Posts Tagged ‘Excellence in Journalism’


New sponsorship policy approved

When the SPJ national board held an electronic meeting on Dec. 1, most of the meeting was in executive session for four topics:

  • the president’s report (including updates on personnel and vacancies for two appointed board seats)
  • Excellence in Journalism updates
  • a sponsorship task force report
  • an upcoming annual review of the executive director

A written part of the president’s report — on board structure, meetings, committees, priorities and more — was not in executive session and is part of the public meeting packet.

After discussing the sponsorship task force’s report in executive session, the board unanimously approved a new policy, after making two small changes from what the task force recommended.

The new SPJ policy:

  • Both media and non-media entities will be allowed to sponsor sessions/events, and to propose session ideas (but the proposals can be rejected). Proposals will be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee. Once proposals are accepted, the Committee and its designated producer will assume full responsibility for participants, topics, times, places, etc.
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may offer speaking fees for sessions/events they sponsor. (Sponsor or grant money will not be used to pay speakers.)
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may cover expenses for speakers participating in sessions/events they sponsor. SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to cover speaker expenses.
  • EIJ partners will retain the right of refusal over all sponsors, exhibitors or advertisers, with contracts reviewed by the executive directors of partner groups before accepting.
  • EIJ partners will disclose its policies on sponsorship of sessions/events to potential sponsors in the prospectus for EIJ19 in San Antonio and any other appropriate publications or web pages.

RTDNA, our EIJ convention partner for several years, is scheduled to review the same proposal later this week.

The sponsorship task force met for about two months. It was created after a few chapters protested in August that the Charles Koch Institute was to be a sponsor at EIJ 18 in September.

In 2003, SPJ passed a policy that did not allow sponsors to plan their own programs. However, because of turnover at SPJ headquarters and on the board, no one was aware of that policy as EIJ 18 was planned.

The 2003 policy also was approved before SPJ had a convention partner, so it needed to be reviewed and updated.

The board and SPJ’s headquarters gave out incorrect information about the Charles Koch Institute’s involvement in the EIJ 18 session it sponsored.

Also during the public portion of the Dec. 1 meeting, the board unanimously approved a process for evaluating SPJ’s executive director when the one-year mark arrives in March.

Bad communication, an apology: examining Koch sponsorship

Heading into this year’s national Excellence in Journalism convention, a few SPJ chapters criticized the national board and headquarters because the Charles Koch Institute was sponsoring a Freedom of Information Act session.

I didn’t mind the sponsorship, which appeared to mesh with an SPJ policy approved in 2003.

However, SPJ failed to give critics (and all SPJ members) accurate information — particularly about whether the Charles Koch Institute planned the session it sponsored. For that, I apologize. (Note: This piece reflects my views — not the SPJ board or anyone else.)

SPJ President J. Alex Tarquinio hinted at this in a column posted Oct. 24, writing that because of “a flurry of emails … some SPJ national board members became convinced that sponsors were not, in fact, involved in planning sessions.”

That characterization is technically true, but further explanation and context is in order.

In August, the Chicago Headline Club contacted SPJ Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie and then-President Rebecca Baker with concern about the Charles Koch Institute as an EIJ sponsor. This prompted thorough discussion by the SPJ and SDX boards and McKenzie of this and other sponsorships.

Tarquinio, as president-elect, agreed to form a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations by Dec. 1. That effort is underway. All SPJ members have been invited to take a survey on sponsorship questions. An online conversation will be held Nov. 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Irwin Gratz, a past SPJ president and incoming president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Board (now known as the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation Board), tracked down the approved 2003 policy and shared it with the boards during our discussion. Many of us weighed in on how the Koch sponsorship aligned with that policy.

Some key points:

  • “No money will be accepted from domestic or foreign governments, or from political organizations.”
  • “SPJ will control all aspects of the convention program. All convention programs will be on-the-record. People and organizations with positions directly opposed to those of any contributor may be invited to appear.”

This is the 2003 SPJ convention sponsorship policy

Since the policy was approved in 2003, SPJ has had plenty of turnover in its headquarters staff and on its board. As a result, it looks as if, when the Koch sponsorship was proposed and accepted, no one was aware of that policy.

(The task force has found that the SPJ board in 2008 approved an update to the policy. The two key points above did not change, but others did.)

A collective failure in communication compounded the problem. The SPJ and SDX boards reviewed the 2003 policy as if it governed the Koch agreement. Regional directors sent messages explaining and supporting the Koch agreement to all chapters, based on the same understanding.

