Posts Tagged ‘Michael Koretzky’


Investigation into Region 10 money still underway; new SPJ financial regulations approved

Some people have asked about the May 21 email from the SPJ board of directors (see below) about the possible misuse of money in a regional fund in Region 10.

The investigation is still underway, but these are some basic details:

• The board and SPJ HQ have been working with chapters in Region 10 (which covers Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska) to figure out what happened.
• A member of the Western Washington SPJ chapter filed a report with the Seattle Police Department on May 10.
• The police report (a public record) says that while Ethan Chung was Region 10 director, thousands of dollars of SPJ money was taken out of the bank during a two-year period for use that was unauthorized.
• Chung was Region 10 director from about October 2015 to January 2018, when he resigned.
• In February, the board appointed Donald W. Meyers as Region 10 director to replace Chung.
• The local chapters and SPJ HQ have gotten access to the bank records and are reviewing them.
We will share more information about the case as it develops.
***
As the May 21 email notes, SPJ has strengthened its oversight on how money in regional funds is kept and monitored. I was part of a task force (along with at-large national board member Lauren Bartlett and regional directors Michael Koretzky, Kelly Kissel and Ed Otte) that came up with the new measures. We presented them to the full board, which approved them in April.
The task force is working on additional measures to strengthen financial practices for pro and campus chapters.
At the chapter level, SPJ has had a few cases of money being taken from bank accounts without authorization.

The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter went through this with unauthorized withdrawals from 2009 to 2011.

The Oklahoma Pro chapter learned in 2012 that money was missing. Scott Cooper, who was the chapter’s secretary-treasurer and Region 8 director, later admitted to embezzling more than $43,000 from the chapter. He was ordered to serve four weekends in jail and repay the money.

***
This was the May 21 email on the current Region 10 investigation:
In the interest of transparency, we are writing to alert you that we have filed a police report with the Seattle Police Department over alleged misappropriation of funds from Region 10 bank accounts.
An internal investigation is ongoing. Based upon information to date, it is our understanding that the alleged misappropriation is isolated to one individual.
The national board, headquarters staff and local chapter leaders are cooperating with authorities to get as clear and complete a picture as possible of the extent of the unauthorized activity. Donald W. Meyers, the new Region 10 director, is helping to lead our efforts. We will update you as we get additional information.
To help avoid a similar situation in the future, the national board adopted new rules for regional accounts at its April 14 board meeting. The new rules further enhance the organization’s accountability measures.
If you have any questions, please contact Alison Bethel McKenzie, SPJ executive director, at abmckenzie@spj.org.
Sincerely,
National Board of Directors
Society of Professional Journalists

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.

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.

Seized funds and communication strategy

The SPJ national board took up two topics — money and communication — during an electronic meeting on Jan. 5:

1 – In September, the board voted to revoke the charters of three SPJ chapters: Mid-Florida Pro, North Central Florida Pro and Inland Northwest Pro.

Shutting down a chapter is extreme, but only comes after years of inactivity, as was the case here. A chapter gets 60 days to come up with a plan for how its money will be disbursed, or the money will be taken and used elsewhere within SPJ or SDX. The bylaws say:

Section Seventeen. Upon the decision to terminate any professional or campus chapter, whether by dissolution, disbandment, revocation pursuant to Section Thirteen of this Article, or otherwise, any remaining chapter funds shall be distributed to another adjoining active Society Chapter then in good standing, the Society, or the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, as directed by the chapter’s governing body, or, in the absence of action of the local board within 60 days of termination, the national board of directors.

The national board later heard from the Inland Northwest Pro chapter, which wanted another chance. Region 10 Director Ethan Chung supported the request, and the board granted that second chance.

The Mid-Florida Pro chapter, which has not held programs in about four years, did not try to continue. After the 60-day deadline, a chapter representative asked that its remaining money (about $12,000) go to the First Amendment Foundation. But SPJ bylaws say the money must stay within SPJ or SDX.

During our Jan. 5 meeting, SPJ President Lynn Walsh made a motion that the board reconsider its earlier vote on seizing the chapter’s treasury and ceded to the chapter’s wishes. Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher seconded the motion.

