Posts Tagged ‘RTDNA’


New sponsorship policy approved

When the SPJ national board held an electronic meeting on Dec. 1, most of the meeting was in executive session for four topics:

  • the president’s report (including updates on personnel and vacancies for two appointed board seats)
  • Excellence in Journalism updates
  • a sponsorship task force report
  • an upcoming annual review of the executive director

A written part of the president’s report — on board structure, meetings, committees, priorities and more — was not in executive session and is part of the public meeting packet.

After discussing the sponsorship task force’s report in executive session, the board unanimously approved a new policy, after making two small changes from what the task force recommended.

The new SPJ policy:

  • Both media and non-media entities will be allowed to sponsor sessions/events, and to propose session ideas (but the proposals can be rejected). Proposals will be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee. Once proposals are accepted, the Committee and its designated producer will assume full responsibility for participants, topics, times, places, etc.
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may offer speaking fees for sessions/events they sponsor. (Sponsor or grant money will not be used to pay speakers.)
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may cover expenses for speakers participating in sessions/events they sponsor. SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to cover speaker expenses.
  • EIJ partners will retain the right of refusal over all sponsors, exhibitors or advertisers, with contracts reviewed by the executive directors of partner groups before accepting.
  • EIJ partners will disclose its policies on sponsorship of sessions/events to potential sponsors in the prospectus for EIJ19 in San Antonio and any other appropriate publications or web pages.

RTDNA, our EIJ convention partner for several years, is scheduled to review the same proposal later this week.

The sponsorship task force met for about two months. It was created after a few chapters protested in August that the Charles Koch Institute was to be a sponsor at EIJ 18 in September.

In 2003, SPJ passed a policy that did not allow sponsors to plan their own programs. However, because of turnover at SPJ headquarters and on the board, no one was aware of that policy as EIJ 18 was planned.

The 2003 policy also was approved before SPJ had a convention partner, so it needed to be reviewed and updated.

The board and SPJ’s headquarters gave out incorrect information about the Charles Koch Institute’s involvement in the EIJ 18 session it sponsored.

Also during the public portion of the Dec. 1 meeting, the board unanimously approved a process for evaluating SPJ’s executive director when the one-year mark arrives in March.

Bad communication, an apology: examining Koch sponsorship

Heading into this year’s national Excellence in Journalism convention, a few SPJ chapters criticized the national board and headquarters because the Charles Koch Institute was sponsoring a Freedom of Information Act session.

I didn’t mind the sponsorship, which appeared to mesh with an SPJ policy approved in 2003.

However, SPJ failed to give critics (and all SPJ members) accurate information — particularly about whether the Charles Koch Institute planned the session it sponsored. For that, I apologize. (Note: This piece reflects my views — not the SPJ board or anyone else.)

SPJ President J. Alex Tarquinio hinted at this in a column posted Oct. 24, writing that because of “a flurry of emails … some SPJ national board members became convinced that sponsors were not, in fact, involved in planning sessions.”

That characterization is technically true, but further explanation and context is in order.

In August, the Chicago Headline Club contacted SPJ Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie and then-President Rebecca Baker with concern about the Charles Koch Institute as an EIJ sponsor. This prompted thorough discussion by the SPJ and SDX boards and McKenzie of this and other sponsorships.

Tarquinio, as president-elect, agreed to form a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations by Dec. 1. That effort is underway. All SPJ members have been invited to take a survey on sponsorship questions. An online conversation will be held Nov. 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Irwin Gratz, a past SPJ president and incoming president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Board (now known as the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation Board), tracked down the approved 2003 policy and shared it with the boards during our discussion. Many of us weighed in on how the Koch sponsorship aligned with that policy.

Some key points:

  • “No money will be accepted from domestic or foreign governments, or from political organizations.”
  • “SPJ will control all aspects of the convention program. All convention programs will be on-the-record. People and organizations with positions directly opposed to those of any contributor may be invited to appear.”

This is the 2003 SPJ convention sponsorship policy

Since the policy was approved in 2003, SPJ has had plenty of turnover in its headquarters staff and on its board. As a result, it looks as if, when the Koch sponsorship was proposed and accepted, no one was aware of that policy.

(The task force has found that the SPJ board in 2008 approved an update to the policy. The two key points above did not change, but others did.)

