Posts Tagged ‘National Association of Black Journalists’


Learn about this year’s SPJ candidates: Election extravaganza

SPJ’s annual election is this month. Watch for an email ballot as Excellence in Journalism ’18 opens on Sept. 27.

SPJ members will choose a president-elect, a secretary-treasurer and four at-large directors (two for two-year terms, two for one-year terms).

Members in Region 10 will choose a regional director, who will serve one year on the national board.

Members in Regions 1, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 will choose regional coordinators.

Below are the candidates’ answers to a questionnaire I sent them.

For more information about candidates (bios, podcast interviews), go to the Election Central page.

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President-elect (choose one)

• Patti Gallagher Newberry

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

Acknowledging that I am the ONLY candidate for president-elect, I will bring members more than 35 years of deep engagement in and dedication to SPJ; proven leadership skill; quick follow-through; passion; and vision. During my year as president-elect and, I hope, president after that, SPJ will remain one of my highest priorities and most significant time commitments.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

As the chair of the task force that proposed the smaller board, I strongly support the change. Key to making it work: 1) electing dedicated, visionary board leaders; 2) creating a structure and culture that facilitates responsive communication between the board and the many operating units within SPJ (headquarters, committees, communities, regions, chapters, individual members); and 3) creating a strategic plan to guide board efforts and the Society’s priorities.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

Most recently, I led the initiative to reduce the size of the board. In the coming year, I will lead an effort to craft a strategic plan and to review EIJ sponsorship rules. Over the years, I have organized dozens and dozens of SPJ activities — from EIJ panels to regional conferences to efforts of my own chapter at Miami University.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

SPJ needs a strategic plan to guide its priorities. We need a thorough review of what we do, what we should do and what we should leave to other journalism advocacy groups. That review should be the starting point of crafting a clear, concise strategy to guide the way forward.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Membership should certainly be one of the cornerstones of a strategic plan. The board should work closely with the existing Membership Committee on a plan of attack. Everything should be on the table in this effort: What are the barriers to membership? Are we charging the right price? Are we providing enough member service? Are we recruiting in the right ways?

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ has been a leading and significant voice on First Amendment issues, especially as Donald Trump and his administration have sought to vilify the press in the last two years. As part of that, SPJ has been out front on press literacy, as leaders at the national, regional and local levels have reached out to their communities to explain why a free press is critical. SPJ could, of course, do better in many areas. One would be lobbying. I would like to see SPJ more engaged in supporting pro-press legislation and fighting bad laws and bills at all levels of government.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

I joined SPJ in about 1980 as a college student to be in the company of other students turned on by journalism. Thirty-eight years later — after about 15 years as a journalist and now 22 years in journalism education — SPJ allows me to engage with and learn from people who do great journalism, celebrate great journalism, and work everyday to promote and protect good journalism.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

During my days in newsrooms, the best days were when I learned something important and was able to share that with readers. Getting on page one was pretty swell, too. During my years in the classroom, I succeed when my students succeed. Turning students on to the possibilities and power of journalism — whether teaching them how to find public documents or where to find scoops or how to get a reluctant administrator to talk — is an awesome task.

One of my prouder moments in recent years: When my son, Arthur, won the 2017 Cartoonist of the Year in the national SPJ Mark of Excellence competition. I consider myself most fortunate that two of my three (young adult) children attend Miami University, where I am area director of journalism, and both are involved in significant student media work.

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Secretary-treasurer (choose one)

• Matt Hall

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I live and breathe journalism. I’m a past president of the San Diego Pro SPJ chapter who has been elected to the national SPJ board three times to represent journalists in the West, and as a secretary-treasurer candidate, I am now fortunate to have endorsements from a diverse group of journalists from nearly every SPJ region. I’m a social media pioneer, I’m on Twitter all the time at @SDuncovered, and I manage a major newspaper opinion section at a time when speed and community building are a journalist’s stock-in-trade.

SPJ needs leaders who are not only plugged in but are able to do membership outreach and manage massive workloads; SPJ needs leaders who understand our divisive climate and can get the word out quickly on pressing matters. When two reporters were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, I was the first national board member to email the board to say we needed to issue a statement about that travesty. When five people were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, this year, I was the first board member to suggest we issue a statement of solidarity.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

This is a significant change. I support it, and I worked with other national board members to enable a smooth and smart transition. Reducing our board from 23 members to nine members over two years will help the organization move more quickly and strategically to guide an industry in flux while allowing us to represent, advocate for and celebrate members and all journalists. Mindful of the importance of robust regional communication, I also pushed hard to ensure regional coordinators would still get stipends to defray travel and other costs and have open lines of communication with the new smaller board. That connection is and will remain crucial to SPJ’s success, so I lobbied to make it stronger via formal reporting mechanisms.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

Among many changes, I will list one at each level of SPJ leadership:

• One, I led an effort to build consensus around and adopt a spending policy, which the national board approved at EIJ17 in Anaheim last year on a 17-6 vote. I thought the policy — which requires prior approval to pay for any services costing $5,000 — was needed after a consulting contract was approved without the board’s knowledge. I think this shows in a concrete way that I would be both transparent and fiscally responsible as your secretary-treasurer.

• Two, I created the SPJ Region 11 social media accounts, which have become a model for other SPJ regions and have created some of the largest, most engaged communities in SPJ, especially @spjregion11 on Twitter.

• Three, I helped establish the Windows and Walls awards for the San Diego Pro SPJ chapter, which is now one of the chapter’s most successful programs, honoring and shaming the government agencies that are the best and worst at transparency each year.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would post budgets and other documents in a fast, public way so members could readily know what the national board is discussing and doing. I would build better networks so chapters and unaffiliated members nationwide could communicate better with national leaders. I would revitalize our communities and committees and enable their leaders to brainstorm and have conversations outside their groups by connecting them via a new Slack channel or its equivalent, allowing committee and community chairs to share ideas across focus areas instead of just within them.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

I’d start by listening to members and offering more of what they want. In the past decade, SPJ’s membership and budget have fallen precipitously, mirroring broader newsroom trends. SPJ’s membership is now down to some 6,500 members from a peak of nearly 10,000, and its annual budget is about $1.2 million, down from $1.7 million. We need to stop that membership drop, and reverse it, and we will do that by being a better resource for them.

For months, as part of my secretary-treasurer campaign, I’ve been on a listening tour, talking to SPJ leaders nationwide, picking people’s brains, asking how we can be better, stronger, more diverse. Once we understand what our members want, we will be better equipped to provide it.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

Our greatest strength is that SPJ’s journalism advocacy is second to none. At the local, regional and national level, we fight for journalists every day, offering them everything from moral support to legal assistance. That must continue.

But we’re not doing a great job of explaining the benefits of a national membership to our members and potential members, especially students. We need to communicate better generally, and I think the smaller board and a separate team of regional coordinators will allow us to be smarter about our priorities and quicker about communication.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true: SPJ is the best organization I will ever join. It has helped me build lifelong friendships nationwide, fostered a sense of community in an industry plagued by cost-cutting and offered me a chance to give back to students and pros alike to ensure journalism remains in good hands for a long time to come. Journalism needs the help now more than ever, and I’d like to see our organization become more diverse, be even stronger at advocacy and better teach media literacy to students of all ages and the public at large. If the organization can accomplish those goals while defending journalists against false claims of fake news, it will thrive — and support not just journalists but democracy.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

It’s hard to pick one in a long career I’ve been lucky to have, but the San Diego Pro SPJ chapter winning national chapter of the year in 2015 in my first year as chapter president was an amazing honor. It was a testament to both my leadership and teamwork building. Likewise, when my seven-member team at the Union-Tribune won five first-place awards at the San Diego chapter’s awards banquet in July, I was proud that my team was so honored. That’s what journalism is about for me: Teamwork.

Personally, I’d say my proudest achievement was being chosen as the 2017 Donald M. Murray Visiting Journalist at my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, and spending a week talking in classes and in public sessions about journalism. I often speak at San Diego-area colleges, but it was an honor to talk to future journalists where I first dreamed of being one and to inspire students with dreams of their own to join an industry that needs innovative, ethical members more than ever.

 

• Nerissa Young

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I think it’s for members to decide who the best candidate is for this position. However, I have been active in SPJ for nearly 30 years at local, regional and national levels. I was president of campus and pro chapters when they were named chapters of the year. I am adviser to the OU chapter, which has been chapter of the year for three of the past four years. I have helped write SPJ’s two most recent books, the ethics text and the state of high school journalism book. I have served on three national committees: Project Watchdog, Ethics and Journalism Education. I have been part of panels at numerous regional and national conventions.