Separately, though, our staff was proceeding differently with Koch and other sponsors, who were, indeed, allowed to plan sessions they sponsored.

It’s a legitimate question whether the 2003 policy applies now, since it was approved when SPJ held its own conventions, without partners (i.e., RTDNA) we have now. We can no longer say “SPJ will control all aspects of the convention program.”

Certainly, the policy needs to be re-examined and updated, which the task force is doing.

But the failure to provide accurate information was wrong, and we have ourselves to blame.

When I asked during the board’s Sept. 30 meeting if Koch planned the session it sponsored, Tarquinio said, “They did not plan it, but obviously we spoke with them and the process was a little [I’m not sure of the word she used here] this year because, as many of you know, Alison did have to step in for our program manager, who left in the middle of EIJ.”

(The sponsorship discussion during the Sept. 30 meeting is posted here, starting at about 45:40.)

McKenzie then told us that sponsors at that level picked from a choice of sessions. (McKenzie said that level was $25,000, but it actually was $20,000, according to the sponsorship task force.)

“They and any other sponsor at that level can plan their panel,” she said. “It’s their panel. It’s a sponsored panel.”

She said she chose the moderator, plus one panelist. Koch chose the other two panelists. “I reviewed their description and tweaked it, and sort of changed it a little bit,” McKenzie said. “So I was pretty heavy-handed in putting their panel together.”

She continued: “My understanding is, in the past, it hasn’t worked like that — that the sponsor pretty much picks, chooses the panel, chooses the description. I just was very involved in this particular panel.”

When I asked about the 2003 policy that said SPJ controls all aspects of the program, McKenzie said, “I was not aware of our policy at the time.”

Board member Lauren Bartlett mentioned “talking points” our headquarters staff gave the board on Sept. 24 about the Koch sponsorship, including this:

  • The institute doesn’t control anything about the session. It did not pick the topic or select the speakers, who are independent from the Koch foundation.

“No, that was inaccurate,” McKenzie told us.

Collectively, we failed and I understand the frustration of the Chicago Headline Club and others.

There is room for reasonable debate about appropriate sponsorship limits. But facts matter, too.

The Chicago Headline Club told its members that “the Charles Koch Institute, for example, is part of a secretive and complex family of groups whose goal is to advance the Koch brothers’ political ideologies.”

I note that as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Charles Koch Institute is legally prohibited from political advocacy (although I was called “naïve” to think this limitation is meaningful or obeyed).

Also, the Charles Koch Institute has a record of funding journalism efforts — such as with The Poynter Institute and the Newseum — that align with SPJ’s mission.

For example, from the Charles Koch Institute’s website:

Civil debate and the free exchange of speech and ideas — on our college campuses, in the arts, and in the press — allow us to challenge both ourselves and the status quo. In order to protect good ideas and speech, we must protect all ideas and speech, so long as they do not violate the person, property, or liberty of others.

Also:

The Media and Journalism Fellowship program is for aspiring and entrepreneurial journalists and story tellers. Our program offers media and creative professionals the opportunity to refine their skills while learning about the crucial role of free speech and a free press in our society.

The Poynter Institute was in a similar situation when it accepted money from the Charles S. Koch Foundation (the same organization, despite the variation in the name) to strengthen student publications.

Kelly McBride wrote about why Poynter was comfortable with the arrangement:

We pick the schools. We set the curriculum. We hire the faculty. We occasionally update our contacts at the Koch Foundation about our progress. I can personally attest that over the last year our contacts at the Koch Foundation gave us complete independence to run the program the way we saw fit. …

As an ethics specialist, I’m confident that we will uphold journalism values if we engage in a process of vetting projects, rather than sorting potential donors along a continuum of acceptable and unacceptable, then drawing a line.

If SPJ has the same firewall, I am comfortable with the same approach.

I don’t agree with all of the points raised by SPJ chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego. For example, Chicago insists that the SPJ Code of Ethics applies here. I disagree — the code is a set of guidelines for journalism, not deciding conference sponsorships.

Still, I apologize that we gave critics, and others, wrong information.

I couldn’t attend the FOIA session at EIJ because it conflicted with a national board meeting, but the Charles Koch Institute posted this about it:

At its 2018 Excellence in Journalism Conference last week, the Society of Professional Journalists held a panel discussion on use of the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Panelists included National Public Radio science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce and Jesse Franzblau, a policy analyst at Open the Government (OTG) — an organization that works to promote government openness through the use of access to information laws.

