Posts Tagged ‘governance’


SPJ correctly decides on neutral ballots

On Dec. 11, the SPJ national board approved a neutral process for future elections. There will be no “seal of approval” or stars, check marks or other symbols on the ballot indicating the preferences of a Nominating Committee.

This is a victory for keeping SPJ elections more fair and pure.

Advocates who wanted to have a Nominating Committee nudge voters toward certain candidates had good intentions — trying to get the most qualified and capable people in office.

But it was an unnecessary step. Voters can make good choices if they have sufficient information; they don’t need to be protected from themselves. The better approach for SPJ elections is to provide thorough information about candidates through Quill, online forums, Twitter chats, podcast, questionnaires and more. That will be our philosophy for future elections.

The debate about the Nominating Committee is tied into a new governance structure for SPJ. Over a two-year period, the national board will shrink from 23 people to nine people.

We will get away from the idea that regional directors are needed to represent the thoughts of each of the 12 regions, which is a fallacy, since differences of opinion in SPJ never align or divide by geography. We will move toward a system of smart, competent board members representing everyone, with a streamlined, more efficient way of discussing and making decisions. I fully support the new approach.

The lone remaining detail for the transition was forming a Nominating Committee and what work it should do. The committee will find and recruit strong candidates to run for national board seats (also an excellent change).

But it will not issue opinions on who the best candidates are (a proposal that was up for debate). There will be no “seal of approval” for committee-preferred candidates on the ballot (a bad idea that would have tilted elections) or anywhere else.

The board voted 10-3 in an electronic meeting on Dec. 11 (with 10 absences) in favor of a plan to limit the Nominating Committee’s work to finding candidates and making sure they meet the basic qualifications spelled out in the SPJ bylaws. Here are the requirements to be eligible to serve as SPJ’s president or president-elect:

   To serve as president or president-elect a person must be a member in good standing of the Society and must previously have served as a member of the board of directors, or the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, or been the chair of a national committee, a professional chapter or community president who also has been or is a member of a national committee.

The 10 board members voting in favor of the Nominating Committee limit were: me, Alex Tarquinio, Lynn Walsh, Patti Gallagher Newberry, Rebecca Baker, Tom McKee, Jane Primerano, Michael Koretzky, Matthew Hall and Michele Day.

Those opposed were: Joe Radske, Lauren Bartlett and Sue Kopen Katcef.

As a compromise idea before the vote, Bartlett suggested a point system, in which each qualification that a candidate met (board member, SDX board member, committee chair and so on) earned a point. I opposed this idea. This would be the first time that SPJ would tell candidates that hitting every item on the list would be seen as better than meeting the minimum qualifications. That’s an unfair change to impose right before someone runs for office, and I don’t agree that checking every box makes the candidate more qualified.

Overall, the board had a good debate and made the right choice.

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.

*****

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.

*****

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)

*****

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.

*****

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.

*****

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.

A (mostly) good plan for changing SPJ

The SPJ national board held an electronic meeting on June 14 to discuss a proposal to change SPJ’s governance structure.

The board unanimously approved suggested changes to SPJ’s bylaws to carry out this change. Below is a summary of the major ones, with my thoughts on them. I agree with almost everything proposed, but strongly disagree with one idea.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • Cutting the board from 23 members to 9 members
  • Removing regional directors from the board
  • Establishing a nominations committee to recruit candidates and make sure they are eligible to serve
  • Have both elected and appointed at-large members, who do not have to be SPJ members

If you want to explore the plan further, go to https://www.spj.org/governance.asp.

Under the new plan, the makeup of the new national board would be: president, president-elect, secretary/treasurer, four elected at-large members, two appointed at-large members. (A majority of the current board, but not everyone, supports having appointed members. The board was almost evenly split during our June 14 conference call on whether to allow non-members to be appointed to the board. Seven said yes; six said no. I was one of the “no” voters.)

The current 23-member board is made up of: president, president-elect, secretary/treasurer, immediate past president, vice president of campus chapter affairs, two at-large directors, two campus advisers at-large, two campus chapter representatives, and 12 regional directors. All are elected. (The president-elect later becomes president, then immediate past president, without being elected again.)