Upon proper motion by Walsh and second by Fletcher, the board voted against the motion to “reconsider the September vote and respect the wishes of the Mid-Florida Pro Chapter, instead giving the money to the SDX Foundation or somewhere else within SPJ.”

The vote was 10-8 against the motion.

No: Keem Muhammad, Jane Primerano, Bill McCloskey, Amanda Womac, Michael Koretzky, Ed Otte, Andy Schotz, Leticia Lee Steffen, Ethan Chung, Patti Gallagher Newberry

Yes: Rebecca Tallent, Paul Fletcher, Sue Kopen Katcef, Joe Radske, Michele Day, Lynn Walsh, Matthew Hall, Kari Williams

I voted no because the process the national board used was fair. Chapters get plenty of leeway to resume their activity. They get a few years of probation before their charters are revoked. There is no point having an inactive chapter indefinitely.

The 60-day period for deciding on a place for the money also was fair. The chapter was given numerous opportunities to meet that deadline; it did not.

The bylaws are clear about money staying in SPJ or SDX, and the chapter’s request did not follow that.

I thought the money should have stayed in Florida to help SPJers there. The Florida Pro chapter is excellent and could serve the people who previously were in the Mid-Florida chapter. But there was little interest in my idea. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky assured me that the Florida Pro chapter doesn’t need the extra money to do programs that serve that region.

*****

2 – Walsh has said she wants to work on a better communication strategy for SPJ. She has created a committee to look at best practices. The committee includes:

  • FOI Committee Chairman Gideon Grudo
  • Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman
  • Membership Committee Chairwoman Robyn Davis Sekula
  • Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky
  • Communications Strategist Jennifer Royer
  • Michele Boyet, an officer in the Florida Pro chapter.

They will join the SPJ Executive Committee at its meeting in San Diego this month.

The question before the national board on Jan. 5 was a $6,860 budget.

That covers travel, hotel and meals for the six people above. (Executive Committee members have stipends to cover expenses.) The budget also covers $2,250 for (W)right On Communications of Solana Beach, Calif., and North Vancouver, British Columbia, to lead a strategy session.

Walsh said during our electronic meeting that SPJ needs a more specific plan for how and when to speak out, particularly on issues in the news. She said an attempt to create a plan internally has not worked well.

Walsh noted that the national board, a year ago, approved a budget of $8,850 for a strategy session on membership. That also included covering the costs of SPJers who flew in for the meeting and to pay a consultant.

A motion by Walsh to approve the budget for the communication strategy session, seconded by McCloskey, passed 16-2.

Yes: Muhammad, Primerano, Womac, Koretzky, Otte, Steffen, Chung, Gallagher Newberry, Tallent, Fletcher, Kopen Katcef, Radske, Day, Walsh, Hall, Williams

No: McCloskey, Schotz

I voted against this proposal because I am skeptical of hiring consultants to run meetings. I’ve covered many “facilitator” sessions as a reporter and I’m not convinced they are worth the expense. I also don’t buy the argument that an outsider has to be brought in to help a journalism organization learn how to communicate.

For the record, I voted against the budget for the membership consultant, too.

 

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.

Board votes 13-3 against new boundaries, contraction

On Monday, the SPJ national board met electronically to discuss a proposal to change the board structure.

Region 3 Director Michael’s Koretzky’s proposal had four parts, including cutting the number of SPJ regions from 12 to 9. Also, one of the two campus adviser at-large positions would be cut. That would decrease the size of the national board from 23 to 19.

Some of the savings by having less stipend money could be distributed to chapters for programming.

The board had a conference call about the idea on May 9, but held off taking any action, to gather reaction from SPJ chapters and members.

On Monday, during our second meeting about the proposal, the board voted 13-3 to reject it. There was one abstention.

The only three votes in favor were by Koretzky, President-Elect Lynn Walsh and Region 6 Director Joe Radske.

I voted no. I’m not against contracting the board, and I appreciate the window of opportunity we have with no declared candidates yet for the three regional director positions that would be cut. But I’d like to see a more comprehensive review of the board makeup and structure than this one change.

Cutting three positions without people in them might seem like a simple change, but the board heard feedback from people across the country who didn’t like the new groupings of states and chapters. Some cited cohesion between certain chapters. Others questioned the much longer distances they would have to travel for regional conferences.