Starting with the premise that FOIA has allowed journalists to shine a light on government for more than 50 years, panelists explained how journalists can navigate FOIA for their benefit; how to find the right information and to isolate good stories; and how to ensure that they get the timely and complete answers from state officials.

The discussion coincided with OTG’s release its citizen’s guide to “America’s Forever Wars and the Secrecy that Sustains Them.” The project, which OTG policy analyst Emily Manna describes as helping the public understand FOIA’s role in “bringing transparency to issues vital to the public’s understanding of military and national security programs,” is supported by Open Society Foundations and the Charles Koch Institute.

Candidates with the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’

In SPJ elections (or any elections), do you want someone telling you how to vote?

That will be the topic when the SPJ national board holds an electronic meeting on Monday afternoon: whether to have preferred candidates in future elections.

At the Excellence in Journalism conference in the fall in Anaheim, delegates approved a plan to overhaul the SPJ national board, shrinking it from 23 to 9 people in a two-year period.

Another part of the plan is a new Nominating Committee, creating a more formal process for recruiting future candidates for the board.

The intention is good. Instead of having one person (usually the past president) doing the recruiting, a group of seven, representing various SPJ constituencies, will do the work.

What has not been decided yet is how the committee will operate.

This is important for one main reason. A task force suggested having the committee “vet” candidates and recommend them. This will entail making subjective decisions about which candidates are the best and giving them a “seal of approval.”

One idea has been to have that “seal” show up on the ballot. In the next election, you might see, for example, four candidates for president-elect and only one has an asterisk/check mark/thumbs up from the Nominating Committee, nudging you to vote for that person.

I strongly object to anything other than a neutral, politics-free ballot. Campaigning and endorsements are fine in an election, but they have no place appearing on the ballot. It’s no different than when you go to your local polling place and candidates’ signs can’t be any closer than 100 feet away from the door.

Proponents of the “seal of approval” have a good motivation. They think a Nominating Committee will highlight the best candidates, making it more likely we’ll have qualified board members.

But that underestimates the ability of voters to be thoughtful and discerning when making their choices. The “seal of approval” process essentially shifts the decision from all SPJ members to a group of seven. The election becomes a ratification process for the Nominating Committee’s preferences.

That’s going in the opposite direction for SPJ, which expanded voting rights in elections several years ago from a small group of delegates at the national convention to all SPJ members.

But how, some SPJ board members ask, can we be sure voters make smart choices? The answer is easy: Give them the information they need.

Currently, SPJ members are told who the candidates are, but little else. Candidates give some basic biographical information in Quill (if they choose to) and they make a short speech at the national convention (if they go). This is not nearly enough.

SPJ should treat elections like the governments we cover treat them. We need to get information from candidates through a questionnaire. (Some voters told me this questionnaire I sent to this year’s candidates helped them choose.) We need Twitter chats, podcasts, and maybe a (livestreamed) forum at the convention.

I am convinced that voters will make good choices if they have good information. Voters don’t need to have their hands held as they fill out the ballot.

* * *

This is a draft I proposed for the makeup and work of the SPJ Nominations Committee, followed by a Q&A addressing concerns that other board members have raised. Most of this was written by others; my draft addresses the concerns raised above.

SPJ’s Nominations Committee

Purpose and Composition: The committee will identify and recruit candidates for election to the Board of Directors.

The Nominations Committee shall have seven members:

  • The immediate past president of the Board of Directors
  • A current elected board member
  • A regional coordinator
  • An undergraduate student member
  • Three at-large members to be appointed from SPJ’s committees, communities, chapters or other SPJ constituencies.

Committee members will serve two-year terms, to be staggered, except for the student member and the immediate past president, who will serve one-year terms.

  • In Year 1, one other member of the committee besides the immediate past president and the student member will serve a one-year term.

The Nominations Committee chair will be appointed by the Board of Directors.

  • In accordance with the bylaws, the chair may not be an officer or board member.
  • The chair will:
    • Work with the Board of Directors to select appointees for the remaining Nominations Committee seats within 60 days of assuming his or her position. Self-nominations, member recommendations and board recommendations are allowed. Committee members should represent as many diverse viewpoints as possible to: 1) enhance the chances of identifying qualified candidates from all possible constituent groups and 2) enhance the chances of having a Board of Directors diverse in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, medium, geography and professional experience.
    • Conduct virtual teleconference meetings or conference calls (open only to Nominations Committee members) to discuss potential board candidates.