I look forward to using my energy and experience in a new way to serve the society by working with the national board. I am running for office, not against anyone or anything SPJ is doing. I can work well with others and look forward to adding my voice to those of the talented and capable people already on the board and who will be elected at EIJ.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

While I favored a smaller board, I initially did not like the governance model proposed because I was concerned about a lack of student representation on the board. I had many spirited discussions with Patti Newberry and ultimately voted in support. Yes, this is a significant change but one that I hope will make the board more nimble and able to act faster. It’s difficult to convene two dozen people by phone or in person and have a quorum to conduct business. If a quorum isn’t available, no business can be conducted. That doesn’t serve the organization or its members. I look forward to having a role in shaping how the new governance model will be implemented.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I served on the national ethics committee when the code was updated in 1996. I also served on the governance change focus group.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Journalism as an industry needs to acknowledge its effect on journalists and the communities they serve with regard to trauma. The explicit details released about the suicide deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade this summer were horrific. No one is served by those graphic details, and research shows that suicide contagion is real and accounts for a small increase in suicides right after such reporting. It happened after Robin Williams’ death. One reason the public likes to hate journalists is they think we are unfeeling automatons out to get clicks.

Journalists are leaving the profession because they are not getting the support they need when they cover traumatic events. Media owners need to start respecting journalists who stand up to the “we’ve got it, we may as well use it” mentality, reducing the amount of gratuitous graphic content and providing support to journalists who are recovering from their own trauma. It needs to be a concerted effort to rebuild credibility. SPJ can provide a national platform from which to speak and opportunities to educate journalists about trauma through professional development.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Jobs in traditional journalism are declining. Budgets continue to tighten, and there is little support from employers for dues and time to attend SPJ functions. As I told John Ensslin in the candidate podcast interview, that is the $64,000 question. I don’t have the magic bullet answer.

The initiatives for Next Gen-Journalism and freelancing are positive ways to reach those who are working in nontraditional media organizations via entrepreneurship and show we care about what they are doing and are here to support them. Membership is important, but serving well the members we have is important, too. We have to look at strategic partnerships with other like-minded organizations to reach strength in numbers that media owners and legislators will respect and listen to.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

One thing SPJ is doing well is reaching out to like-minded organizations and forming coalitions to present EIJ, which enriches the members of all participating organizations, and joining in the letter to the Obama administration asking for better cooperation with public information officers. It shows that SPJ is not the lone voice crying in the wilderness but representing concerns of a much larger constituency.

Overall, SPJ is doing most things well. We’ve seen nearly a complete staff turnover, and the new staff seems to be doing well. Quill is one of SPJ’s signature products, and it’s been a little lost the past few years in terms of content. We’ve had two editor changes in two years’ time. The executive board needs to determine what Quill’s role should be — a trade magazine, a journal or whatever — and work with the editor to be sure that role is executed well.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

I value my SPJ membership for two reasons: It links me to like-minded people who care about journalism and its role in democracy, and the professional development programs have always kept me ahead of the curve on what’s happening in the business. SPJ is like journalism church. I always leave regional and national conferences energized and optimistic about what we do and why we do it.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I knew a local school board was conducting the public’s business behind closed doors because members always gathered in the superintendent’s office behind a closed door before each meeting. I decided one Friday afternoon to speed dial each one and ask them about the content of those discussions before they had a chance to talk among themselves and come up with the same story. Every member admitted they were talking about business on the agenda. After the story ran, I was invited to gather with them to visit, and the superintendent’s office door stayed open.

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At-large director, two-year term (choose two)

• Tess Fox

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I am the best candidate for this position because I am a young person with tangible experience working with and recruiting students, young millennials and recent graduates, and building a student chapter. If SPJ is going to be sustainable in the long term, we need to better communicate to students and recent graduates the importance of an SPJ membership. I am the best candidate for this position because I want to ensure SPJ has a robust future, especially during such a tumultuous time for journalism and the First Amendment.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I support the smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors. A smaller board can reach a consensus faster, and fewer people attending bi-yearly meetings translates into savings for SPJ.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I helped keep the University of Idaho SPJ chapter active. At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, the chapter was on its last leg. I led the rebuilding of the chapter as the president. I helped plan, organize and execute several events throughout the school year. We met all the requirements of a student chapter and were nominated for outstanding campus chapter and program of the year for Region 10.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would use my experience, the experiences of my peers and the J-Ed committee to put together a master guide for starting and maintaining a student chapter. The logistics of a student chapter vary greatly from a professional chapter, and I think there is need for such a resource.

Since the candidate bios were released via email, I have already had members reach out, asking for advice to grow their chapter. I was lucky to have two excellent, knowledgeable advisers who knew how to run a chapter. That might not be the case for everyone, and especially during a time when SPJ’s membership is declining, we can’t afford to lose members because they need help and can’t find what they need.

This resource would also fit into my larger goal of recruiting more young people into SPJ.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Create a plan to recruit more students and recent graduates.

I would address this by working with the Generation J and membership committees create a plan for encouraging young professionals to join SPJ. These committees know what has worked and what hasn’t. Through their experience and mine, we can formulate the best plan of action. There may also be value in talking to college students and recent graduates to find out what they need to be successful on their career path in journalism. This would give us an idea of how to market to recent graduates and find areas SPJ may be lacking.

In my experience, there are many journalists in college or graduates that just don’t know what SPJ is all about. Easing that knowledge gap closed could be helped by encouraging the creation of more student chapters. Student chapters are a great way to demonstrate SPJ’s value to the next generation of journalists.

There are entire states with no student chapters, even though there are university journalism programs, like my current state of Oregon. Hawaii, Montana, Alaska and Wyoming don’t have student chapters either. Some states only have one, despite having a number of student and recent graduates that could use guidance. Encouraging awareness through the creation of student chapters can help grow SPJ’s membership.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ has a strong social media presence. There are always interesting articles being tweeted from the account, things that sometimes don’t cross my Twitter feed. I love knowing that if I need to find some industry-related news or a recent think-piece about media, it was probably tweeted out by SPJ and I can find it easily.

SPJ is not reaching young people very well. When I was recruiting for the UI chapter, many students had no knowledge of SPJ. Once I explained all the benefits to them, they were on board. This goes back to the importance of exposing younger journalists to SPJ. If we can show up-and-coming journalists and communications professionals how SPJ can make their career and lives better, we can expand our membership.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ is important to me because it has given me a chance to be a leader in my field already. I’m only 22 and have gained so many valuable skills being involved in SPJ for a year. Being involved in SPJ means meeting people outside of my area, making valuable connections and earning valuable leadership and managerial experience before entering a management position at work.

There are plenty of good reasons to join, like discounts, networking and opportunities to hone your skills. The best reason to join though is to be part of something more than a job. SPJ’s protection of the First Amendment will affect generations to come, and being part of that is why I’m a member of SPJ, and why other journalists should be members too.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

During my last year of school, I worked on a story about a rental company in Moscow, Idaho, that disappeared and how the housing regulations in Idaho allow for this kind of thing to happen. I worked on the story for six months, conducted about 30 interviews and wrote over 2,000 words. I’m so proud of how this story turned out. Many students, a population already strapped for cash, lost hundreds of dollars when this company disappeared with everyone’s money. Writing about something that deeply affected people and being about to provide them answers to their questions was such a wonderful experience. I’m sad to have left Moscow because I could probably write 10 more stories on this subject.

You can read that story here: https://www.blotmagazine.com/2018/03/07/everyone-has-to-live-somewhere-the-sudden-closure-of-whitepine-property-management-highlights-larger-issues-for-ui-students/

• Mike Reilley

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

Previous board experience, deep understanding of SPJ, held many SPJ positions in the past. Strong digital and teaching background, which the board needs. And I’m kinda funny.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

Yes, very much so. The board was too bloated when I served in 2014-15. Too many voices were being drowned out by a few. This board is more nimble and can get more done.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

JournalistsToolbox.org, training more than 4,000 journalists in the SPJ Google tools training program (effecting changes in newsrooms and giving SPJ a stronger digital presence). Founded a student chapter (SPJ/ONA DePaul) that ranged between 58 and 70 members a year.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Develop a strategic plant with President-Elect Patti Gallagher Newberry. Expand an investigative journalism fellowship I developed with Rob McLean for Region 7 during my time on the board previously. I would like to see this become a national program, where we offer six fellowships around the country, with a minimum of three going to minority journalists. Fellows are aligned with investigative teams on a project of their choosing, trained by me to use digital tools (scraping, spreadsheets, data viz tools) to develop the stories. We then have them present at a Regional conference or the national conference. How to fund it? I would seek outside partnerships/funding from a foundation other than SDX. We need more outreach/creativity in funding projects.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

  1. Research: Survey members who leave. Why? Specifically target the thousands of student members who no longer belong after they graduate. How do we retain them in their first five years on the job. Find out why, then address the issues based on the research and take action.
  2. More value-added membership offerings: More webinars, put JournalistsToolbox.org behind a membership paywall, etc.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

Not well: SPJ is losing money, membership and partnerships. Leadership must turn the tide.