Koretzy’s response to the travel question was that people can attend whichever regional conference they want. That’s true, but it doesn’t answer the legitimate concern about Mark of Excellence Awards that are given out at regional conferences. A student wouldn’t enter in one region, then attend an MOE award luncheon in another.

We could try to fix that, too, by letting students enter the MOE awards in whatever region they want. But that could get sticky. Could a student in Los Angeles enter in the Northeast? Maybe we could require students to enter their own region or one that is contiguous.

Perhaps these details could be worked out, but we didn’t work them out in advance and didn’t provide answers. Thus, the objections.

Over the weekend, I posted my thoughts about the proposal, as well other possible changes we could make to the national board.

The most significant part of my idea is to remove regional directors from the board. We could have a set number of at-large board members instead. The regional director positions could remain and the boundaries wouldn’t be affected.

I will be part of a task force President Paul Fletcher has created to study the function and structure of the national board. I will pitch my idea as part of our review.

Some points raised during Monday’s electronic board meeting:

• Region 11 Director Matt Hall: If we change the structure of regional conferences first, it might be easier to change the regions afterward.

• Region 12 Director Amanda Womac: Grassroots representation, through regional directors, is important.

• Region 9 Director Tom Johnson: The chapters in his region are strongly opposed to the new boundaries.

• Radske: The changes make sense for his region, but cutting a campus adviser position on the board is a mistake.

• At-large Director Bill McCloskey: This is a solution looking for a problem. If money for chapters is the point, let’s figure out how to free up money in the budget.

• Walsh: It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a change worth doing now. We can work on finer details later.

• Region 5 Director Deborah Givens: The size of the board is not a problem. We have other topics to address.

There were amendments to Koretzky’s plan (such as eliminating Kentucky’s switch to Region 2) before the board voted.

The board received a fair amount of comments on this, although not as many as if we had tried to publicize the proposal earlier, such as before the first meeting.

I heard two comments from Region 2 — both from North Carolina folks who want to see their state remain in this region.

Thoughts on revamping the SPJ board

The SPJ board of directors is considering a plan to change the board’s makeup.

The plan has four parts.
One is to reduce the number of SPJ regions from 12 to 9. As proposed, this would be the new map: https://spjrefresh.com/motions
North Carolina would be removed from Region 2.
West Virginia and Kentucky would be added to Region 2.

The proposal was pitched by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky. He explained it at https://spjrefresh.com/regions.

*****

The national board held an electronic meeting about the proposal on May 9.
Some considerations:
• geography: How does this affect the ability of a regional director (RD) to represent chapters and work with them? How does this affect regional conferences and travel plans, particularly for students?
• board structure: Should board members represent regions or be elected at large? Currently, there are 12 directors by region. Two pros, two campus chapter advisers and two student members are elected at large. The full board is listed at http://www.spj.org/spjboard.asp.
• benefits: Will this change be useful?

The board decided not to take any action during that meeting and instead solicit more public feedback.

SPJ President Paul Fletcher posted a summary of the proposal a few weeks ago and got several responses. His post is at: http://blogs.spjnetwork.org/president/2016/05/11/spj-considers-reduction-in-size-of-board.

This proposal would not require a bylaws change and can be approved by the board.
Koretzky sees a window of opportunity, since there are no declared candidates yet for the three RD positions that would be contracted.

The board will meet again electronically on Monday, May 23, at 1 p.m.
I will post a summary of the meeting.

*****

I see merit in the concept of contraction. Twenty-three people is a large number for a board in which all members are active.
I’m less enthused about the proposed boundaries. Kentucky and Washington, D.C., for example, are pretty far apart to be grouped together. But, regions in the west already are quite large.

No grouping that we choose will be perfect. Also, RDs don’t need to worry much anymore about traveling throughout the region (except for the regional conference). Electronic communication and participation should be sufficient.

*****

On the “useful” question, Koretzky cited four benefits:
1) A smaller board would be more “nimble.”
2) We have trouble finding candidates for regional director.
3) Fewer regions could lead to more contested races.
4) Cost savings.