To serve on the Nominations Committee, individuals must be SPJ members in good standing.

  • Members of the Nominations Committee cannot be candidates for an elected position and cannot lobby for the election of any candidate on the ballot. They must wait at least one year after leaving the Nominations Committee before running for or being considered for appointment to the Board of Directors.
  • Committee vacancies that occur after the committee has been selected will be filled by the Nominations Committee chair in consultation with SPJ’s president. Those members will serve the remainder of the term.

Nominations Committee Policies and Procedures

The Nominations Committee will:

  • Identify board candidates through a call for nominations in the winter and by actively recruiting through many diverse channels. Candidates may nominate themselves, be nominated by a fellow SPJ member or be nominated by a Nominations Committee member. Nominations Committee members should be active all year in promoting board membership and recruiting qualified candidates.
  • Verify that all board candidates are eligible to serve, according to SPJ’s bylaws, but will not recommend which candidates should be elected.

Candidates may add themselves to the ballot up to five days before an election begins.

The ballot will list only the name and background of all candidates.

The president, by April 1, shall appoint one or more people to work on efforts to educate SPJ members about candidates leading up to the next election, such as questionnaires about SPJ issues, podcasts, the use of social media, and other means.

________________________
Here are some questions and answers about this approach, using some concerns raised by other SPJ board members.

Q: Why not have the Nominations Committee designate the best candidates (with a label of “preferred,” “recommended” or a similar term)?

  A: All SPJ members will pick who the best candidates.

Q: How do we prevent an unworthy candidate from being elected?

  A: Voters will decide who they want, just like we would in any other election.

Q: But how can we be sure voters know which candidates deserve to be elected?

  A: We will do what we should have done already: pay more attention to making sure members have thorough information about candidates. Currently, we have a short bio in Quill and that’s about it. Candidates share more information about themselves if they want, but this tends to be generalities and platitudes. For all future elections, we will have some or all of the following: questionnaires on SPJ issues and experience; Twitter chats; podcasts; possibly a candidate forum at EIJ.

Q: A candidate is obviously unethical in his/her work. Why not tell voters about that?

  A: That type of information is fair game in any and all of the information forums we choose. We can and should ask candidates questions about their work, including asking them to defend it. Keep in mind that “unethical” is subjective; not everyone would agree what this means. 

Q: Of course we would agree on unethical ethics. We’re talking about a blatant lack of ethics, like working for Breitbart News.

  A: Does working for the National Enquirer indicate a blatant lack of ethics? A current board member used to work there. Should he be removed from the board?

Q: Fair point, but I’m talking about something much worse, something egregious.

  A: Why would SPJ members elect an egregiously bad candidate? They don’t need to be protected from themselves.

Q: Why have a Nominations Committee if it can’t name its preferred candidates on the ballot?

  A: The Nominations Committee serves another important function: rounding up and recruiting strong candidates. That’s a big improvement over the previous process, in which one person (the past president) did almost all of the work.

Updated: A cover image

Update 2, Aug. 15:

SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky posted this today:

I LOVE BIG “BUTS”

 

*****

Update, Aug. 15:

SPJ Diversity Committee Chairwoman Dori Zinn wrote this piece about the Quill cover and Marie Baca’s objection to it:

Let’s Talk about the Cover SPJ Isn’t Talking about

*****

This is my original post:

On Saturday, SPJ member Marie C. Baca in New Mexico sent an open letter to the SPJ national board voicing her displeasure with the cover of the July/August 2017 issue of Quill.

Here’s what she wrote:

To the SPJ Board of Directors:

What does a woman’s butt have to do with a journalism conference? The answer is, of course, nothing, but that’s not what thousands of SPJ member were led to believe when they looked at the July/August issue of Quill.

I kind of understand how this happened. Someone was like, “Hey, we need art for a feature called ‘Training Day,’ which will connect the concept of boot camp to sessions offered for the 2017 Excellence in Journalism conference!” and someone else was like “Let’s do a woman running up a flight of stairs!” All of which is pretty problematic in and of itself, but the execution is completely inexcusable. We don’t get to see this woman’s face, she is simply an object, and the focal point of the cover photo is her butt.

I’m not alone in thinking this was a colossal screw-up. By the time I decided to take my concerns to Twitter, another journalist in Texas had tweeted about the same thing. After I posted my feelings about the cover, I received an overwhelming response from the New Mexico (where I’m based) journalism community expressing their outrage at the photo.