Well: Code of ethics and support of the First Amendment. I’d argue that the SPJ Google training program is one of the best things SPJ has done in the past 10 years. The outreach, impact and results have been astounding.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

I tell them for the price of skipping Starbucks twice a month they can join a fantastic organization that supports the First Amendment. You’ll make lasting friendships and contacts. You’ll make a difference and maybe even have a little fun along the way.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

Moments — teaching digital journalism to students full-time for 16 years at Northwestern, Arizona State University, DePaul and University of Illinois-Chicago.

 

• Robin Sherman

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

Best? I’d say I am a good candidate for a board at-large position for several reasons based on a broad background and having the primary traits necessary for a solid, working board member:

1) Journalism association experience: I would bring to the board ideas based on 20 years of experience working on policy and hands-on management of numerous responsibilities for a sister professional journalism association, the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the only journalism association devoted exclusively to the business-to-business (B2B) journalism market. The society is now managed by The Poynter Institute.

ASBPE has more than 1,000 members and numerous chapters. I have been its executive director; associate executive director; board member; chair of its ethics, research, and conference/program committees; writer, editor and designer of its member newsletter; and a member of its membership and other committees.

Bottom line: I have a good understanding of how journalism associations can operate and can bring that experience and perhaps new ideas from a related journalism society to SPJ.

2) Business-to-business and consumer journalism background:

As a former corporate editorial director/associate editorial director for a large B2B journalism publishing company for 11 years, I have a strong B2B journalism background. I helped 100 editors and artists working on 30+ publications improve their content and presentation using service/solutions journalism to meet our primary mission. I developed and managed a multi-million-dollar editorial budget. And, I’ve been an associate publisher, editor-in-chief, and designer of business magazines.

On the consumer side, I’ve worked on weeklies and dailies, e.g. The Atlanta Constitution, as a reporter, news editor, copy editor and layout editor.

Bottom line: I am a well-rounded journalist who knows content development, editing and presentation (design) as well as business and consumer journalism, especially service and solutions journalism. I am sensitive to both the business side of publishing and the journalism side, as well as the need for all stakeholders to work collaboratively and ethically.

3) I see the big picture and the importance of detail. My strongest interests are examples of this concept:

  1. promoting ethics and quality journalism and news literacy for the public
  2. directing original, useful journalism research
  3. developing useful, step-by-step, actionable content
  4. improving content presentation and design to make information accessible and understandable.

The original research I’ve conducted is one specific example. Research requires broad thinking in topic development (thesis) and detailed implementation.

I’ve researched markets to launch new publications by conducting competitive content analyses and readership studies (readership traits, needs, and desires; market structure; types of advertisers) and focus groups.

As chair of ASBPE’s research committee, we partnered with the Medill School of Journalism to study the lack of publisher leadership on journalism continuing training, especially digital skills.

I also led a study on the influences of advertisers on journalists and how to use editorial advisory boards to advantage (and later wrote a book chapter about this).

In college, I studied the professionalism of daily reporters in the state of Georgia.

Bottom line: I am a proponent of original research on issues that can make a difference for decision-makers, including board members. Show the data. Research is just one example of seeing a bigger picture and knowing the basic details for solid methodology.

4) I am a worker. A solid board of directors understands the larger perspective and sets policy, but its members must also be hands-on implementers, regardless of the number of paid employees.

I am a part-time freelancer editor and designer who by fortunate choice is winding down the amount of paid work to focus more time on volunteer work, such as the SPJ at-large board position, should I win the position.

My fervent wish is to give back to journalism what I’ve learned, defend and improve our profession, and help my colleagues do their work more effectively.

Bottom line: All this taken as a whole makes me a solid candidate who is willing to work hands-on and not be encumbered by time constraints that full-time journalist candidates are likely to have.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

In my long experience working with boards, I find small ones work better than large ones. Communication, decision-making and implementation is more efficient. A dozen or so is often a good number for board size, provided all members give of themselves more or less equally.

In an ideal world, all or most of the stakeholders would be represented. In the case of SPJ, a large organization with members working in a variety of news and journalism management roles across multiple platforms, the work of the board would be unwieldy if too large.

Structures can be in place to represent the needs of important niche groups within the organization. We know sometimes they are called committees, or communities, or chapters, or regions, or even special interest groups who can report to the board as part of the decision-making process.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I’ve only been a member for one year, and the work I do is with the Georgia chapter as a manager of its LinkedIn discussion group. I’ve not been in a direct position to help implement change, although I recognize the need for all chapters to grow and seek substantive member benefits that only chapters can provide or do more effectively than SPJ national.

Growing our LinkedIn discussion group was one thing I’ve tried to do, but it is difficult. One also needs a strong chapter membership campaign to coordinate with it. A discussion forum is one of the few useful tools a chapter has that national SPJ apparently doesn’t have. Some members might want a place to discuss issues amongst themselves, get quick advice, and network on a more local level.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Beyond an aggressive movement to get news organizations 1) to audit themselves for ethics and quality journalism and 2) to prepare presentations that journalists can use to speak to local civic organizations about trust-building/ethics, press freedom, and how and why journalism does what it does, I’d like 3) to help improve Quill magazine and 4) be a research committee person to examine journalism issues.

Re: Quill. I understand from recent SDX discussions some of what I say below may already be in place.

I have directed, developed or improved the content and design of more than 40 publications and have been a conference speaker and workshop leader on this topic. It starts with understanding the readers/members and providing information they can use.

But how?

If I started from scratch, here’s what I’d do:

1) The magazine needs an editorial advisory board whose function go beyond providing general editorial direction. [I understand there is a publication committee.] I have identified some 20 or so things a board can do. I did original research about how publications use such boards to advantage and published a chapter in a book entitled “Best Practices of the Business Press.” I’d love to serve on such a board.

2) Research.

  1. Conduct an in-depth focus group of readers (I’ve moderated a couple)
  2. Do a comprehensive quantitative readership study that asks the correct questions about members’/readers’ need and desires. [I believe some of this has been done recently.]

3) Attend a workshop geared to developing

  1. a clear mission
  2. an overall understandable (at a glance) content structure that reflects the mission
  3. content and presentation components that make the information useful and accessible.

In board meeting minutes, I’ve read a semblance of a  new editorial mission for Quill, but as a Member of SPJ and a reader, the mission of the publication and why and how it is useful to me is not readily apparent. Nor how its content fits holistically with content on other platforms.

This should be apparent to the reader almost immediately when looking at the cover and/or contents pages. It needs to help readers get to its substantive content quickly and quickly tell readers why the content is useful and how it can be used by the reader. It’s about the reader experience.

As a former publication/editorial consultant, I have conducted such workshops. If I were on the SPJ board, I’d lead the workshop for free, thus avoiding a conflict of interest.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Here are possible ways:

1) The most critical need is to understand why people join SPJ now and why they would in the future. Here are some of the questions to have answers for:

  • What’s in it for the member?
  • How does SPJ help members become better journalists and even get promoted?
  • In what specific ways is SPJ useful to members? “If it is not useful, it is useless,” University of Missouri journalism professor emeritus Don Ranly used to say.
  • Can these actionable benefits to member be developed at a reasonable cost to the member?
  • What is the members’ return on investment?

The answers can come from research both quantitative and qualitative, e.g. properly conducted surveys and focus groups.

2) Association can choose from more than one revenue model. In the business-to-business world of journalism, the most prevalent model is still the free subscription, provided the reader works in the market that the publication is in. There is the paid-only subscriber model. And a combination of the two.

If membership is declining to significant levels, the free membership model might be economically feasible, if the association can find more advertisers/sponsors who want their message seen by the largest population of journalists possible. Food for thought.

3) Build the chapters in major cities or regions within a state. If all news is truly local, then logic might indicate that membership is local as well. But don’t expect members to drive 25 miles in rush hour to attend a monthly meeting. Perhaps substantive virtual meetings will make it easier for someone to take time away from work but spend less time and money traveling. Moreover, chapter benefits must be different from national benefits. And, they must be truly useful benefits.