A collective failure in communication compounded the problem. The SPJ and SDX boards reviewed the 2003 policy as if it governed the Koch agreement. Regional directors sent messages explaining and supporting the Koch agreement to all chapters, based on the same understanding.

Separately, though, our staff was proceeding differently with Koch and other sponsors, who were, indeed, allowed to plan sessions they sponsored.

It’s a legitimate question whether the 2003 policy applies now, since it was approved when SPJ held its own conventions, without partners (i.e., RTDNA) we have now. We can no longer say “SPJ will control all aspects of the convention program.”

Certainly, the policy needs to be re-examined and updated, which the task force is doing.

But the failure to provide accurate information was wrong, and we have ourselves to blame.

When I asked during the board’s Sept. 30 meeting if Koch planned the session it sponsored, Tarquinio said, “They did not plan it, but obviously we spoke with them and the process was a little [I’m not sure of the word she used here] this year because, as many of you know, Alison did have to step in for our program manager, who left in the middle of EIJ.”

(The sponsorship discussion during the Sept. 30 meeting is posted here, starting at about 45:40.)

McKenzie then told us that sponsors at that level picked from a choice of sessions. (McKenzie said that level was $25,000, but it actually was $20,000, according to the sponsorship task force.)

“They and any other sponsor at that level can plan their panel,” she said. “It’s their panel. It’s a sponsored panel.”

She said she chose the moderator, plus one panelist. Koch chose the other two panelists. “I reviewed their description and tweaked it, and sort of changed it a little bit,” McKenzie said. “So I was pretty heavy-handed in putting their panel together.”

She continued: “My understanding is, in the past, it hasn’t worked like that — that the sponsor pretty much picks, chooses the panel, chooses the description. I just was very involved in this particular panel.”

When I asked about the 2003 policy that said SPJ controls all aspects of the program, McKenzie said, “I was not aware of our policy at the time.”

Board member Lauren Bartlett mentioned “talking points” our headquarters staff gave the board on Sept. 24 about the Koch sponsorship, including this:

  • The institute doesn’t control anything about the session. It did not pick the topic or select the speakers, who are independent from the Koch foundation.

“No, that was inaccurate,” McKenzie told us.

Collectively, we failed and I understand the frustration of the Chicago Headline Club and others.

There is room for reasonable debate about appropriate sponsorship limits. But facts matter, too.

The Chicago Headline Club told its members that “the Charles Koch Institute, for example, is part of a secretive and complex family of groups whose goal is to advance the Koch brothers’ political ideologies.”

I note that as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Charles Koch Institute is legally prohibited from political advocacy (although I was called “naïve” to think this limitation is meaningful or obeyed).

Also, the Charles Koch Institute has a record of funding journalism efforts — such as with The Poynter Institute and the Newseum — that align with SPJ’s mission.

For example, from the Charles Koch Institute’s website:

Civil debate and the free exchange of speech and ideas — on our college campuses, in the arts, and in the press — allow us to challenge both ourselves and the status quo. In order to protect good ideas and speech, we must protect all ideas and speech, so long as they do not violate the person, property, or liberty of others.

Also:

The Media and Journalism Fellowship program is for aspiring and entrepreneurial journalists and story tellers. Our program offers media and creative professionals the opportunity to refine their skills while learning about the crucial role of free speech and a free press in our society.

The Poynter Institute was in a similar situation when it accepted money from the Charles S. Koch Foundation (the same organization, despite the variation in the name) to strengthen student publications.

Kelly McBride wrote about why Poynter was comfortable with the arrangement:

We pick the schools. We set the curriculum. We hire the faculty. We occasionally update our contacts at the Koch Foundation about our progress. I can personally attest that over the last year our contacts at the Koch Foundation gave us complete independence to run the program the way we saw fit. …

As an ethics specialist, I’m confident that we will uphold journalism values if we engage in a process of vetting projects, rather than sorting potential donors along a continuum of acceptable and unacceptable, then drawing a line.

If SPJ has the same firewall, I am comfortable with the same approach.

I don’t agree with all of the points raised by SPJ chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego. For example, Chicago insists that the SPJ Code of Ethics applies here. I disagree — the code is a set of guidelines for journalism, not deciding conference sponsorships.

Still, I apologize that we gave critics, and others, wrong information.