My thoughts:

1) Skeptics on the board have focused on this point the most. How is it more “nimble” to have 19 people gather for a meeting (in person or electronically) than 23?
Fewer people can have more efficient discussions and debates (but that’s no guarantee). In a smaller group, it’s more likely that everyone’s voice is heard. A big factor is who is running the meeting and allowing or cutting off debate.
For electronic meetings — which are becoming more frequent for the board — the number of people participating matters even more. We are using a video conferencing system called Zoom that includes a chat function, which helps. Still, there are some people (like me) who participate by phone because these electronic meetings always are in the middle of the work day. Twenty-three board members, plus headquarters staff, on a conference call is clunky. It’s hard to get around that, though, unless we drop down to single digits.

There other considerations, too, for how large a board should be. More on that below.

2) This is mostly true. RD races are usually uncontested. Often, an RD who is completing a term recruits a replacement to take over.
There are exceptions, though, especially when RD seats become vacant. During my time on the board, the last five times an RD seat was vacated in the middle of a term, there were multiple people interested and the board had to choose.
I don’t know why there is more interest in those cases. Maybe we get the word out better for vacancies than scheduled elections. Maybe people are more willing to fill out a term than make a two-year commitment.

3) This might be true. If we have six states from which to draw candidates in a region instead of five, common sense says a larger candidate pool is more likely — but we can’t be sure.
On the other hand, if the new RD territory seems unmanageable under the proposed changes, we could get fewer candidates.

4) The cost savings is legitimate. RDs are entitled to a $1,500 stipend to cover travel costs. Nine stipends instead of 12 would be less money.
Some of that savings would boost stipends for RDs. That’s appealing for RDs who rely on the stipend and could lead to more RD candidates, as described above. The rest of the savings would help chapters with programming. That’s useful, too.

*****

Last week, I was curious about what guidance was out there on the topic of nonprofit board size.
I looked at three websites with pieces on this topic.
All agreed that 23 is a large number for a nonprofit board, unless spots are designated for people with fundraising connections. (That’s not a factor for the SPJ national board.)
These pieces suggested the mid-teens as a maximum, depending on the size of the organization and the work of the board.

Here are links and excerpts from what I read:

1. Nonprofit Law Blog

http://www.nonprofitlawblog.com/number-of-directors-whats-the-best-practice

“Maximum number of directors.  Setting a maximum number of directors is a trickier issue and one not appropriate for legislation.  If all of your directors are each meeting their fiduciary duties and providing value to the organization, there may be no need to reduce their number based on some arbitrary best practice maximum.  On the other hand, from a practical perspective, if an organization has so many directors that individual directors reasonably believe that they do not have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in discussions, deliberations, and decision-making, the organization has too many directors.

“The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector notes that ‘[a]lthough a larger board may ensure a wide range of perspectives and expertise, a very large board may become unwieldy and end up delegating too much responsibility to an executive committee or permitting a small group of board members to exercise substantial control.’ Inactive directors, more interested in affiliation than governance, may get a free ride from the active participation of a core group, but this is not an ideal situation. Note that very large boards played a major part in the recent high profile governance problems of organizations like the American Red Cross, United Way, and Nature Conservancy.”

A report from the Council on Foundations, At Issue: What is the Best Size for Your Board? (January 2006), details some of the advantages and disadvantages of large boards.
Advantages:
•    Large numbers allow for more opportunities for diversity and inclusiveness.
•    More seats allow for for inclusion of legal and financial advisors, community leaders and funding area experts.
•    Work can be shared among the group; more people are available to serve on committees.
•    Fundraising may be easier because there are more people on the board with more connections.
•    More board members helps maintain institutional memory in times of leadership change.
Disadvantages:
•    Members may feel less individual responsibility and less ownership of the work.
•    Large groups may hinder communication and interactive discussion.
•    Cliques or core groups may form, deteriorating board cohesion.
•    Some voices may not be heard.
•    Bigger boards may not be able to engage all members, which can lead to apathy and loss of interest.
•    Meetings are more difficult to schedule; more staff time is needed to coordinate board functions.