4) Create a young leaders’ scholarship (say 29 years old or younger), give them one free 1-year membership to their local chapter (or even national) and free attendance at certain chapter meetings in return for, say, writing an article or two for the society or chapter or working on a local project. Young leaders would be nominated by their supervisors based on certain criteria. I’ve seen this concept bring in new members and leadership for ASBPE.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ’s work with ethics and the First Amendment is excellent. I say that because I have served as chair of the American Society of Business Publication Editors ethics committee, and I wrote the initial draft of its ethics guide for the which I felt was the strongest, most comprehensive code at the time. But the SPJ work is awesome. I associate SPJ’s ethics and First Amendment work with improving journalism quality.

The missing piece, to me, is an aggressive movement to get news organizations to do both internal (or perhaps via third-party, if nothing else works) audits of their own ethics and journalism quality. Then quickly improve their procedures and transparency.

Some good work on this has been done by at least three or four other journalism-related organizations. But I am not aware of news organizations taking the critical step to actually show they are improving. SPJ ought to work closely with these other organizations to develop better internal auditing tools and incentivize their use.

Only then can news organizations take the second step, which is to teach the public about what journalism is, how it does journalism, and why it does it the way it does it. It’s more difficult to sufficiently discuss news literacy with the public if one’s own house is not fully in order.

For example, how many news organizations publish their code of ethics on their website or even say they have adopted the SPJ code and provide a link to it? How many ask the public to hold them accountable? How many teach the public how to do a content analysis of their reporting and measure the quality of their journalism?

I would challenge SPJ to work harder with other journalism organizations to get new organizations to better police themselves and be transparent with the public about their ethical and reporting procedures. When I was a corporate editorial director, I created an internal journalism excellence program based on content analyses and service journalism. The Trust Project and The Trusting News Project can’t do it alone. To me, this is an urgent need.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

Journalism is in crisis because of the lack of public trust. I want to collaborate with SPJ colleagues to be part of the solution to help build trust and high-quality journalism and to teach news literacy to the public. Our Constitutional foundation is in danger otherwise. As an association with a high public profile, SPJ is the perfect place to help coordinate this effort.

I’d tell prospective members that SPJ is trying to do substantive work within the political and social environment today. Be involved. As a long-standing societal institution, the press needs your help. Plus, you will hone your skills via SPJ and become a better journalist and manager. You’ll have more personal fulfillment.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

Three quickly stand out.

1) Based on my reporting, the Georgia State Judicial Qualifications Commission essentially removed a sitting Superior Court judge because the judge asked the official court recorder to erase recordings of court proceedings/testimony.

2) Wrote the initial draft of the national ethics code and best practices for the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

3) In partnership with the Medill School of Journalism while I was research chair for ASBPE, I directed original research about the lack of digital journalism skills training by B2B publishers.

For more detail about my backgroundplease see my LinkedIn profile at: www.linkedin.com/in/robinshermaneditdesign

• Mercedes Vigón

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I have hands on experience serving in several national and international boards of professional journalism associations, such as the International Press Institute, the Caribbean Media Institute, and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. And, since the 2000 convention, I have also worked with the NAHJ unofficially, first as a News Director, but mostly in a capacity of academic advisor. My mission has been reaching out to my former colleagues, specially in the Spanish-Language and Hispanic News Media, and working with them to strengthen professional practices.

Some accomplishment would be securing and managing grants proposals, such as one from the SSRC for “Covering the Islam,” and promoting alliances for promoting better climate change data, or for project oriented trainings  (mostly, in investigative journalism) in the Caribbean and Latin American.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

My experience with boards let me to conclude that inclusive smaller structures are more effective, as communication tend to be easier, and board members have more clarity in their mandates. Now, transparency and communication between the board members, and the rest of the association needs to be worked out very carefully. And this is quite complicate to implement. In other words, this structures only depend on trust to succeed.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I have not contributed directly to make any substantial change in the SPJ organization. I have collaborated with the SPJ student chapter, as academic adviser of the FIU student organization, NAHJ.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Now, why would I offer to serve?  I have always worked as a bridge of understanding… I have been a young journalist struggling to find a place, and mid-career professional trying to advance in the field. I have had the luxury of time to reflect about the times, and to develop new training guidelines. Finding the balance between technology and fact based journalism has always been a problem. But now, the political situation and the financial tensions, have given journalists an opportunity to recalibrate and re-emphasize the importance of our roles in society. And we cannot do this alone: one story at a time. We are perceived as a body; and sometimes we need to react as such

For me is important to serve, because this is what I do. I am not a full time journalist anymore. I prepare journalists and support them during their careers. If elected to the board. I will continue doing what I do: advocating, training, generating grant proposals. But with a more ambitious goal on mind.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

5, 6 & 7 — GLOBALIZATION … Reaching out requires winning the trust of  a more diverse sets of groups. I am comfortable in the NAHJ, everybody knows me, I feel at home… But it is only a small grain of sand in the big mountain. We need more alliances and collaborations. Every association should be working with each other, not competing. And this can be done, the times require that we figure out how to create an inclusive network… where everybody is invited, and journalists react as one when needed.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

In 2013, I  directed, produced and wrote with my students, “Islam in Buenaventura” — a documentary about an Afro-Colombian Muslim community in Buenaventura and Cali, Colombia. “Islam in Buenaventura” has been screened all over the U.S., and in three international film festivals: the Short film Festival “Somos Afro,” the Human Rights in Barcelona, and the third one in Indonesia, where it won the Award of Merit for International Short Film.

*****

At-large director, one-year term (choose two)

• Michael Savino

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

As immediate past president for Connecticut SPJ, I already have experience supporting my state’s journalists in a variety of ways. I have come to the defense of reporters when they need it — including multiple times approaching legislative leaders and their staffs when ranking members are harassing reporters. I have also led our efforts on advocating for FOI access and have organized several professional development panels, networking activities, and other events.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I support a streamlined version that allows our organization to be more responsive. So, yes, that is significant. Last year, I proposed a motion that would have added two more seats to the board as a way to address concerns about diversity. The motion failed, but I think the new board can still be representative so long as the organization and its members remained committed to supporting a diverse group of leaders.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I have not yet had the opportunity to make any changes within SPJ, but I’m looking forward to the chance.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

If elected, I want to help SPJ take a lead in making journalism more responsive to the mental health needs of its employees. We should follow the model we have set with ethics, including creating a list of best practices. I don’t think we need a committee on this, but identifying best practices and establishing a partnership with an organization for a hotline could be major benefits for members.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Obviously some of this is due to the reduction in working journalists, but SPJ can’t just sit by an accept that as an excuse. The SPJ Supporter program is a great way to get people from outside the industry to bolster our revenue, and we can do more to promote that.

We also need to continue to promote the benefits members can get, aside from knowing they support our mission. I feel I became a better leader because I attended a Scripps Leadership Institute, and I recommend it to everyone I can.

SPJ’s membership also brings discounts. Perhaps we can expand that. We can also look for more opportunities to offer sales on membership fees. That is one of the biggest obstacles I run into. But I’m confident that once we get people to sign up, we can show members the value.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ continues to take the lead in creating tools to help journalists do their jobs. The Whistleblower Project and partnership with Facebook and its training program are just two recent examples of our organization constantly looking for new professional development opportunities.

One concern I have with SPJ is its partnership with certain groups and people that actively try to undermine our work. This includes a sponsorship from the Charles Koch Institute, for example, despite his Koch Industries tactics against reporters who try to unveil some of his organization’s activities. Sinclair is also a sponsor of this year’s event, even though the television network directed its local anchors to read a script that pushes the “fake news” narrative that undermines our work. SPJ can and should continue to support the journalists who work for these organizations while avoiding such relationships with the larger organizations.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

First and foremost is the ways SPJ defends us. The national organization promotes legislation and creates partnerships that help journalists at all levels. It also has a legal defense fund to help journalists who run into First Amendment issues. In Connecticut, we also push for legislation and provide several programs. Those things require money. Beyond that, they also get access to plenty of benefits through the national organization, and discounts to CT events whenever we have to charge.

It also comes with access to Quill and other resources that include the latest industry trends and tips.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I have two. As a journalist. I am proud to be elected as president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, which happened in June. My colleagues on the board have long cheered my in my work for public disclosure (they also gave me their top award for journalists in 2016), and now want me to lead the charge in lobbying for changes.

As a member of CT SPJ, I’m most proud of the time I came to the aid of a reporter when a state lawmaker (in the majority caucus) threw a plush toy at her in the state House chamber. At the time, I also covered the capitol, and I immediately ran down to the House to address this. I talked with members of his staff to demand immediate action.