I tweeted this at the SPJ account to share my concerns:

‪@spj_tweets‪ I am FURIOUS. With all the “locker room talk” and sexism in tech discussion, you think THIS is an appropriate cover??.”

They gave me the following reply (the same reply that was given to the Texas journalist):

“Thank you for taking the time to share your opinions with us. We value your input. The photo was chosen several weeks ago to represent a story about training yourself. Our opinion, and that of others we have talked to, is that the photo is not sexist. Rather, it depicts a woman wearing typical workout clothing. We are sorry some readers find it offensive.”

This is—let’s be honest here—a pretty shitty explanation and an even shittier apology. The comment about “chosen several weeks ago” seems to imply that the same photo would not have been chosen in light of the Google manifesto story, which is a sort of tacit admission that the photo is, at the very least, insensitive. I don’t think I need to tell anyone on the board that sexism is a very long-standing issue in this country, not to mention in our profession.

And let’s talk about “depicts a woman wearing typical workout clothing.” Yeah, but, like, why? Why was it necessary to depict a faceless woman in spandex working out and not like, male and female journalists working out together? Or maybe, if you did use a woman for the photograph, a focal point that wasn’t her butt? Just spit-balling here.

I have a feeling that some of you think I am blowing this out of proportion, but I also have a feeling that some of you know that I’m not. Maybe some of you have had some of the same experiences that I’ve had in the journalism industry. You know, the ones that aren’t something worth filing a sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit over, but the ones that very quietly tell you that you maybe you don’t deserve the same respect or opportunities as your older, whiter, male-r colleagues. And some of you know I’m right when I say that when a young woman at the beginning of her journalism career goes into her editor’s office and sees that picture on his desk, she’s going to be ever-so-slightly less likely to ask for that raise she knows she deserves.

The part of the SPJ Code of Ethics I hold most dear is the line that says, “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.” I have a version of this statement written on a Post-It and stuck to my computer. It’s hard to imagine another time in our nation’s history when that idea has been more relevant, for all journalists, no matter what they cover. I primarily write about business, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how the actions of powerful companies—Facebook, Amazon, and the like—affect state- and local-level issues, particularly those related to marginalized communities. It’s about “giving a voice to the voiceless,” right? If we abandon our mission to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” we abandon our duties as the Fourth Estate.

In this situation, you are the powerful, the comfortable. You are the oldest organization representing journalists in the United States. Quill is sent to thousands of your members, who then throw the publication on their desks, the cover visible to anyone who walks by. Here’s my big ask from you:

  1. Acknowledge that the photo was sexist.
  2. Figure out the chain of command that allowed such a photo to appear on the cover of Quill.
  3. Have a meeting where everyone is in agreement about how to make sure this will never happen again.
  4. Share #1 through #3 in a very public way.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Marie C. Baca

*****

Initially, Baca tagged several members of the board on Twitter, which led to a discussion among board members throughout the day. She followed up later by email with her letter.

This was another complaint we received through Twitter:

 

SPJ headquarters, which publishes Quill, responded to the two tweets:

 

Since Baca asked for board members’ thoughts, I’ll share mine (speaking only for myself — not the board or SPJ).

In recent years, Quill has been the subject of scrutiny. What type of magazine should it be? What topics should it cover? And the biggest question: Should it become online only?

I enjoy it, finding something worthwhile in every issue.

When the latest issue arrived in the mail, I glanced at it and put it aside until I had time to read it. I saw that the theme was training, illustrated by a running woman. But I also briefly hesitated over the photo choice.

Baca says a photo of a woman running on the cover of a journalism magazine is “problematic.” I disagree. Magazine covers have leeway for art or representation (Quill has long done this) and physical activity is a visceral way to connote “training.”

I also disagree with her assertion that a picture of someone from the back should not be considered.

The most famous photo of the most famous baseball player (Babe Ruth) shows him from the back as he said farewell at Yankee Stadium. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Nat Fein. (Yes, I realize the attention to the human form in these two photos is different.)

But I, too, wondered why the Quill cover photo couldn’t show running or working out in a different way, which I took as Baca’s main point. Some people see a woman in workout clothes in action. Others see the woman’s butt as a focal point.

I’ve been part of numerous newsroom discussions on deadline about photo choices, including some involving girls and women in competition. Is the image unflattering? Revealing? Is the expression embarrassing? Sometimes, the importance of an athletic moment matters most.