2. This is from The Nonprofit Consultant Blog:

http://nonprofitconsultant.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-many-board-members.html

“The generally accepted number for most small- to mid-sized nonprofits is 9-14 members. Any fewer and you will burn out your members quickly with multiple duties, have difficulty making a quorum when even a couple of people are ill or out-of-town, and you will fail to build in new leadership development into your regular board activities. Many more than that and meetings can get bogged down in side conversations, factionalization, and members will begin to feel that they’re no longer contributing or making a difference.”

3. This was the third piece I read:

http://www.bridgespan.org/Publications-and-Tools/Nonprofit-Boards/Nonprofit-Boards-101/Size-of-Board.aspx#.VzVEPxUrKi5

The Bridgespan Group
Average board sizes
Remember that every board is different. Average figures only reflect what exists, not a recommended norm. Newly-formed boards often start cautiously with a small number of members, and expand as the organization gets more established and the programs and services diversify. It is common to encounter large boards in older, more institutionalized organizations where a principal role of the board members tends to be fundraising. Small community-based nonprofits are often governed by a few devoted volunteers. A recent BoardSource survey found that, among those nonprofits who responded, the average size of the board is 16, the median 15.
Regulation of size in the bylaws
Normally the size of the board is determined in the bylaws of the organization. It is wise to set a guideline within a certain range, not an exact number, so that an unforeseen situation does not force the board to contradict its bylaws. Term limits and constant recruitment secure a continuous balance. Some boards find it important to have an uneven number of members to avoid a tie vote. This, however, can be managed by the chair who can either abstain from voting or cast a determining vote to break a tie.
Resizing
Structural factors, including size, can have consequences on the board’s efficiency. Down-sizing or increasing the size may eliminate some road blocks, but the board’s core problem may lie elsewhere. Before restructuring the board, it may be wise to search elsewhere for reasons of malfunction. Is there a lack of commitment or lack of leadership? Involving outsiders in committees, task forces or advisory groups is another way to benefit from skills and perspectives without actually changing the board’s size. Executive committees may also facilitate the functioning of a larger board.

*****

I’d also like SPJ to think more broadly, beyond optimal numbers and geographical boundaries.
I see an opportunity in this analysis for what could be two meaningful changes.

First, SPJ should consider a representational model that the Radio Television Digital News Association uses. RTDNA’s board includes ex officio members from other journalism organizations:
• National Association of Black Journalists
• National Association of Hispanic Journalists
• Native American Journalists Association
• National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
• Asian American Journalists Association
• UNITY: Journalists for Diversity
• Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Which, of course, means more board slots. I count 33 members for RTDNA.

I thought NABJ, NAHJ, NAJA, NLGJA and AAJA would be good candidates for representation on the SPJ board.
I contacted those organizations to ask for their thoughts, and only heard from two (NAHJ and AAJA). Neither was excited about the idea.

To have this type of cross-organization representation would require a more radical change to the current SPJ board structure.

How about:
• 4 officers (president, president-elect, secretary-treasurer, vice president for campus chapter affairs)
• 2 students
• 1 campus adviser at large
• 5 ex officio members from the journalism organizations above
• 5 pro members elected at large

That’s a total of 17.

That leads to the second meaningful change: Removing regional directors from the board.
Currently, RDs have a dual role — overseeing a region and serving on the board.
As an RD, I can attest that both roles require time and attention. I’d rather see one person in one role and a second person in the other role.
I can’t recall any topic in which “the Northeast” might feel one way and “the Midwest” another, so there is no need for regional representation in this way on national issues.
Board members should be elected for their abilities to manage an organization, think creatively, look to the future, etc. The RD role is beside the point for all of that.

This would create the most upheaval and the most questions.
Would the current RDs try to remain on the board or stick to overseeing their local chapters?
Would there be a need for more stipend money for more people (at-large directors, plus RDs)?
Would someone be interested in just the RD part of the job and give up the board representation part?

All of the above needs more discussion. That’s OK, though. A fuller analysis of board structure and function is fine, since we’re going down that path.

Feedback on any of the above is welcome, by email or through a post on this page.

-Andy Schotz, Region 2 director, LawnGyland@aol.com

From the spring SPJ board meeting

Better late than never…

Here are highlights of the actions and discussions from last month’s SPJ national board meeting in New Orleans:

Membership

• The big topic of the day was membership. I’m not sure how long ago it was that SPJ had at least 10,000 members, but the number has been dwindling and is now less than 7,000.

