Posts Tagged ‘Sigma Delta Chi’


SPJ meetings become open; sponsorship policy passed

One significant thing about the Feb. 2 electronic meeting of the SPJ national board is that the public finally was invited to participate. (The most important item of business, though, was a new sponsorship policy, which is addressed later in this post.)

The board has been holding electronic meetings for years, and no one has given it much thought that they were inaccessible to observers. We’re a journalism organization, committed to transparency, yet we’ve been excluding anyone who might want to hear what we’re doing.

That finally changed this month, with a dial-in number that let SPJers (and anyone else) join the call and speak up during a public comment period. Only a handful of people took advantage of it this time, but it was a good start. Kudos to SPJ President J. Alex Tarquinio and the SPJ staff for following through and making this happen.

Highlights from the meeting:

• SPJ board member Tess Fox will restart SPJ’s Generation J, an electronic community for early-career professionals.

• The board unanimously approved adding an SPJ campus chapter at the University of Michigan.

• A committee is reviewing about 160 proposals for workshops and breakout sessions for EIJ 19 in San Antonio. Further details are posted on p. 37 of the board meeting packet.

• Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie talked about plans for celebrating SPJ’s 110th anniversary, including a logo and merchandise.

• Board members were less enthused about commemorating the 50th anniversary of SPJ admitting women. Region 10 Director Donald Meyers said it’s a “joyous” milestone that shows SPJ’s progress. But at-large director Lauren Bartlett said the focus should be on celebrating women, not pointing out SPJ’s exclusion of women for most of its history. Bethel McKenzie noted that Sigma Delta Chi was an all-male fraternity to start.

The board unanimously voted to have board members work with the SPJ staff to recommend ways to celebrate women in 2019. Secretary-Treasurer Matt Hall tried to make an amendment to have board members Sue Kopen Katcef, Yvette Walker and Bartlett as the study group, but Tarquinio said the group must be formed first, then the members appointed.

• Bethel McKenzie said the staff’s main focus for fiscal year 2020 is to close a budget deficit. She expects the deficit to be higher than the $41,000 shortfall approved in the fiscal year 2019 budget last year. More detail is included in a budget memo on page 42 of the board packet. Some factors: the loss of about $54,000 in association management revenue; the possibility of renting out the basement at SPJ’s headquarters building in Indianapolis; not filling the vacant deputy executive director position. (The memo mentions the possibility of raising dues for the first time in 13 years; the board declined to consider that.)

• SPJ is waiting on our current EIJ partner, RTDNA, to decide whether to continue the partnership for EIJ 21 in Minneapolis. Bethel McKenzie said she asked RTDNA for an answer by March. SPJ is considering alternative 2021 locations if RTNDA is not a partner.

• Bethel McKenzie said the tentative plan is to hold three Scripps Leadership Institute sessions this year — in Kansas City, Atlanta and Cincinnati. (Editor’s note: The focus of the sessions has changed from SPJ leadership training for pros and students to general leadership training, without an SPJ focus, for college students.)

• At my request, a discussion about SPJ’s proposed new sponsorship policy started in open session, rather than executive session. After a summary by President-Elect Patti Gallagher Newberry, it continued into executive session to discuss aspects that involve our EIJ partner, RTDNA. Other executive session topics were the fiscal year 2020 SPJ budget, potential new partnerships, and an upcoming evaluation of the executive director. The session lasted 1 hour and 8 minutes.

• Back in open session, the board unanimously approved a change in the new process for evaluating the executive director. It will no longer involve a survey of former staff members.

• The board approved a working group’s outline for how to conduct future reviews of the executive director. There will be eight topics for evaluation, including budgeting, fundraising and partnerships, with general and specific questions in each area.

• Also in open session, the board approved an amendment to a sponsorship policy it approved on Dec. 1. (See below for the final approved version.)

This marks the second time in two months the board changed its mind on the policy. A task force presented a proposal leading up to the Dec. 1 board meeting. During the meeting, the board amended two items, then passed the amended version.

On Feb. 2, the board changed course and reverted back to the initial version.

The final changes are in two areas:

• An attempt to put a tighter control on ideas pitched by sponsors has been removed. On Dec. 1, the board decided that when sponsors “propose session ideas and speakers,” those proposals “can be rejected.” The final version strikes “can be rejected.”