Then, there are times we in the newsroom either didn’t have the right conversation or didn’t have one at all. This might be one of those times. Based on the tweeted reply, no one working on the magazine saw this photo through the eyes of someone who would perceive it differently, in a negative way.

The debate in this case is not over a significant news photo. So, there was no reason to go to the wall to use it; another image of exercise would have sufficed. But that debate would have been had only if we were more attuned to the possible drawbacks of using it.

I don’t think “sexist” is a fair label, implying prejudice or discrimination. But I think it’s valid that we redouble our commitment to be sensitive and thoughtful and to get a variety of input when making journalistic decisions. Baca has helped remind us.

She cited a favorite part of the SPJ Code of Ethics upon which she relies: “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.”

I am glad she wrote, if only to start a discussion. As always, I welcome her feedback.

*****

Update, Aug 13:

Marie Baca left this response to my post:

mariecbaca
mariecbaca@gmail.com
67.164.129.50
Hi Andy,

Thanks for continuing the dialogue. A few things I want to respond to here:

1. I’d like to clarify my comment about a photo of a running woman being in and of itself “problematic.” I’m sure there’s a feature topic for which an image of a running woman would be an appropriate cover choice (a story about women running, for example), but it’s not for a story that is essentially an advertisement for the SPJ conference. Even if the subject had been photographed in a way that emphasized something other than her butt, the fact that a faceless woman in tight workout clothing was used to tease a conference story makes SPJ no better than the advertisers we criticize in other contexts.

2. Yes, there are famous photos of people shot from behind, but the Babe Ruth image you refer to in your post creates a dangerous false equivalence. When readers saw that Babe Ruth photo, they knew exactly who they were looking at. If, for some reason, they didn’t know it was Babe Ruth, or didn’t recognize his jersey number, the rest of the photograph indicates that this is a man in a position of power who is being honored by thousands of people. The SPJ photo could not be more different. We have no idea who this woman is, because we can’t see her face and we have no other contextual clues. She isn’t a person here; she’s an object, and her butt is the central focus of the image. Combine that with our industry’s long history of sexism and complacency even today, the photo is in my mind, incredibly sexist.

3. I appreciate your comment about this possibly being one of those “times we in the newsroom either didn’t have the right conversation or didn’t have one at all.” To me, this is the crux of the issue.

Lastly, I want to talk about your comment that “sexist” isn’t a fair label for this photo, “as it implies prejudice or discrimination.” But that’s exactly what’s going on here. Not all sexism in our industry is overt, Mad Men-era ideas that women should only write about fashion lest they bleed all over the news page. In this day and age, it is more likely to be subtler, but just as insidious. This photo is discriminatory because it treats the woman as an object and uses her butt as the central focal point despite their being no real reason to do so. It is a lazy choice for a feature package that is essentially an advertisement. While I appreciate this post, I stand by my claims that the SPJ should investigate this issue, apologize, and assure their members this will never happen again.

Best,

Marie

 

From the annual reports (pro)

Three of the pro chapters in Region 2 submitted annual reports this year. Here are some highlights from their reports:

Maryland

• The top program of the year was a collaboration with the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Salisbury University campus chapter: a program called “Can reporters balance activism and objectivity?”

• Chapter President Jennifer Brannock Cox was part of that panel, as well as one on President Donald Trump and the media. She gave a presentation on mobile apps at the Region 2 conference at Elon University in North Carolina.

• The chapter spoke out forcefully against the mayor of Baltimore’s decision to ban a radio reporter (and the chapter’s vice president at the time) from her weekly press briefing. Brannock Cox helped promote press freedom issues in Annapolis at the start of the the state legislature’s session.

Virginia

• The chapter in 2016 launched a program to match college students and early-career journalists to more experienced professionals. The chapter expects to expand the program.

• A trivia night mixer included the SPJ chapter and the Hampton Roads chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

• The chapter gives scholarships to college journalists to attend the annual Excellence in Journalism conference.

Washington, D.C.

• The chapter held panel discussions on coverage of D.C. regional news, election coverage, police cameras, and solutions for the newsroom.

• #HomelessNewsBlitz was a chapter effort spearheaded by board member Eric Falquero, the editor in chief of Street Sense, a street paper. Local journalists gathered to report stories for an issue of the paper.

• The chapter hosted 18 journalists from Shanghai, China, for a lunch meeting.

What the board and delegates did at EIJ16

Below is a recap of discussions and actions taken by the SPJ national board and convention delegates during Excellence in Journalism 2016 in New Orleans in September.