One of SPJ President Paul Fletcher”s top priorities has been to address this decline, which is why a group of SPJers convened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in January and brainstormed some ideas and strategies.

The plan last month in New Orleans was for the national board to go into executive session to hear about the ideas and discuss them. But several board members (including me) preferred to have the discussion in public, which we did.

We then did some brainstorming of our own, looking at the Arizona group’s outline — appealing in one sense to “fighters” (in the advocacy sense) and in another sense to those seeking a “lifetime connection” (helping journos young and old).

Many good ideas came out of this session — too many to list here. (Plus, our session was free form, writing suggestions on sticky notes on walls, and I wasn’t taking notes.) I’ll share more specifics as our discussion advances.

The rest of the agenda

• The board talked about a rough proposal by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board for a new SPJ position — someone who could be a central resource for journos in need. The person might travel to hotspots for national coverage (i.e., Ferguson, Mo., or Baltimore), particularly when issues of press freedom or access arrive. This is still just an idea that’s being molded.

It’s not up to the SPJ board to approve the position, but board members had ideas about the pros and cons. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky suggested starting it with a one-year fellowship to see how well it works, rather than having a multi-year commitment, which is what the SDX board prefers to attract a top-notch person.

The SPJ board voted in favor of a motion to support the concept of the position. There were two votes against – from Koretzky and At-Large Director Bill McCloskey.

• The board went into executive session to discuss recommendations for this year’s Fellows of the Society.

• In his president’s report, Fletcher talked about efforts to improve the federal Freedom of Information Act, a new SPJ “choose your own adventure” SPJ program, and a meeting at the White House with Press Secretary Josh Earnest on concerns about limitations on gathering information from government officials.

Fletcher said the resolutions process will be different this year. Resolutions Committee Chairman Sonny Albarado will put out a call on May 1 for resolutions to be submitted before the national convention, so there’s more time to draft them and SPJ members to review them.

• Fletcher talked about the newest — and possibly youngest — SPJ member: 9-year-old Hilde Kate Lysiak of Pennsylvania. Hilde got national publicity for her dogged reporting for the newspaper she publishes, including a scoop she got about a homicide. The SPJ board chipped in to give Hilde a four-year SPJ membership.

• The board approved a $1,202,230 budget for fiscal year 2017 expenses, up about 1.2 percent from $1,187,905 in the current fiscal year. In a memo, Executive Director Joe Skeel called it “the most aggressive” SPJ budget he has prepared. “In the past, I only included revenue I was confident we would get,” he wrote. “This year, we are going to have to work hard to hit those projections.”

The budget includes $20,000 in new revenue for association management, which is the work SPJ does to help other journalism organizations operate. Usually, the budget includes merit-based raises of up to 4 percent, but this year, that was cut to 3 percent. Skeel noted that SPJ has about $600,000 in unrestricted cash reserves.

For a look at the full budget and the rest of the board meeting packet, go to https://www.spj.org/board-meeting.asp.

• The board approved three new SPJ student chapters — Samford University in Alabama, the University of Chicago, and Utah Valley University.

• We had a lengthy debate about a proposal for a new level of SPJ membership. It was proposed as “associate,” but it might be called “supporter” or something else (since there already is an “associate” membership category). These would be people who support journalism, but aren’t doing journalism. They would pay $20 a year to show their support, without getting the benefits of membership.

I cast one of the two votes against the proposal. I agree with the concept, but I had concerns about the possible confusion of creating a category that seems to duplicate something that already exists. Still, I look forward to seeing how this is carried out and how much outside financial support we get.

• There was another long debate about a recent membership drive by the SPJ Florida chapter. Chapter leaders used an “opt out” drive to sign up new members, particularly those who belong to Florida’s two other pro chapters, which are mostly inactive. This practice diverged from the philosophy at the national level, which was to stop assigning members to chapters based on geography, not on whether they asked to belong. For the Florida membership drive, if the person opened the email and didn’t write back with a refusal, he or she was signed up for the chapter.