• Another Dec. 1 amendment was: “Sponsor or grant money will not be used to pay speakers.” The final version says: “SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to provide fees to speakers.”

The board voted to override the Dec. 1 amendments and return to the initial proposal, which RTNDA supports. (As long as there as an EIJ partnership, the partners have to agree on a sponsorship policy.)

I was the only SPJ board member to vote against the new version. I supported the Dec. 1 amendments.

During the Feb. 2 meeting, I was assured that the final version makes the EIJ Planning Committee a stopgap against a poor proposal by a sponsor. However, the final language — “Proposals will be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee” — doesn’t expressly say the committee can reject a proposal. “Vetted” is ambiguous and could be interpreted as “reviewed.”

I also was assured that a provision that “the Committee and its designated producer will assume full responsibility for participants, topics, times, places, etc.” is a safeguard. But “full responsibility” is ambiguous, too, and could be interpreted as making sure panelists show up and equipment works.

I voted no on this final proposal because I think we need a firewall between sponsor’s money and the substance of conference sessions. A sponsor may support Freedom of Information, for example, but should not dictate who serves on a panel, the questions asked, the material covered, who moderates and similar details.

This example is not hypothetical. This whole review began because SPJ chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego objected to the Charles Koch Institute paying $20,000 to sponsor an FOI session.

SPJ responded poorly to critics, promising them that the Charles Koch Institute did not plan the session, which turned out to be incorrect.

When a task force later looked into what happened and recommended a new policy, that review included a survey. SPJ members who responded strongly agreed that a firewall has to be in place between sponsor money and conference session. I agree with that sentiment and wish the board listened to it.

I didn’t mind the Charles Koch Institute sponsorship for a number of reasons, but only if a firewall existed.

Here is the final version of the new sponsorship policy:

  • Both media and non-media entities will be allowed to sponsor sessions/events, and to propose session ideas and speakers. Proposals will be vetted by the EIJ Planning Committee. Once proposals are accepted, the Committee and its designated producer will assume full responsibility of for participants, topics, times, places, etc.
  • Neither media nor non-media entities may offer speaking fees for sessions/events they sponsor. SPJ, RTDNA or the EIJ Planning Committee may choose in certain circumstances to use sponsor or grant monies to provide fees to 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.


Introducing/remembering Austin Kiplinger

Several years ago, I used to edit the Washington, D.C., Pro chapter’s newsletter, called Dateline. I started a feature called “Introducing…,” a monthly Q&A with a chapter member.

One of my favorites was with Austin H. Kiplinger, editor emeritus of Kiplinger Washington Editors, an SPJ luminary who died Friday at age 97.

This was in 2007, as he and the chapter each (coincidentally) celebrated their 75th anniversary with SPJ. (It’s not clear if he had the most years of SPJ/SDX membership ever, but it’s possible.)

[Here, here and here are some clips in which Kiplinger’s wisdom, eloquence and humor come across.]

Kiplinger, a member of the D.C. Pro Hall of Fame and 2014 lifetime achievement award winner with the chapter, typed his answers on two yellow pages and mailed them back — after editing my questions a little, for the better. The heading on his answers is “AHK Intvu for Jan. 2007 Dateline (SDX).” He used a black pen to carefully edit himself.

kiplinger

Here is what he wrote:

INTRODUCING… Austin H. Kiplinger

Where are you from? I was born in Washington of parents who had recently moved here from Columbus, Ohio. My father started on the Ohio State Journal and then transferred to the Associated Press in Columbus. During World War I, he came to Washington to cover the Treasury for the Associated Press.

Have you always been a journalist? Yes. Even before I was getting paid for it; I edited a paper for my high school Latin Class “Ad Ovum Usque Mala.” Then I edited the Western Breeze at the Western High School in Washington, and the Areopagus magazine of commentary at Cornell. But I did get paid for doing string reporting for the Ithaca Journal while I was an undergraduate at Cornell.

When did you join Sigma Delta Chi? I joined in 1936 at Cornell while I was working for the Ithaca Journal (I got $4 a week for my work.)

How long have you been a member of the Washington Chapter? I’m not sure. I may have joined in 1939 when I was working as a junior reporter on the Kiplinger Washington Letter.