*****

SPJ national board meeting #1 (Sept. 18):

1) A few items from SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel’s staff report:
• The Native American Journalists Association would like to join NAHJ, RTDNA and SPJ for EIJ17.
• SPJ distributed 84 news releases from September 2015 to Aug. 19, 2016.
• SPJ’s social media followers were: 33,000 Facebook; 42,000 Twitter; 2,345 LinkedIn.

2) The board revoked the charters of three inactive chapters. It also designated 22 chapters as “inactive,” including one in Region 2 — Howard University. “Inactive” is an intermediate step. A chapter can easily be revived if there is interest, but this is a sign that there has been no sign of interest in a while.

3) On a related note, the board unanimously agreed that the money taken from the bank accounts of revoked chapters will go to a regional directors’ fund to be distributed, by request, to other chapters (and not just in the same region). First, under SPJ bylaws, the chapters that were revoked have 60 days to take action on how to distribute the money. The national board takes action if the local board does not.

3) The board went into executive session to talk about a possible investment and to do an evaluation of Skeel.

4) When the board reconvened in public session, it unanimously approved a motion by at-large director Bill McCloskey made a motion that SPJ consider reincorporating in another state. SPJ currently is incorporated in Illinois. Under Illinois law, SPJ and other nonprofit organization can’t take electronic votes. This makes it tricky for SPJ to do conference call and electronic meetings, and take any action.

5) The final action was a vote on a change in the awards process. Last year, the board voted to give the final approval on most SPJ national awards (minus the Wells Key). Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky decided this year that the board didn’t need to formally vote on these awards, but should have the right to call for a vote after reviewing the choices. At EIJ16, the board approved that update to the process. Two people voted against this change — me and Region 6 Director Joe Radske. [Note: I voted no because the new iteration of the process was not what the board decided last year — we wanted approval authority, not the ability to review.]

For more information about these and other topics, go to the board packet:
https://www.spj.org/pdf/boardmeeting/spj-board-meeting-agenda-2016-09-18.pdf

*****

SPJ national board meeting #2 (Sept. 18):

1) At-large director Bill McCloskey was again chosen to serve on the Executive Committee.

2) University at Maryland SPJ chapter member Maggie Gottlieb, who won a seat on the board as campus representative, also was added to the Executive Committee. Gottlieb and new campus representative Keem O. Muhammad were each nominated to serve on the Executive Committee, resulting in a secret vote within the board.

3) Bill McCloskey and I were chosen for the Finance Committee

4) The board talked about the process for choosing the Wells Key, resulting in a proposal to have the national board, and not just the Executive Committee, review nominations. After a period of debate on this and other points, the proposal was tabled. Three people voted against tabling the proposal — Koretzky, Radske and me.

*****

Conference business session (Sept. 20):

1) Delegates approved several resolutions as a group:
• Commending Mark Thomason for standing up to a Georgia judge who had him arrested and jailed because of a public records request he made
• Urging the University of Kentucky to comply with Kentucky’s public records law
• Urging President Barack Obama to abandon restrictions to getting government information
• Support increased protections for student journalists
• Support women in journalism
• Recognize Alistair Cooke’s contributions to British-American relations
• Thank outgoing SPJ President Paul Fletcher and the SPJ staff

2) A change in the bylaws to create a “supporter” category, in which people can donate money to SPJ without becoming full members, was approved by a voice vote.
First, there was some concern that the new category would steal people who might otherwise be members.
By a 69-31 vote, delegates supported preserving a provision that anyone in the “supporter” category would be ineligible for full membership.

3) Delegates approved a bylaws change that addresses a gap in representation of SPJ members who don’t belong to a chapter. The new process is to choose delegates in each region to represent unaffiliated members, at the same same rate (one delegate per 50 members) in place for chapter delegates.
The measure passed by a voice vote, with only D.C. Pro chapter President Kathy Burns opposed.

4) A resolution to start the process of renaming “Society of Professional Journalists” to “Society for Professional Journalism” was defeated 57-44.
[Note: After being opposed to this idea for a few years, I voted in favor this year. I think the proposed name now matches changes underway to make SPJ more open and inclusive.]

5) By a predominant voice vote, delegates tabled a resolution opposing requirements that college faculty give mandatory “trigger warnings.” The resolution did not oppose the warnings, which might precede possibly objectionable discussion topics in class; it challenged making those warnings mandatory. Ben Meyerson of the Chicago Headline Club, who moved to table the resolution, said it strays from SPJ’s journalism mission.