Regional directors would still exist in the new structure, renamed “regional coordinators.” They still would be elected within their respective regions.

In May 2016, I spoke out in favor of the idea of shrinking the national board. I suggested 17 members. I recommended removing regional directors from the board and eliminating representation by region and by type of constituency (campus chapters, students, pros).

I pitched the idea of adding board slots for liaisons from other journalism organizations representing specific groups, but I don’t think there’s much support for that.

My thoughts:

  • I’m very much in favor of contraction. Nine is a reasonable number. If we were starting a board from scratch, we wouldn’t have 23 seats.
  • I fully support the change in duties of regional directors/coordinators. Currently, they serve two roles (1. counsel for chapters, 2. board members) at the same time. It’s tough do both well.
  • There is no need for regional representation on the SPJ board. No issue ever has required, for example, an East Coast or West Coast perspective. Different people holding the same regional director position might have totally different ideas.
  • Some might wonder about cutting the campus chapter representative positions. To be clear: The board still wants campus representation. Under the proposed plan, if no students or faculty members are elected, at least one will be appointed to the board.
  • An earlier draft of the proposed bylaws included term limits, but the board voted 15-7 against it. I voted no with the rest of the majority.

“Recommended/approved” candidates

The controversial idea that I strongly oppose is in the nominations process. It is not part of the bylaws, but is in a supporting memo recommending a process.

The nominations committee would have seven SPJ members: immediate past president, an elected board member, a regional coordinator, a student, and three others who are part of SPJ committees, communities or chapters.

The committee would check that candidates are eligible for the positions they seek to hold, such as whether they are members in good standing and can attend meetings. An SPJ president must have a) served on the SPJ or SDX board, b) chaired a national committee, or c) been a pro chapter president who is or was on a national committee.

Here’s where the recommendation goes awry: The nominations committee also would “recommend board candidates who best match the Board of Directors Position Profile document.”

The Position Profile document lays out ideals for board members — “inspired,” “future-oriented,” “possessing the ability to see big picture,” “talent, skill, vitality,” “sound judgment and integrity,” “a zest for serving.”

The nominating committee would interview candidates and, based on these subjective traits, recommend candidates — giving what I call a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” Those recommended candidates would be denoted by a symbol on the ballot.

I am against this approach, which I think injects an unfair weighting to an open election.

The argument in favor of having recommendations is that the nominations committee is entrusted with putting forward the best people to be board members.

I see nothing wrong with trusting the electorate to determine that. Candidates’ credentials should speak for themselves. I balk at an extra thumb on the scale to tilt an election toward any particular people. In my mind, it turns an election into a ratification and discourages voters from thinking for themselves.

I will speak against this part of the proposal at EIJ17.

Who represents you

This is a much less important point, but I also oppose the thinking expressed in an organization chart recommended for the new board. It shows each of the four new at-large elected directors overseeing one constituency — students/educators for one, communities for another, members at large for a third, regional coordinators for a fourth.

A notation says: “Any individual or constituent group may contact staff instead of their assigned liaison.”

To me, that directs SPJ members to only contact an assigned liaison on the board or a staff member.

I think everyone elected to the board represents every SPJ member. We should make it clear that any SPJer may contact anyone on the board, for any reason.

Candidate forum

This is only tangentially related to the governance proposal, but I want SPJ to do more to let members learn about candidates.

Candidates introduce themselves in Quill and their bios are posted at SPJ’s election page. They may speak for a few minutes at a business meeting at EIJ.

This doesn’t do enough to tease out issues, platforms, and positions, like we expect in the elections we cover in our day jobs.

Why not also have a candidate forum? It could be during the convention or as an electronic session beforehand, streamed live and archived. A moderator would ask questions of candidates, maybe even in a debate style. There could be Twitter chats. As we choose our leaders, the more info, the better.

*****

To see the proposed bylaws and supporting memos (organization chart, board position description, board appointments, nominations process, reimbursement guidelines), go to https://www.spj.org/governance.asp.

If you will be a delegate at this year’s national convention, you’re better off looking through the various documents beforehand. There’s a lot to this plan, and it will come before the delegates for one or more votes.

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.

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