What kind of publications have you worked for? I have worked in every known form of journalism (except blogging). I’ve reported and written for dailies (the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Journal of Commerce), weeklies (The Kiplinger Letters), monthlies (Changing Times, The Kiplinger Magazine), broadcasting ABC and NBC in Chicago during the political convention years of the 1950s, and now electronic media (Kiplinger.com).

What was your best journalism moment? There have been so many vivid experiences, it is hard to pick the best one. One of the most dramatic (and exhausting) was the day of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. I got word of the shooting in Dallas at about 1 o’clock on that Friday afternoon. I was at our circulation offices in suburban Maryland and I dashed to the office. We already had a draft of the week’s letter ready for the press. It dealt with the political problems President Kennedy was experiencing, and it would have sounded almost ghoulish if it had been read on Monday morning. That was scrapped, and for the next 12 hours we scoured the city, covering our sources on the Hill and throughout government and elsewhere for every scrap of judgment we could get on Lyndon Johnson, the new President. In retrospect, that Letter was a good solid job which has held up remarkably well over the years.

What was the oddest thing you ever experienced on the job? I don’t quite know. I do remember keeping a telephone line open for nearly two hours at the hotel room of Vice President Alben Barkley on the day he announced he was not going to run for President. When the telephone operator asked me who to charge the call to, I said “charge it to the Vice President,” which now, these many years later (54 years), does seem a little cheeky. But then reporters are supposed to use their ingenuity and I used mine.

Why do you belong to SDX, SPJ? Because it is an effective vehicle for interesting bright young prospects in our great profession, and one of the best guardians of ethics and honesty in the preparation of the news.

 

A fever over the Code

Here is SPJ review topic number 2 this year: the venerable code of ethics. (The first topic, in the previous post, was whether SPJ should update its name).

There have been several versions of the code. The first one dates to 1926, when Sigma Delta Chi (as SPJ was known at the time) “borrowed” a code from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Sigma Delta Chi wrote its own code in 1973. It was updated in 1984, 1987 and 1996.

About four years ago, then-SPJ President Kevin Smith asked the Ethics Commitee, which I chaired, to review the Code of Ethics and consider whether it should be updated again.

That effort was put on hold, though. SPJ was in the midst of publishing a new edition of a book of journalism ethics case studies. Since the book contained the SPJ Code of Ethics, the sentiment among committee members was that this was not the right time to change the code.

Now, in 2013, there is renewed interest in reviewing and possibly updating the code.

Some say parts of the code are dated and, in particular, it doesn’t address new technology, such as social media.

I, however, see the code as a set of structural principles that don’t change because of new methods of collecting and distributing information. The underpinnings of ethical journalism remain the same.

Nonetheless, SPJ is soliciting opinions about the current code and whether and how it should be changed, a little or a lot.

Please share your thoughts by taking this survey.

Then, look at this page on Google Docs to see what others have said.

As of this writing, 92 people had answered.

On the question of whether the code should be updated, 35 said “yes” (38 percent) and 24 said “no” (26 percent). The remaining 33 people (36 percent)  said “not sure – but it’s good to review.”

SPJ will continue the discussion at the chapter and regional level this year and next year. If the consensus is that changes are needed, there will be a draft for delegates to consider at next year’s convention in September in Nashville.

A new Society

SPJ is in the midst of two lengthy public reviews.

One is: What should we be called? (More on the second review in the next blog post.)

Sigma Delta Chi was the original name of the organization. It was founded as a fraternity in 1909 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

In 1960, the fraternity became a professional organization.

The next change came in 1973 — to Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi.

“Sigma Delta Chi” was dropped from the name in 1988.

Now, we are thinking about another alteration of the name – to the Society of Professional Journalism (or maybe something else).

For a fuller explanation of the reasoning behind the proposal, read what Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky wrote on his SPJ blog.

At this year’s national convention, Michael submitted a resolution suggesting a new name of “Society for Professional Journalism,” focusing on the act of journalism rather than the people who practice it.

Scroll down through the comments on Michael’s blog to read my reaction to his proposal.

Whether you agree with either – or neither – of us, please share your opinion of the name-change proposal. The SPJ board would like to know what all members think.

SPJ President David Cuillier has formed a task force to investigate a name change, including the associated expenses and how it would be perceived. (I recently was added to the task force.)

Is this a worthwhile change? Does it makes sense?

Do you have an alternate idea for a new name?

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