The next day, after an unrelated press conference, the House speaker himself pulled me and the reporter into his office to apologize and explain that the lawmaker would be disciplined. The lawmaker was stripped of his deputy speaker title. The reporter expressed gratification because she runs her own website and doesn’t have an organization to come to her aid.

 

• Yvette Walker

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I am the best candidate for an at-large director because I know the news industry and have witnessed transformative times. I have worked with print, online and broadcast news in my career, and now work in educating the next generations of journalists. I have specialized in teaching news ethics and was the Ethics Chair at the University of Central Oklahoma. Now I am Dean of Students at Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma.

I understand the difficulty of reporting in small communities as well as large; I have covered crime and features; and I have managed daily news operations. I have covered media issues as editor of the Journal of the National Association of Black Journalists.  And as a black woman who has worked in white newsrooms, I understand why diversity is important. As Lanier Frush Holt wrote in Quill about stereotypical depictions, “… While there are more diverse faces in front of the camera, the people who ultimately decide what becomes news — directors and managing editors — largely remain male and white.” I agree. It is important to diversify upper management, as well as boards, in media.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

A smaller board is more efficient and can be more nimble than a large board. We work in a fast-paced environment and sometimes need to turn on a dime. However, it is a significant change, so let me speak to what I think I can bring  to this new board.

One of the biggest changes concerns geographic representation, and so, being centered in, and having lived in the Heartland of the country (10 years in Missouri and 12 years in Oklahoma), as well as living in Texas, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois during my career, I believe I can represent and understand the concerns of a large area of the country. Also, I can provide diversity in race and gender to the board, which was another major concern with the new, smaller structure. Finally, as a dean of students at the University of Oklahoma, I can help represent the student sector, which was another concern about the smaller structure.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

During my career in newsrooms across the country, I have been doing what SPJ advocates: ethically publishing important, diverse issues in my communities. I have encouraged young journalists to become members and get involved. I see the importance of SPJ, and I want to help others who have not joined to see its importance, too. When SPJ board members reached out to me about the next executive director, I was able to talk about the skill set needed and the importance of diversity. This is an opportunity to bring new ideas and new people to a new board.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would work with the board to do the one thing that might be holding back potential members, both minority and non-minority and that is to tell SPJ’s story. What makes SPJ important and different than other media organizations? Between SPJ and all those organizations, there is a lot of noise out there. What is SPJ’s role to the average journalist? SPJ is historic, important and has inspired generations of journalists. But is it energizing and identifying with today’s journalist? I would like to help SPJ make that connection.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

I would represent declining membership by reaching out to people like me — those who love this industry, but perhaps have not been active — by convincing them their time is now to help be a part of the conversation. I would reach out to the large freelance writing community, many of whom are post-news career, but still very much engaged.

Also, we have to look beyond our borders and consider opening more international chapters. Global membership is a mostly untapped area with whom we can connect. Finally, our student chapters in many ways have some of our most passionate members. We need to raise them up to be future SPJ leaders.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

The focus on news ethics in practice and theory is what SPJ is known for and does particularly well. Adding media literacy and ethical messaging to this conversation would build on this important strength. Also, the Journalist On Call initiative will help fill the gaps between how media operate and what news consumers understand. As a former ombudsman at the Kansas City Star, I know the importance of speaking directly to our communities. The On Call program certainly can help build trust between communities and journalists.

However, SPJ is not great at telling people what SPJ is. Besides advocating ethics, is SPJ an advocacy organization? Is it a professional development organization? Is it akin to the Poynter Institute? Is it all of the above? I’m not sure SPJ is rising above the noise of other organizations. Do people understand the connection of SPJ to Quill magazine, which does report news, but also expresses advocacy ideas? SPJ must tell people what it is and why it is important.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

I tell journalists they should join because they need a solid foundation to help them make decisions and to fight against those who think we are the enemy. SPJ membership — along with friendship and collegial experiences — can provide that. SPJ has one of the oldest code of ethics in media and is a lighthouse to many (particularly young) journalists needing help making decisions in covering news. Providing this guidance is not the only reason SPJ is important, but it might be the one that has stuck with me the longest.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I’m not the one looking to stand in the spotlight. I’m a coach, a mentor, an editor. I find the most rewarding moments are when I help make stories sing, or help a reporter or student find their way through a complicated issue. As a young reporter, my best moments were connecting with sources, gaining their trust and getting the story for my readers.

*****

Region 10 director (choose one)

• Donald W. Meyers

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I have previously served as a regional director, and I know the challenges that face a large, sparsely populated region. Since February, I have been working with national and the chapters in the region to address financial issues and improve transparency. I would like to be able to continue that effort, as well as reactivate some of the SPJ chapters that have gone dormant.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

The smaller structure allows the national board to be more nimble in its response to national matters, while allowing the regional directors/coordinators to concentrate on the issues going on at their level. My only concern would be ensuring that the coordinators be able to act as liaisons between the board and the chapters.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

There are two. First, I helped create SPJ’s national Black Hole Award. Working with then-FOI chair Dave Cuillier and President Hagit Limor, I wrote the rules that set the criteria for awarding the Black Hole, as well as outlining its purpose.

The other is getting the national board to give national committee chairs a comped registration for the national convention. These are men and women who do a lot of the heavy lifting for SPJ, and they do it without a stipend from national. I felt that a comped registration would be a way to show gratitude for their service and ease some of the burden they shoulder.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

If I am re-elected, I would continue the efforts to make the organization more transparent, particularly when it comes to finances. I would also work on maintaining chapter health and promoting our advocacy work.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

We need to remind people about what SPJ does for them. We need to be more in the forefront of free-press issues. We also need to show how SPJ is helping the journalist on the ground, particularly through the Legal Defense Fund.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

I think our advocacy for free press and open government are great. Nationally and through our chapters, we are among the strongest First Amendment advocates in the nation. I think we need to do a better job of getting that message out and showing journalists at smaller organizations that SPJ can help them as well. And to do that, we need to make sure our chapters are as strong as they can be.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ is a great source for professional development and advocacy for journalists. I have gotten far more out of SPJ than I have put in. I tell people about our Legal Defense Fund and our advocacy, and how SPJ has led the charge to improve our open records and meetings laws, as well as our commitment to ethical journalism.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

Winning an FOI court battle, with SPJ’s help, that not only got me the records I was seeking, but forced other organizations in the state of Utah to change their rules on releasing the names of finalists for administrative posts. I had one journalist, who learned about my role in that case, thank me for taking the stand (that some critics called a Pyrrhic victory because I got my records so far after the fact that they were more  historical) because she had other agencies quickly hand over similar documents because they didn’t want to go through what the city I sued with SPJ’s help went through.

I would also say that seeing the Utah State Legislature, under pressure from SPJ after receiving its national Black Hole award and the public anger directed at lawmakers because of that, reverse a law that gutted the state’s public records act. In addition to writing the guidelines for the Black Hole award, I also nominated the Utah Legislature for the award.

*****

Region 1 coordinator (choose one)

• Jane Primerano

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I have served as RD since I was appointed interim when Rebecca Baker was elected secretary-treasurer in 2015. Since then, I have run three successful conferences and assisted my professional and student chapters with some excellent programs. I have a couple of goals still to achieve. We are closer to a revived Philadelphia chapter than we were, but I really want to remain as RD/RC until it is a reality.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I support the new board structure. I was among the RDs who wanted reassurance we would continue to have our caucus (and a travel stipend to meet once a year in person) because each region functions better when we discuss the matters that concern all of us. I believe a streamlined board will function more efficiently. I hope the new structure brings in new ideas and accomplishments.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I helped insure the RDs/RCs would remain a voice within the organization. On the regional level, I worked with the Maine and New England chapters to change Maine’s status to satellite chapter and I supervised work on an Upstate New York professional event (the first in many years).

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I will continue to work to renew the Philadelphia chapter, either as a stand-alone or as a satellite to Keystone. Once that is accomplished, I will turn my attention to Upstate New York.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

I will continue to work on the addition of two new pro chapters in Region 1 and support my student chapters. I will also continue to address colleges to promote new college chapters and recruit members at the annual Center For Cooperative Media News Summit and other events throughout Region 1.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ is the go-to organization on all journalism ethics questions. We also do a great job of going into schools and addressing individuals and organizations about media literacy. We have not been spectacular on diversity matters, but, my theory is you can’t address every issue with equal strength simultaneously.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ is vital because of its work on ethics, FOI and media literacy. I tell people about those things and remind them of the importance of networking. Many of us have found mentors and jobs through SPJ and when we have reached maturity in our careers, cherish the ability to help younger members. In addition, SPJ chapters and national have assisted many journalists who run afoul of government agencies.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

It’s hard to choose one after decades in the business. Early in my career, I covered a battle between a farming community and a chemical plant that resulted in the closing of the plant. I am very proud of stories I’ve written — investigative pieces on Colony Collapse Disorder in the beekeeping community and water policy in New Jersey. I am also proud of my work with high school journalists through the Garden State Scholastic Press Association and its Fall Student Press Day.