6) By a predominant voice vote, delegates approved a resolution supporting the rights of journalists to report on political campaigns without threats or reprisal. A first draft of the resolution was amended to remove references to specific presidential candidates, so it would apply to all presidential candidates and all journalists.

7) Delegates approved a resolution supporting transparency in media ownership.
An early draft of the resolution was aimed at Sheldon Adelson for his family’s secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, condemning “the manipulation of news outlets for personal gain by wealthy media owners everywhere.”
The broader revised version that passed condemned “the clandestine behavior of Adelson’s group leading up to the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and subsequent manipulation of news coverage.”
The revised resolution passed by voice vote, with two people voting no.

*****

Election results:

1) President-elect: Rebecca Baker — unopposed (926 votes)

2) Secretary-treasurer: J. Alex Tarquinio — unopposed (919 votes)

3) Director at-large (one open seat):
Rachel Wedding McClelland — 444 votes (winner)
• Jason Parsley — 271 votes
• Elle Toussi — 173 votes
• Alex Veeneman — 69 votes

4) Campus adviser at-large (one open seat):
Leticia Lee Steffen — 522 votes (winner)
• Chris Delboni — 395 votes

5) Regional directors
• Region 1: Jane Primerano (unopposed) — 142 votes
• Region 4: Patricia Gallagher Newberry (unopposed) — 77 votes
• Region 5: Michele Day (unopposed) — 88 votes
• Region 7: Kari Williams (unopposed) — 32 votes
• Region 8: Eddye Gallagher (unopposed) — 65 votes
• Region 9: Ed Otte (unopposed) — 47 votes

6) Student representative (two open seats)
Keem O. Muhammad — 414 votes (winner)
Maggie Gottlieb (of the University of Maryland) — 387 votes (winner)
• Emily Bloch — 282 votes
• Jessica Hice — 241 votes
• Katherine Rosenhammer — 84 votes

There were 1,016 votes, for a turnout of 16 percent.

Hey ’19

The SPJ national board voted electronically on Dec. 22 to hold SPJ’s 2019 national convention in San Antonio.

There are a variety of reasons why this is a good thing, including a favorable bid on hotel rooms and convention space and a sensible rotation among regions of the country. The SPJ headquarters staff is very good at scouting convention sites and at running the conventions.

The Excellence in Journalism convention schedule for the next four years will be New Orleans in 2016, Anaheim in 2017, Baltimore in 2018 and now San Antonio in 2019.

The 2019 conference dates will be Sept. 5 to 7.

This brings up the annual dilemma about the best time of year to hold the national conference. Early September isn’t a great time for college students to break away from school, but there are many other factors (including cost) that sometimes necessitate picking that week.

As a side note, SPJ still needs to do better about sharing the news about votes taken by the board as they happen and letting members know in advance that the board is considering taking an action such as this. I generally try to post news about electronic meetings such as this one in advance, but didn’t this time.

I believe the board and HQ staff should publicize every meeting, even if there’s no practical way for the public to sit in on the meeting.

The following section is part of the Openness and Accountability Best Practices that SPJ encourages chapters to follow. The national board should try to follow them, too, and generally does — but not always.

  • Meetings

    SPJ meetings at the local and national level should follow the spirit of state sunshine laws (for a good description of open meeting law elements, see www.rcfp.org/ogg). Leaders should:

    — Post meeting time, date, and place information in advance for members, prospective members, and the public, on a website, Facebook page, email or other accessible venue.

    — Include action/discussion items in meeting agendas to increase meeting attendance and attract potential new members. Members should contact the president at least two days in advance of the meeting if they would like to request a topic for the agenda.

    — Allow anyone from the membership or public to observe meetings. Provide an open comment period to let people chime in.

    — Post a summary of the meeting at a chapter website promptly, preferably within five business days of the meeting, so members can keep abreast of chapter activities. Include any decisions or votes.

    — Make meetings accessible, both physically and electronically. Meetings should be held where people are welcome to attend and can easily access. Consider GoToMeeting or other electronic means of broadcasting meetings and allowing participation for those cannot get to the meeting, but are interested in what happens.

    — Account for circumstances where private discussion among leaders is necessary, similar to state open meeting laws. For example, typical exemptions that might allow meeting in “executive session” include considering/debating the qualifications of new leader appointees, rent negotiations for space, pending/potential litigation, etc. If board members do discuss matters in executive session, they should come out and make any decisions and votes publicly.

Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