I had another objection, too. I am strongly against anything “opt out,” in which someone has to expressly say no to avoid being enrolled in a group or added to a list. I don’t understand how “opt in,” in which a person is only enrolled or added by making a request, is insufficient. SPJ Florida is an excellent chapter and doesn’t charge dues. My objection was philosophical, and had nothing to do with the efforts or work of the chapter.

I made a motion that SPJ, at the national or local level, never use “opt out” marketing. Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Baker seconded my motion, then withdrew her second, so the motion died.

• The board approved a recommendation by a task force that studied how to fix a gap in representation. About 41 percent of SPJ members do not belong to a chapter, so they don’t have delegates representing them on business matters at national conventions. The task force considered a few options, and settled on one — having an at-large delegate system. Unaffiliated members would choose delegates to represent them.

This is more complicated than the “one member, one vote” system that allows every member to vote electronically in national SPJ elections, but I don’t see another way. It’s impractical to have remote electronic voting on matters (such as a new SPJ Code of Ethics) that can and will be amended on the floor. We haven’t come up with a practical way to have national votes after a proposal has changed.

Three national board members voted against the at-large delegate proposal: President-Elect Lynn Walsh, Region 9 Director Tom Johnson, and Koretzky.

• In a related discussion, the board approved a protocol for making sure that convention delegates know they can call for a referendum. This topic was part of the review done by the 41 percent task force (on which I served). There was some concern that even though a referendum is allowed under SPJ’s bylaws, delegates have been told in the past that they could not call for a referendum. The 41 percent task force asked for a specific reference to a referendum in SPJ’s bylaws. The national board, however, rejected that idea and instead called for a specific reference in the instructions read aloud to delegates at the business session. I was the only board member to vote no on this idea, preferring to have the bylaws change.

Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board

• One noteworthy item on the agenda when the SDX board met the next day was whether to accept a $26,273 donation from Stephen Glass, a serial fabricator while working at the New Republic and other publications. Glass, who is trying to receive a law license in California, sent money back to publications he harmed. One of those publications folded, so Glass sent money to the SDX Foundation instead.

After an excellent, stimulating debate (one of the best I’ve heard in my SPJ time), the board decided to reject the money and return it to Glass, as it explained in this letter.

Three board meetings, one election, one business session

Several weeks have passed since the SPJ board held its two fall meetings, but it’s still worth summarizing those actions and discussions.

In the meantime, the board met again — almost two weeks ago, electronically. We used a teleconferencing system called Zoom.

First, highlights of the two meetings from Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando.

 

Sept. 18:

From Executive Director Joe Skeel’s roundup of news from headquarters:

• “Our cash position remains strong,” Skeel wrote. “We have about $530,000 in unrestricted cash reserve investments.”

• Income from managing certain tasks for other journalism organizations continues to grow and could be on the verge of becoming SPJ’s second-largest revenue stream — behind membership dues, ahead of contest entry fees.

• SPJ is going to talk further with other journalism organizations to make it easier to join more than one group at the same time.

• From September 2014, to August 11, 2015, SPJ distributed 90 news releases and statements.

• This year, a task force came up with ideas for training delegates before the business meeting. [I helped lobby for this. It went well this year.]

 

Other business:

• Eight campus chapters were inactivated this year. One was in Region 2 — Regent University, which requested the change.

• The National Association of Hispanic Journalists plans to join SPJ again for the national conferences in 2017 and 2019.

• The board approved policies that include members of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board for hiring and evaluating the executive director.

• The board approved a 4-percent raise for Skeel. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky was the only board member to vote no.

• The board went into executive session to discuss Skeel’s evaluation and for an unrelated matter.

 

Sept. 21:

• The board approved President Paul Fletcher’s choices for committee chairs (including me as chair of the Awards and Honors Committee). The only new chair since last year is Jonathan Anderson on the FOI Committee.

• The board approved an application for a new community for Community Journalism. The organizer is Al Cross.

• Fletcher announced that a change in the selection process for the Wells Memorial Key was voluntarily put in a place this year — a year early. The change, as approved by the board, was to have the full Executive Committee (five people) select the recipient rather than just the officers (three people). The board voted to have the change start in 2016.