*****

Region 4 coordinator (choose one)

• Paul Kostyu

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I have had a long-time affiliation with SPJ in a variety of capacities. Even as an academic, I found more value in being a part of SPJ than with my fellow academics in AEJMC. That’s simply because SPJ is more in tune with the needs of the profession and thus I can better teach my students the skills they need to be successful. So I bring to this position extensive professional knowledge over 45 years as a working journalist, as a freelancer and as an academic.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I do support the new smaller structure, because I think it will be more efficient. It will be less cumbersome in terms of arranging meetings of the board. However, I think it is critical that the smaller board keep open lines of communication with regional coordinators. I’ve always felt as a journalist that though we are in the communication business, we are pretty lousy at communicating with each other. I’d like to make sure as much information as possible reaches the most important constituents — our members.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

During my five years as a co-editor of the national convention’s newspaper, I challenged the then-SPJ policy of closing board meetings to the newspaper staff. As a result, board members saw the error of the policy, and irony and hypocrisy of SPJ closing meetings while challenging public bodies to open their meetings. I also fought for the independence of the student staff to be edited by SPJ representatives. While I have not been at a national convention for a few years, I hope independence and openness are a matter of routine.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Other than what I have mentioned in my other responses, I do not have anything specific change I would like to make. I will be better able to answer this question once I have been able to meet with board members, other regional coordinators and regular members. I’m not in favor of change just to have change. But I do want to make sure SPJ is running efficiently, effectively and within its budget.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

It’s critical that SPJ remain relevant to the profession. It has to be viewed as a valuable and necessary resource. We should try to keep the organization as cost-effective as possible. We need to do a better job of reaching out to college students to get them involved early, while recognizing that they often don’t have the money to spend on trips to conferences. Any time we can do workshops and seminar on campuses works to SPJ’s advantage. National should provide regional  coordinators travel budgets to help defer the costs of visits to college campuses and to chapter meetings in their regions.

We need to take advantage of the renewed interest in journalism programs that has been created by the Trump administration (much as we did during the aftermath of Watergate). We need to educate the public about news literacy. We need to be the organization that our fellow journalists call first for information or responses. We should teach our members the practical skills they need to succeed. This could be done in conjunction with IRE, SEJ and other specialty organizations.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

I think SPJ is on top of the challenges of the profession, especially during this very dangerous time to be a journalist in the U.S. So its responses to national, regional and local challenges are very important.

In the past year or so, I have twice written (actually emailed) to the president of SPJ (two different presidents) and both times got no response. None. Not a peep. That is not good communication with members. The president has to be accessible to members, not just board members and regional coordinators. We need to improve our communication with each other. By the way, one of those emails was about a factual error in the president’s column in Quill. So it never got corrected. That’s inexcusable for our organization.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ is important to me because it is the one organization that links journalists across specialties. I tell my students and others that it is a good way to learn more about the profession, techniques and story ideas. It’s an excellent way to network. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because someone somewhere has done a story or investigation that perhaps can be done again at a different news outlet. SPJers are willing to help and mentor others.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I’ve had many good moments and achievements in journalism. I’ve been nominated for a Pulitzer and have received awards nationally and regionally for use of public records, investigations, feature writing, environmental reporting, etc. My work has changed laws and convicted folks.

But frankly, I am most proud of a series of stories I wrote about how newborns are tested for hearing loss in Ohio. Before my stories, newborns were tested by crunching a piece of paper next to their ears to see if they reacted. That process was not only ineffective, but led to higher health care costs for people later in life when they tried to get their hearing corrected.

My stories educated legislators about an electronic process done while a baby is sleeping. That testing leads to earlier recognition of hearing loss, making it easier and less expensive to correct. Ohio law changed because of those stories. I find satisfaction that in a small way I helped the voiceless — in this case, newborns — in Ohio.

*****

Region 5 coordinator (choose one)

• Amy Merrick

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I have a breadth of journalism experience that reflects our membership. I was a reporter for 11 years at The Wall Street Journal, so I know what it’s like to work in a large newsroom. Now, I freelance for magazines, so I understand the opportunities and challenges that our freelance members contend with. As an adviser of a thriving student chapter, I’m in touch with what students need to learn new skills and launch their careers.

At DePaul, we co-hosted the Region 5 conference in April 2018, bringing in more than 100 attendees, panelists and workshop leaders. We fostered discussion about important issues facing journalists, including sexual harassment in the newsroom, and diversity, equity and representation in student media. In July, I attended the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Indianapolis, which gave me a better appreciation for SPJ’s structure and goals.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

The specific number of SPJ board members is less important than the results they achieve. SPJ needs to continue developing robust recruitment, leadership development and nominations processes for potential board members. Moving toward a smaller board structure can increase flexibility and responsiveness, so long as there is a large candidate pool with many people expressing their ideas.

The risk in moving toward a competency-based board is gravitating toward members who are familiar, rather than cultivating a broader network of potential candidates. This year, there is only one recent graduate running for a board position, and no current students, who make up a large proportion of our membership. Outside of the board, most regional coordinator positions (including the one I am running for) are unopposed. The structures that will shape a responsive, creative, dynamic board have to be considered year-round, not just right before elections.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I launched and maintain Region 5’s Twitter account, better connecting our members and helping them take advantage of all of SPJ’s opportunities. I would like to expand our communications to a full website and email newsletter. There are great chapters in our region doing creative things, and it could be easier for all of us to share what we’re learning.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would like to establish a formal, online-based coaching and mentorship program, pairing established journalists with younger members, those seeking a career transition, journalists interested in leadership development or anyone who could benefit from one-on-one guidance.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

The best way to determine why SPJ’s membership is declining is to ask a broad base of our members, as well as former members and journalists who are not part of SPJ. Many journalists create their own networks across social media, rather than joining formal organizations. We can do more to support, listen to and participate in those networks. SPJ has become more public in its support of First Amendment issues, which may help people understand the value of creating a community around shared values.

Our student membership is too expensive. Other organizations, such as Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Online News Association, charge students $25. Many students do not declare a journalism major until after their sophomore year, meaning they can’t take advantage of SPJ’s discounted four-year rate.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ’s advocacy for the First Amendment, for journalists whose reporting puts them in harm’s way, and for access to government records through FOIA gives the organization purpose and clarity. With the new Journalist on Call position, Rod Hicks has a chance to foster important conversations in communities that lack trust in the media.

If we agree on the fundamental values that SPJ supports, then we have to move ahead to create opportunity, to support each other and to report important stories. The pain of newsroom layoffs has been substantial, and I empathize with the concerns of reporters whose organizations have shaky finances, as well as the difficulties faced by freelancers and unemployed journalists. At the same time, SPJ’s messaging can be more encouraging, inclusive and forward-looking.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ’s Code of Ethics is an indispensable guide to journalists’ core values. By joining SPJ, journalists and supporters of the First Amendment strengthen a community committed to upholding those values. Journalists can share with each other how they reported specific stories. They can teach each other new skills. They can offer advice on resumes and advertise career opportunities. They can speak as a united voice for journalists whose reporting has put them in danger. They can work together for open access to government records. From the most formal conference to the most informal local meeting, they can gather to build collaboration and friendship, and to find ways to produce significant, ethical journalism.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

In 2016, I helped DePaul students launch an online multimedia magazine, 14 East. The magazine, which I advise, crosses cultures, life experiences and geographic boundaries. A story about working conditions for campus security guards incorporated interviews at universities throughout Chicago. Another piece used the words of prison inmates — handwritten by the inmates and carried out of the prison by visitors. The magazine hosted a workshop about reporting on sexual assault that was attended by students from other schools and by early-career Chicago reporters.

As a journalist, it has been my mission to explain systemic issues and to connect people with new perspectives. To help student reporters take up this challenge is my proudest accomplishment.

*****

Region 7 coordinator (choose one)

• Katelyn Mary Skaggs

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I am about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree and I think I could best serve Region 7 by bringing student and professional journalists together. Professional journalists have so much to share and teach about journalism and telling compelling stories, while many student journalists have lots to share about growing technology and social media. I would love to see both groups come together and share ideas and wisdom. I would like to see Region 7 plan more education activities across the region with both groups. (I have always believed learning should never stop.)

