Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Make’


A good talk

Saturday was a good day for SPJ.

When the Executive Committee met on an electronic call, around 60 people not on the committee tuned in to listen and participate.

That was astounding. Usually, a half-dozen people attending an SPJ board meeting in person is a good turnout. For electronic meetings, a few observers might dial in.

What changed this time?

The biggest factor is the diligence of a coalition of chapter boards and leaders from across the country, coordinated largely by D.C. Pro chapter Immediate Past President Jonathan Make.

Make and the group have been effective in recent months in pressing national SPJ leaders on issues such as chapter dues, communication and transparency.

The strong public participation on Saturday led to a comment period that stretched beyond 30 minutes, the original plan, to around 90 minutes.

Afterward, the Executive Committee went into executive session to choose national SPJ awards, including the Wells Key.

After some shaky electronic board meetings, hindered by conflict and technical problems, this meeting was excellent, largely because it was so inclusive.

Membership

One of the two topics on the public portion of the agenda was a membership idea President-Elect Patti Gallagher Newberry and Membership Committee Chairman Colin DeVries shared.

The suggestion was to have a short period around EIJ in September in which registration membership fees would be discounted.

Linda Hall, SPJ’s office manager and former membership coordinator, suggested $50 for pros (down from $75) and $20 or $25 for students (down from $37.50).

In the chat area online, SPJ members listening in posted reactions. One wrote that current members might resent a newcomer paying less. Another wrote that the discount could apply to renewals.

Gallagher Newberry said the Membership Committee will work on a specific plan.

Executive director search

Hagit Limor, the chairwoman of SPJ’s executive director search committee, gave an overview of the process and timeline.

Since Alison Bethel McKenzie resigned as executive director at the end of April, board President J. Alex Tarquinio has filled in on some of those duties.

The SPJ board and the SPJ Foundation board in June hired Talbott Talent to help conduct the search and do an organizational assessment of SPJ’s operations.

SPJ member Forrest Gossett has insisted, in emails to the national board, that SPJ leaders release the terms of the contract, including what Talbott is being paid. However, Limor and Tarquinio said on Saturday that the contract is considered confidential, which not unusual.

Limor said Talbott is working on survey questions to go to board members the week of July 15 and survey questions to go to SPJ’s staff the week of July 22.

Anyone else who wants to weigh in on the executive director search can email comments to Limor at hlimormedia@gmail.com.

She said Talbott will compile the feedback and plans to draft a report by July 31, outlining traits and qualifications valued in an executive director. Within two days after that, there will be a position profile to guide the hiring.

Limor said recruiting will begin Aug. 6, although word has gotten around that SPJ is filling the vacancy. Applicants can indicate their interest by emailing spj@talbotttalent.com.

The goal is to hire an executive director before EIJ 19 in early September, but no later than mid-October. The new executive director would start one month later.

Feedback

Participants on Saturday’s call had many ideas for the traits and qualifications of an executive director. They included:

• Can carry the day when a board “goes rogue”

• Good at leadership; consensus builder

• Focuses on reversing a decline in membership

• Keeps chapters in mind

• Knows how to motivate a staff

• Transparent, even when news is bad

• Willing to commit to at least five years in the job

• Entrepreneurial experience

• Journalism experience, but it’s not mandatory; a history of support for the First Amendment and journalism

The last point tied into a discussion about whether the executive director should be the “face” (and voice) of SPJ, similar to the Radio Television Digital News Association’s approach, or if the person only needs to focus on association management. Many people on the call spoke up in favor of the latter.

Civility, transparency

A few other topics came up during the public comment period:

• Some people chided Region 3 director Michael Koretzky for posting a video critical of how Tarquinio ran a previous board meeting, urging him to remove the video. A few others said it’s better to look ahead rather than dwelling on the video.

• Several people criticized SPJ’s transparency, particularly when and how national leaders and SPJ HQ have shared information. Some important announcements have come late at night.

Tarquinio said she uses the Freedom of the Prez blog to share information.

A task force I am on is reviewing and updating SPJ policies. As part of our work, we are creating a new openness and transparency policy that addresses sharing information, giving notice of meetings and more. Email me at LawnGyland@aol.com if you have suggestions.

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