I couldn’t attend the FOIA session at EIJ because it conflicted with a national board meeting, but the Charles Koch Institute posted this about it:

At its 2018 Excellence in Journalism Conference last week, the Society of Professional Journalists held a panel discussion on use of the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Panelists included National Public Radio science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce and Jesse Franzblau, a policy analyst at Open the Government (OTG) — an organization that works to promote government openness through the use of access to information laws.

Starting with the premise that FOIA has allowed journalists to shine a light on government for more than 50 years, panelists explained how journalists can navigate FOIA for their benefit; how to find the right information and to isolate good stories; and how to ensure that they get the timely and complete answers from state officials.

The discussion coincided with OTG’s release its citizen’s guide to “America’s Forever Wars and the Secrecy that Sustains Them.” The project, which OTG policy analyst Emily Manna describes as helping the public understand FOIA’s role in “bringing transparency to issues vital to the public’s understanding of military and national security programs,” is supported by Open Society Foundations and the Charles Koch Institute.

An update for the board: budget, staff, and more

The SPJ national board held an electronic meeting on Saturday, part of a plan President Rebecca Baker announced when she took office: The board would hold meetings at four points during the journo-fiscal year instead of the traditional two (EIJ, on  spring).

This was the second of our two additional meetings. The first was in November.

My take: The additional meetings are useful. They help the board talk together to figure things out, rather than rely on lengthy email threads.

Highlights from Saturday’s meeting:

• Some SPJ partnerships with other organizations are ending or have already: ACES — The Society for Editing. RTDNA and its foundation (for managing finances). NAHJ (for managing finances — SPJ continues to handle membership and conference planning). But there might be a new partnership soon with another journalism organization.

Similarly, there might be some partnership changes at future EIJs.

• Several staff members at SPJ headquarters left in the last several months. Other people have been hired and the office is expected to be at full staffing shortly. Here is the current staff.

• HQ continues to work to address a budget shortfall that we have known about for several months.

• SPJ’s new Journalist on Call, Rod Hicks, has started his work.

• The scope of the Scripps Leadership Institute will change soon. Details on that will be announced later.

• There is no update on the investigation into money that was missing from the Region 10 fund.

• The board agreed to postpone a discussion of a possible change to the new requirements for oversight of regional funds. A task force is working on a comparable review and recommendations for new financial requirements for pro and campus chapters.

What the board and delegates did at EIJ16

Below is a recap of discussions and actions taken by the SPJ national board and convention delegates during Excellence in Journalism 2016 in New Orleans in September.

*****

SPJ national board meeting #1 (Sept. 18):

1) A few items from SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel’s staff report:
• The Native American Journalists Association would like to join NAHJ, RTDNA and SPJ for EIJ17.
• SPJ distributed 84 news releases from September 2015 to Aug. 19, 2016.
• SPJ’s social media followers were: 33,000 Facebook; 42,000 Twitter; 2,345 LinkedIn.

2) The board revoked the charters of three inactive chapters. It also designated 22 chapters as “inactive,” including one in Region 2 — Howard University. “Inactive” is an intermediate step. A chapter can easily be revived if there is interest, but this is a sign that there has been no sign of interest in a while.

3) On a related note, the board unanimously agreed that the money taken from the bank accounts of revoked chapters will go to a regional directors’ fund to be distributed, by request, to other chapters (and not just in the same region). First, under SPJ bylaws, the chapters that were revoked have 60 days to take action on how to distribute the money. The national board takes action if the local board does not.

3) The board went into executive session to talk about a possible investment and to do an evaluation of Skeel.

4) When the board reconvened in public session, it unanimously approved a motion by at-large director Bill McCloskey made a motion that SPJ consider reincorporating in another state. SPJ currently is incorporated in Illinois. Under Illinois law, SPJ and other nonprofit organization can’t take electronic votes. This makes it tricky for SPJ to do conference call and electronic meetings, and take any action.

5) The final action was a vote on a change in the awards process. Last year, the board voted to give the final approval on most SPJ national awards (minus the Wells Key). Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky decided this year that the board didn’t need to formally vote on these awards, but should have the right to call for a vote after reviewing the choices. At EIJ16, the board approved that update to the process. Two people voted against this change — me and Region 6 Director Joe Radske. [Note: I voted no because the new iteration of the process was not what the board decided last year — we wanted approval authority, not the ability to review.]

For more information about these and other topics, go to the board packet:
https://www.spj.org/pdf/boardmeeting/spj-board-meeting-agenda-2016-09-18.pdf

*****

SPJ national board meeting #2 (Sept. 18):

1) At-large director Bill McCloskey was again chosen to serve on the Executive Committee.