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I have heard about the new smaller structure. However, I wasn’t very familiar with the structure of SPJ before the change, so I personally have not seen a significant change.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

There is nothing specific that I have been able to change or help within SPJ, yet. I am hoping to get deeper involved in the organization and assist with any changes, which are in the best interest of SPJ.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

One thing I would like to see happen in SPJ is professional chapters work more with student chapters. Both groups have so much to learn from one another and it would be a great networking opportunity. I would love to help make this happen.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

I would address this by speaking with members and asking what they are not getting from their membership. Do they want more networking and educational activities or just social events? I think we need to speak with members who are thinking about leaving to better understand why they want to leave and hopefully find a solution for them to stay.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

One thing SPJ does extremely well is making helpful resources available, like the code of ethics, the freelance community and so much more. I personally have not experienced anything that SPJ is not doing a wonderful job at. However, I am aware of the decline in membership.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

I joined SPJ in 2015 and have loved every minute of being involved. My SPJ experience has been very educational and given me amazing opportunities to network. SPJ is also important to me because of its backing of the First Amendment, which is something that I am very passionate about. I always tell journalists about joining that they have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I have yet to meet a member of SPJ that has not gained something from their membership.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

My best achievement in journalism so far is winning second place for the best special section from College Media Association in 2017. The special section win was for an investigation about Southeast Missouri State University’s reporting on sexual assaults and rapes on the campus. My role in the special section was retelling victim’s stories. My team’s reporting resulted in the university changing campus policies.

 

• Leah Wankum

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I excel in connecting journalists with the resources they need. SPJ has personally helped my career, as I’ve learned from others in the organization on how they’ve helped each other grow in the field.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I would prefer not to answer this question, as I don’t have first-person experience with the restructuring and its effects. Happy to learn more and provide an opinion later, but I’m sure our leadership would only make this change for the benefit of the organization and its members.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I have not had the opportunity.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would make sure SPJ continues its leadership role in the industry, as both a resource for journalists and non-journalists alike, not only to maintain the organization’s relevance in our society, but also to establish and foster standards for best practices in a fast-paced world.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

Again, we need to stay relevant to journalists, especially young journalists like me who have a more consumerist attitude toward membership. We need to consistently exemplify our value, not only because of our legacy as an institution, but also because no other organizations out there have the brand recognition to reach as many journalists as SPJ does.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ’s code of ethics is consistent and relevant. I know many journalists who turn to it for guidance. I’m not sure how SPJ is specifically NOT doing well, but declining membership speaks for itself. We need to get back in tune with membership, tap into their current needs and wishes and discover how to meet them.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ connects me to valuable resources, outstanding mentors and networking opportunities. Through SPJ and the KC Press Club, I have found camaraderie and friendship, something I think is especially important in this relatively isolating industry. I tell journalists about my own valuable experiences, because sometimes I think journalists (especially younger professionals) tend to isolate themselves as well, and tend to avoid relying on others for assistance.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

When SPJ recognized me as a national winner in breaking news in 2016, I was honored beyond words. It spurred me to action, when I was uncertain of my job prospects after completing my master’s degree. I am truly grateful for everything SPJ has done for me, and I’d love the opportunity to give back.

*****

Region 8 coordinator (choose one)

• Kathryn Jones

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I joined SPJ as an idealistic student in journalism school at Trinity University in San Antonio. I still have my original membership certificate, which I’ve kept with me on my many moves around Texas. It’s now framed and displayed in my office at Tarleton State University, where I’ve taught journalism for the past five years. Previously, I spent more than 30 years as a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times Herald, a writer under contract and now a freelancer for The New York Times, and a writer-at-large and now contributing editor for Texas Monthly magazine. I also served as the editor of a community newspaper and I co-founded a news website.

I have a wealth and diversity of journalism experience that give me a broad perspective. In addition to my dedication to SPJ and mix of professional experience, I have the time, energy, self-motivation and industry contacts to be an effective coordinator.

Tarleton hosted the Region 8 conference in 2016, so I also have experience planning a major event. We put together panels on covering border issues, investigative journalism techniques, Google tools and data visualization, freelance writing, and ethical issues facing journalists. We also brought in Jackie Calmes, who’s covered the nation’s capital for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, as keynote speaker. The SPJ chapter also sponsors public panels throughout the annual Free Speech Week.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

Yes. Board members say it increases efficiency and communication. As long as it’s effective and representative, the size doesn’t matter as much to me.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

As someone who made a living and career at freelancing for more than 20 years, I’ve made SPJ more aware of the needs of freelance writers. I’ve spoken at SPJ conferences about freelance writing and also was a founding member of a freelance writers’ network in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I would like to continue efforts to recruit freelancers to join SPJ since many journalists in the region have left news organizations, either through buyouts or layoffs, and are now freelancing or even founding their own news websites.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I’d like to start a Region 8 blog with news about activities in the region, tips from experienced journalists, profiles of members doing interesting things in their careers, thoughts about current events pertaining to journalism, and other items of interest. This site also could share news about jobs or freelance opportunities in Region 8, such as the Mid-Atlantic Muckraker (great name!) Region 2 blog does. The blog could build a stronger bridge between university and professional chapters and, I hope, become a resource that would encourage more people to join SPJ.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

In addition to using the blog described above as a recruiting tool, I would reach out to young journalists and journalists in nontraditional jobs. Journalism job descriptions are changing and many young journalists I know perceive SPJ as an organization for “older,” established writers and broadcasters. Certainly, many of us got involved in SPJ in university chapters and that’s a good way to grow membership, especially if the membership fee could be trimmed to $30 or even $25.

But I also want to encourage universities that don’t have an SPJ chapter to start one and reach out to interns and young journalists working full-time and part-time at a variety of journalism organizations, including nontraditional ones. Mentoring and networking could be a strong draw.

I suspect the drop in SPJ membership also has to do with the declining employment in traditional journalism outlets. One way to reach out to that base is to share job news, links to job banks, and include conference sessions on how to reinvent oneself after a career jolt. I also would reach out to bloggers, journalism website entrepreneurs, and others who have found new ways to continue their journalism careers.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ is the guiding light in journalism for ethics and First Amendment issues. I’d like to see Region 8 support other advocacy organizations, such as the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas that champions pro-journalism legislation and fights attempts to water down the Texas Public Information Act. The other thing SPJ does well is staging the national conference. The breakout sessions are informative and it’s exciting to meet and learn from other journalists across the nation. The conference really gets attendees inspired.

One thing SPJ is not doing well is reaching out to the many people in journalism who have been displaced because of layoffs, buyouts, or consolidation. Perhaps we could have a “hardship” status for people who would like to be involved but who are currently out of work and cannot pay the membership fee.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

Journalism is under attack as never before. Seeking truth and reporting it present new challenges, and one of those is public trust. Journalists’ ethics, accuracy and fairness are under intense scrutiny from those in power who want to undermine our credibility. SPJ’s Code of Ethics is more important than ever for journalists in this changing, volatile environment. So is speaking with a collective voice and explaining why journalism matters. SPJ is in the best position to do this.

I tell journalists they should join SPJ to learn about jobs and industry trends, hone their skills and learn new ones from peers who are trying different tools and techniques, feel a sense of camaraderie and pride in preserving democracy and defending the principles of free speech, and to meet and connect with other professionals across the nation.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I’m proudest of an award I won in 2011 for promoting open government — the Nancy Monson Award given by the Texas Press Association and Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. The award was for news stories and columns I wrote as a small-town newspaper editor about a mayor pro tem and her husband, a former police chief, who used their positions to procure a city job for her son/his stepson, even though he had a criminal record. He lied on his job application about his criminal past, which I uncovered by gumshoe reporting and tracking down public records in three counties.

When I ran the stories on the front page, the community blowback was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Readers canceled subscriptions; advertisers canceled ads. The owners of the newspaper were not happy, either. I received hate mail and never worked in my office without keeping the door locked. But I persevered because of the principles I learned from SPJ — to hold those in power accountable, to be accurate and fair, and to be courageous in reporting a story I knew was going to be unpopular.

 

• Bal Joshi

withdrew from race

*****

Region 9 coordinator (choose one)

• Ed Otte

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

With two years of experience as regional director, I’ve worked with the pro chapter boards in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. And involvement with two recent regional conferences — 2018 and 2015 in Denver — as well as the Mark of Excellence contest will provide continuity.