• At the request of at-large director Bill McCloskey, the board approved a directive that all governance meetings (the SPJ board, the SDX board) be publicized in all print and video national convention materials.

• Some board members said they prefer that the tongue-in-cheek resolutions at the national convention business meeting — usually to thank the president and the headquarters — either be moved to the end of the session or eliminated, particularly since they often are filled with inside jokes.

• I asked for a clarification of the policy for SPJ national board members getting involved in or refraining from campaigning in national elections. The current guideline is: “Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.” This became an issue this year during a debate on the national convention app, when an SDX board member advocated for an SPJ candidate. Skeel will research the policy and report back to the board.

• The board went into executive session to discuss one matter and to talk to its new attorney.

 

Oct. 27:

The national board’s electronic meeting was to discuss three topics on the agenda, but a few other items came up:

• President Paul Fletcher talked about the emphasis SPJ will have in the coming year on membership. There probably will be a retreat on the topic after the Executive Committee meets in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January.

• SPJ’s communities were expected to hold their elections in late October and early November.

• The board briefly went into executive session to discuss one topic.

The items on the regular agenda were:

• The board picked Jane Primerano of the New Jersey Pro chapter as the new Region 1 director. She replaces Rebecca Baker, who was elected national secretary-treasurer in September.

• The board approved Fletcher’s appointment of Sonny Albarado as SPJ’s new representative on the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications for three years. Washington, D.C., Pro chapter member Steve Geimann filled that position for 19 years, but recently moved to London for his job. On a separate motion to set a policy that the president make the appointment in the future, subject to ratification by the board, President-elect Lynn Walsh voted no. She said the board should consider applications for the position, particularly since the president only serves one year but the appointment is for three years.

• The board discussed a proposal by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky to create a new SPJ contest for gaming journalism, at a cost of up to $1,500. There was debate about whether SPJ should get involved or steer clear of the controversy surrounding gaming news coverage and whether a niche should get its own contest. The board voted in favor of the proposal, although I’m not sure what the exact vote was. I know that four people who participated by phone voted yes — me, at-large director Alex Tarquinio, Region 6 Director Joe Radske and Region 9 Director Tom Johnson. Two others voted no — Vice President for Campus Chapter Affairs Sue Kopen Katcef and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Baker. I don’t know what all of the digital votes were.

 

Finally, some news from the national election and the business meeting at Excellence in Journalism 2015 in Orlando:

The election results were:

• President-elect: Lynn Walsh, unopposed, 682 votes

• Secretary-treasurer: Rebecca Baker had 508 votes, defeating Jason Parsley, who had 215 votes

• Vice president of campus chapter affairs: Sue Kopen Katcef, unopposed, 660 votes

• At-large director: Bill McCloskey had 459 votes, defeating Alex Veeneman, who had 260 votes

• Campus adviser at large: Rebecca Tallent, unopposed, 638 votes

• Student representatives (two seats): Kate Hiller, with 545 votes, and Monica Dottage, with 336 votes, were elected. Dustin Ginsberg was third with 35 votes.

• Region 2 director: I (Andy Schotz) was unopposed, 103 votes

• Region 3 director: Michael Koretzky, unopposed, 61 votes

• Region 6 director: Joe Radske, unopposed, 32 votes

• Region 10 director: Ethan Chung had 34 votes, defeating Don Meyers, who had 28 votes

• Region 11 director: Matt Hall, unopposed, 82 votes

• Region 12 director: Amanda Womac, unopposed, 32 votes.

More than 770 SPJ members voted, or 11 percent. This was the highest voter turnout under the one member, one vote system.

 

At the business meeting, delegates passed resolutions:

• Commemorating the lives of WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were fatally shot during an assignment.

• Commemorating slain journalists worldwide

• Supporting the need for legal protection for student journalists and advisers

• Urging Congress to reform the Freedom of Information Act

• Advocating for the release of police body-worn camera footage

• Criticizing excessive information control by public information officers

• Criticizing free-speech zones and speech codes, which are common on some college campuses.

Delegates also debated a resolution submitted by Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky, calling for the Society of Professional Journalists to be renamed the Society for Professional Journalism. Delegates voted 54-47 to send the proposal back to the Resolutions Committee to be redrafted and reintroduced next year.

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