Posts Tagged ‘Linda Hall’


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.

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.

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