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

The smaller board should provide for more efficiency, especially in relations with the executive director and the headquarters staff. It is a significant change and should demonstrate immediate benefits. A concern is that pro and college chapters will continue to have access to the new board members. That communication and response are vital for a smooth transition.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

While serving as president of the Colorado Pro chapter, we expanded our outreach to college journalism programs in the state and provided educational programs at the Denver Press Club. (The programs were taped and posted online.) While on the national board, I worked on the regional fund task force. The small group, led by Lauren Bartlett, established strong oversight rules for pro and college chapters.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

Help implement the fund oversight rules — they’re needed to ensure transparency and chapter stability. Financial strength helps nurture chapter activity, outreach efforts and maintain SPJ’s visibility.

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

College students and campus chapters offer the most potential for membership growth. Regional coordinators should work with the chapter advisers to grow membership and then with pro chapters to attract working journalists.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ does two things very well — emphasize media ethics and work with other national organizations in protecting public access to government records and meetings. This occurs at the local and national levels. In this political climate, SPJ needs to react faster to defend the First Amendment and the work of journalists. Given the shrinking resources of nearly all journalism organizations and media outlets, partnerships with other organizations — again at the local and national levels — are vital.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

SPJ is a counterweight to the groups that claim fake news is the norm and that the press is the enemy of the people.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

Most satisfying achievement occurred while serving as executive director of the Colorado Press Association. Our member newspapers partnered twice with the Denver bureau of The Associated Press to conduct statewide surveys on access to public records. The results, a package of stories by newspaper reporters and AP staff, ran in dailies and weeklies. They raised awareness about abuses in local government, school districts and law enforcement. They also produced legislation that improved public access to the records.

 

• Rhett Wilkinson

1 – Why are you the best candidate for this position?

Having been a journalist in multiple states in Region 9, and four areas within one state, I know it rather well, understanding various cultures within the region. This enables me to be an excellent voice for the region and see that it needs more folks committed to journalism leading and working for its media outlets.

I have already volunteered for journalism. I co-founded a magazine in college and saw a billboard go up in town on the topic of an article I wrote just two weeks earlier. I have studied Federal Election Commission documentation and challenged the Secret Service, writing one or more stories for each action. All of that was for free.

I have demonstrated abilities in the craft, having worked for The Inquisitr, Vote Smart, Patch and Bleacher Report, with my work being seen in ESPN, Pew and USA Today.

I have ideas that are specific about inspiring the people who are most likely to get involved in journalism — getting field representatives onto campuses and offering free memberships to new college students, which is critical given the decline of the craft. I also understand modern tools journalism needs today. (For example, I know why Google+ is the most important sharing platform.)

2 – Do you support the new smaller structure of SPJ’s board of directors? Is this a significant change? What specifically do you like or not like?

I do, and I think it is. I like that it will be able to be more nimble. I know that is cliché, but I believe that entities lose effectiveness soon after reaching a certain size.

3 – What is a specific change you have made or helped make within SPJ?

I am still looking forward to that opportunity, having been a member for just five years.

4 – What is a specific change you would make within SPJ if you were elected?

I would like for SPJ to visit campuses and inspire students to do journalism. The key is getting at the heart of the issue of journalism in decline. That is through influencing the hearts and minds of the people who are determining what to do with their lives.

Field representatives could do this work, or I would do it if there were not enough resources for that. (And even with field representatives, I would probably still do it.) My work schedule allows it since I can work — and take off time — whenever I want.

I also would want to be an ambassador of a program for free memberships for students entering college. (See below.)

5 – SPJ’s membership is declining. How would you address this?

I would allow free memberships for students entering college. These would last a year to two years, long enough for the students to make a decision on their major while also not binding SPJ to costs of doing that too long. This could also allow for SPJ to save money by doing this in lieu of scholarships.

The larger problem is that there are less people involved in journalism, so those people most likely to make a decision to do it need to be incentivized to pursue it.

6 – What is one thing SPJ is doing well? One thing SPJ is not doing well?

SPJ is doing great at reminding its members that they are doing critical work, through methods including, but not limited to, its awards and how it communicates in its emails. It needs to be more proactive as an advocate of journalism and its protections, though it is engaged in proactive action at that as we speak.

7 – Why is SPJ important to you? What do you tell journalists who ask why they should join?

The SPJ helps the public understand the importance of journalism and reminds its members of that, and does it in various ways — public communications and awards as just two examples. It provides notifications about open positions and has local chapters. It has provided mechanisms to advocate for journalism. I used a freedom-of-the-press graphic provided after Trump kept media from a press conference for my social media profiles. It provides opportunities to meet others and thus learn about their efforts to bring corruption to light and hold elected officials in check. And its trainings are excellent, since our work is too important to not be optimized.

I would tell journalists that it’s important to be part of the best advocacy organization in the nation for their craft.

8 – What is your best moment or achievement in journalism?

I studied Federal Election Commission documents to discover that Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) had used campaign funds for Disney World and that she had a missing report per her expenditure disclosures. I volunteered to do this.

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

As Buzzfeed might say: 23 things from the SPJ board packet for this weekend

Items in the packet for Saturday’s SPJ national board meeting include (watch from home via livestream starting at 9 a.m.; the pages note where to find the item in the packet):

1 – There will be five Ted Scripps Leadership Institute sessions in SPJ’s next fiscal year (p. 24). The places and dates haven’t been announced yet, other than: Region 10 in July, Region 5 in August and Region 6 in November.

2 – SPJ expects to have a $1.2 million budget for the coming year (p. 25).

3 – There are four new chapters seeking to be chartered, including American University in Bulgaria (p. 36). Only one chapter is being considered for inactivation (the number might grow when this year’s annual reports come in – or don’t come in).

4 – At least 14 people have committed to run for positions on the national board – including two for secretary/treasurer (p. 37). A few others who are considering running are named here, too. [Editor’s note: I am planning to run for re-election as Region 2 director. If anyone who would like to run for that or any other national SPJ position, contact Nominations Committee Chairman Sonny Albarado at salbarado@spj.org.]

5 – The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation had $12.3 million in holdings as of Jan. 31, 2015 (p. 38). Also, SPJ and SDX are working on a transition of a new division of duties and responsibilities.

6 – Did you know SPJ is helping to manage other journalism associations? Read the list. (p. 42) SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel says this “further cement[s] SPJ’s role in the journalism landscape: to be the ‘umbrella’ organization that helps other groups better reach their mission.”

7 – SPJ and other journalism organizations are talking about ways to make it easy for people to join multiple groups at once (p. 43).

8 – The next SPJ JournCamp – a day of professional training – will be June 13 in New York City (p. 45). Other cities being considered: San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Houston or Dallas, New Orleans and Boston.

9 – “Since September, SPJ has distributed 48 news releases and statements…. The topics that have garnered the most traditional and social media attention are SPJ’s statement on the Charlie Hebdo attack; our statement and other Tweets regarding the FOI Improvement Act; our statement regarding the Columbia Journalism Review’s Rolling Stone report; and our statements regarding Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s attempt at creating a state-run news service.” (p. 46)

10 – For the first time, SPJ collaborated with several other journalism organizations in judging SPJ’s New America Award. Our partners included: the Asian American Journalists Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (p. 48).

11 – There will be a stronger effort this year to train delegates to the national convention, so they’re familiar with procedures and protocol (p. 50).

12 – Why is the national convention in September every year? It’s complicated – but not mandatory (p. 51).

13 – The post-graduate membership rate is available for three years. There is talk of extending it to four (p. 54).

14 – SPJ now has five communities, which are groups related by a common thread, other than geography (p. 56).

15 – When should SPJ issue a statement about the death of a journalist? (p. 59)

16 – About 41 percent of SPJ’s members do not belong to a chapter (including 38 percent in Region 2), which means they aren’t represented by a delegate on business matters at the national convention. A group is going to look at ways of giving that 41 percent representation. Again, it’s complex and there are no easy answers (p. 62).

17 – The pro/student membership breakdown for Region 2 is 597 pro (78 percent) and 172 student (22 percent). The largest chapter in the region is Washington, D.C., Pro, with 146 members (p. 67).

18 – The method for deciding on SPJ awards (Distinguished Teaching, Ethics, Fellows of the Society, and others) might change this year (p. 76).

19 – The SPJ Awards and Honors Committee studied whether any SDX awards given to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams should be revoked, in light of his six-month suspension (p. 103)

20 – The SPJ Diversity Committee is working on a way to pay tribute to former SPJ President Reggie Stuart through a minority management training program (p. 111).

21 – The SPJ Ethics Committee and the International Community have worked together to translate the new SPJ Code of Ethics into several foreign languages (p. 112).

22 – Since November, the SPJ Legal Defense Fund Committee has considered six cases of legal action, but didn’t award any grants (p. 121).

23 – The SPJ Student Community is gathering information and feedback about internships, which are becoming rarer because of concerns about labor law (p. 123).

 

 

 

 

 

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