2) University at Maryland SPJ chapter member Maggie Gottlieb, who won a seat on the board as campus representative, also was added to the Executive Committee. Gottlieb and new campus representative Keem O. Muhammad were each nominated to serve on the Executive Committee, resulting in a secret vote within the board.

3) Bill McCloskey and I were chosen for the Finance Committee

4) The board talked about the process for choosing the Wells Key, resulting in a proposal to have the national board, and not just the Executive Committee, review nominations. After a period of debate on this and other points, the proposal was tabled. Three people voted against tabling the proposal — Koretzky, Radske and me.

*****

Conference business session (Sept. 20):

1) Delegates approved several resolutions as a group:
• Commending Mark Thomason for standing up to a Georgia judge who had him arrested and jailed because of a public records request he made
• Urging the University of Kentucky to comply with Kentucky’s public records law
• Urging President Barack Obama to abandon restrictions to getting government information
• Support increased protections for student journalists
• Support women in journalism
• Recognize Alistair Cooke’s contributions to British-American relations
• Thank outgoing SPJ President Paul Fletcher and the SPJ staff

2) A change in the bylaws to create a “supporter” category, in which people can donate money to SPJ without becoming full members, was approved by a voice vote.
First, there was some concern that the new category would steal people who might otherwise be members.
By a 69-31 vote, delegates supported preserving a provision that anyone in the “supporter” category would be ineligible for full membership.

3) Delegates approved a bylaws change that addresses a gap in representation of SPJ members who don’t belong to a chapter. The new process is to choose delegates in each region to represent unaffiliated members, at the same same rate (one delegate per 50 members) in place for chapter delegates.
The measure passed by a voice vote, with only D.C. Pro chapter President Kathy Burns opposed.

4) A resolution to start the process of renaming “Society of Professional Journalists” to “Society for Professional Journalism” was defeated 57-44.
[Note: After being opposed to this idea for a few years, I voted in favor this year. I think the proposed name now matches changes underway to make SPJ more open and inclusive.]

5) By a predominant voice vote, delegates tabled a resolution opposing requirements that college faculty give mandatory “trigger warnings.” The resolution did not oppose the warnings, which might precede possibly objectionable discussion topics in class; it challenged making those warnings mandatory. Ben Meyerson of the Chicago Headline Club, who moved to table the resolution, said it strays from SPJ’s journalism mission.

6) By a predominant voice vote, delegates approved a resolution supporting the rights of journalists to report on political campaigns without threats or reprisal. A first draft of the resolution was amended to remove references to specific presidential candidates, so it would apply to all presidential candidates and all journalists.

7) Delegates approved a resolution supporting transparency in media ownership.
An early draft of the resolution was aimed at Sheldon Adelson for his family’s secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, condemning “the manipulation of news outlets for personal gain by wealthy media owners everywhere.”
The broader revised version that passed condemned “the clandestine behavior of Adelson’s group leading up to the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and subsequent manipulation of news coverage.”
The revised resolution passed by voice vote, with two people voting no.

*****

Election results:

1) President-elect: Rebecca Baker — unopposed (926 votes)

2) Secretary-treasurer: J. Alex Tarquinio — unopposed (919 votes)

3) Director at-large (one open seat):
Rachel Wedding McClelland — 444 votes (winner)
• Jason Parsley — 271 votes
• Elle Toussi — 173 votes
• Alex Veeneman — 69 votes

4) Campus adviser at-large (one open seat):
Leticia Lee Steffen — 522 votes (winner)
• Chris Delboni — 395 votes

5) Regional directors
• Region 1: Jane Primerano (unopposed) — 142 votes
• Region 4: Patricia Gallagher Newberry (unopposed) — 77 votes
• Region 5: Michele Day (unopposed) — 88 votes
• Region 7: Kari Williams (unopposed) — 32 votes
• Region 8: Eddye Gallagher (unopposed) — 65 votes
• Region 9: Ed Otte (unopposed) — 47 votes

6) Student representative (two open seats)
Keem O. Muhammad — 414 votes (winner)
Maggie Gottlieb (of the University of Maryland) — 387 votes (winner)
• Emily Bloch — 282 votes
• Jessica Hice — 241 votes
• Katherine Rosenhammer — 84 votes

There were 1,016 votes, for a turnout of 16 percent.

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