Newberry – 921 (unopposed)

• At-large director (one seat):

  • Alex Veeneman – 98
  • Elle Toussi – 171
  • Randy Bateman – 51
  • Melissa Allison – 123
  • Michele Boyet – 188
  • Lauren Bartlett – 230 (winner)
  • Mikal Belicove – 70

• Campus representative (two seats)

  • Rahim Chagani – 404 (winner)
  • Kathy Rosenhammer – 270
  • Marivel Guzman – 82
  • Haley Harding – 565 (winner)

• Vice president for campus chapter affairs

  • Sue Kopen Katcef – 583 (winner)
  • Keem Muhammad – 397

• Campus adviser at large: Jeff South – 868 (unopposed)

• Region 2 director: Andy Schotz – 110 (unopposed)

• Region 3 director: Michael Koretzky – 68 (unopposed)

• Region 6 director: Joe Radske – 34 (unopposed)

• Region 10 director:

  • Ethan Chung – 45 (winner)
  • Don Meyers – 24

• Region 11 director: Matt Hall – 131 (unopposed)

• Region 12 director: Kelly Kissel – 50 (unopposed)

Total votes: 1,039 (which is probably about 14 percent)

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SPJ board meeting, Sept. 6, 2017

• Staffing report: Executive Director Joe Skeel, Associate Executive Director Chris Vachon, Fundraising Coordinator Katie Hunt and Director of Education Scott Leadingham all are leaving their positions. Skeel will stay the longest, through Dec. 1. A development manager and an education manager will be hired, with some different responsibilities than the current positions have. The communication intern position has been extended from one year to two years.

• Inactive chapters: The board approved a recommendation to inactivate several pro and campus chapters (none in Region 2).

  • Pro: Milwaukee Pro, Inland Northwest Pro
  • Campus: Boston U., Brockport College, Canisius College, Franklin Pierce U., Winthrop U., Kent State U., Wayne State College, Western Michigan U., DePauw U., Franklin College, Indiana U.-Purdue, U. of Wisconsin-Madison, U. of Central Missouri, U. of Missouri, Abilene Christian U., Baylor U., SMU, TCU, U. of Oklahoma, Utah State U., Seattle U., U. of Idaho, U. of Oregon, Cal State U.-Long Beach.

• A committee has recommended changes to Quill magazine, including:

  • Cut from six issues to four issues per year, with additional updates on the website
  • More in-depth, themed stories
  • Limit news about chapters and SPJ HQ to the website
  • Have students participate more

• The board voted unanimously that a $52,000 donation from the state of Hillary Wiggin shall go to the First Amendment Forever Fund

• The board approved a spending policy. The proposal that came to the board said: “Executive Committee approval is required to pay for any services costing $3,000 or more unless the full board previously authorized the expense.” After some debate, the board raised the threshold to $5,000 and approved the policy 17-6. Board members who voted against were: Bill McCloskey, Rebecca Baker, Lynn Walsh, Paul Fletcher, Joe Radske and Rachel Wedding McClelland.

• The board went into executive session to talk about plans for hiring a new executive director.

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SDX Foundation board meeting, Sept. 6, 2017

The main item on the agenda was for the Journalist on Call. It’s a proposed new staff position, to be defined in more detail later.

It might be an expert who could be available for journalists and news organizations with an immediate need, such as a legal or ethical problem. It might be a clearinghouse of information, connecting people to resources they need. It might be someone to promote journalism and credibility to the public.

Attempts to get outside grant funding have been unsuccessful, so the board considered whether to fully fund the position with SDX money. The projected budget was about $120,000 a year, including salary, benefits and travel, for three years.

Some possible savings to help reach that budget included: salary savings through staffing changes, eliminating three JournCamps, eliminating on-demand video training, and printing Quill less often.

SDX board member Sally Lehrman proposed cutting the position to one year as a trial, to be developed further. The board opposed that idea.

Lehrman also proposed increasing the budget from $120,000 a year to $180,000 a year, which passed.

The final vote on creating the Journalist on Call position with a budget of $180,000 a year was 17-6 in favor. Board members who voted against the motion were: Todd Gillman, Kelly Hawes, Jane Kirtley, Al Leeds, Mac McKerral and one other person who I missed in my notes.

• The SDX Foundation board also approved the recommendations for changing Quill magazine (see above). The only vote against was by Al Leeds.

• The board approved adding April Bethea, Robyn Davis Sekula and Michael Bolden to the board. It also approved having Paul Fletcher continue to serve on the board.

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SPJ board meeting, Sept. 10, 2017

• There were three nominations for two spots on the board’s Executive Committee. Matt Hall, with 15 votes, and Jane Primerano, with 11 votes, were elected to the committee. Lauren Bartlett had 10 votes.

• Incoming President Rebecca Baker said she was appointing four people to the SDX Foundation board: J. Alex Tarquinio, Lynn Walsh, Joe Radske and Andy Schotz.

• The board approved Matt Hall and Bill McCloskey for the board’s Finance Committee.

• The board reviewed a draft of a job description for advertising the position of executive director.

• Baker announced that the board will have additional meetings during the year, besides the spring meeting and the meetings at the national convention. The additional meetings will be in November, January and July.

• Executive Director Joe Skeel said three people were chosen for the new position of at-large delegate representing SPJ members who don’t belong to chapters. Two attended the convention from Region 11. A third person, from Region 3, had to cancel.

Membership planning proposal approved (I voted no)

I wrote on Monday — before an electronic meeting of the SPJ national board — about a proposal we were considering for creating a strategy on reversing SPJ’s trend of declining membership. I promised an update after the board voted.

SPJ National President Paul Fletcher proposed spending $8,600 on a brainstorming session in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January at the same time the SPJ Executive Committee meets.

The money would cover travel, lodging and meals for Robyn Davis Sekula, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Membership Committee; April Bethea, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Diversity Committee; and an SPJ member to be determined who does not belong to a chapter.

It also would pay for SPJ Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer and Membership Director Linda Hall to join the session. Other SPJ staffers who typically attend the Executive Committee meeting would already be there.

I was receptive to part of this idea. I can see the value of getting people together to dive into an important topic. SPJ has lost thousands of members in the last several years.

What I did not support, though, was the majority of the $8,600 proposal — $4,450 for fees and expenses for facilitator Tim Daniel.

The board previously was told that Daniel has experience leading other journalism organizations through strategy sessions, but does not have experience in association membership.

I don’t see the logic in hiring someone to run a meeting on a topic everyone else in the room already understands.

I also didn’t understand why we didn’t instead pursue a consultant who specializes in association membership, or even ask for a few quotes. (I’m not sure I would have supported that plan either, but it at least made more sense to me.)

Before and during the meeting, I was told:

• A consultant could come up with a membership plan, which we might adapt. But a strategic plan that we created on our own would go deeper and be more meaningful.

• Participants in a strategy session might come in with preconceived opinions. It’s better to have a neutral outsider in charge.

• A trained facilitator makes sure everyone is heard, not just those who speak the most often or loudest.

I don’t agree with these explanations, so I voted no.

I’m not sure of the final vote, but I think 12 of the 23 board members were in on the call. And I know two people voted no (me and Region 5 Director Deborah Givens). That probably makes the final vote 10-2.

I’m typically tuned in to the final results of any meeting I’m in, but the board’s electronic meetings sometimes make that difficult.

It’s easier to follow along through a computer, with a chat function. When we have these meetings during the workday, I have to participate by phone and that’s less orderly.

When I see a final tally (which is required for the board’s roll-call votes), I’ll post it here.

Spending money to brainstorm membership ideas

This afternoon, the SPJ national board is scheduled to hold another virtual meeting (electronic/phone). The topic is membership.

SPJ National President Paul Fletcher has said it’s one of his top priorities to address SPJ’s declining membership. In that vein, he is proposing a retreat for a strategy session.

The retreat would be held in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January at the same time the SPJ Executive Committee meets.

The session would include Robyn Davis Sekula, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Membership Committee, and April Bethea, the chairwoman of SPJ’s Diversity Committee. A, SPJ member to be determined who does not belong to a chapter would also be included.

Two SPJ staff members — Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer and Membership Director Linda Hall — would join the session. SPJ staffers who typically attend the Executive Committee meeting would already be there.

The proposal also includes hiring a facilitator to run the meeting.

The total cost of the proposed strategy session is $8,600. That includes $4,450 for fees and expenses for the facilitator and $4,150 for travel, lodging and meals for the other five people mentioned above.

The board was told that the facilitator has experience leading other journalism organizations through similar strategy sessions, but does not have experience in association membership.

I agree with the idea of holding a session specifically to address membership. But I do not support spending money to have someone lead a meeting for us.

If you have any thoughts on this idea, post them here. I’ll write an update after the board makes a decision.

SPJ immersion

That’s the best way I can think of to describe the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute – SPJ immersion.

You learn a lot about a lot, from what SPJ is and does to the psychology of leadership.

I’ll leave it at that, so as not to give away the curriculum from this coming weekend’s leadership session in Richmond, Va. I will be there as Region 2 director, sharing my SPJ experiences and wisdom.

Under the new “traveling” format for the Scripps Institute (coming to a region near you), the Richmond session will be heavy on Region 2 participants:

Christina Jackson from the Western Carolina University chapter

Keith Cannon from Greater Charlotte Pro

Jonathan Michels from North Carolina Pro

Melissa Burke from Delaware Pro

Amy Cherry from Delaware Pro

David Cabrera from the Salisbury University chapter

Minal Bopaiah from Washington, D.C., Pro

April Bethea from Greater Charlotte Pro

David Burns from Maryland Pro

Brett Hall from the University of Maryland chapter

Emily Schweich from the University of Maryland chapter

 

I am excited to spend some time with this Region 2 crew, several of whom I have met in person and electronically.

See you in Virginia.

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