Posts Tagged ‘Tom Johnson’


Board votes 13-3 against new boundaries, contraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some points raised during Monday’s electronic board meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the spring SPJ board meeting

Better late than never…

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

Membership

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board

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

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

Three board meetings, one election, one business session

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

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

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

 

Sept. 18:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other business:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sept. 21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oct. 27:

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

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

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

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

The items on the regular agenda were:

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

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

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

 

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

The election results were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

At the business meeting, delegates passed resolutions:

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

• Commemorating slain journalists worldwide

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

• Urging Congress to reform the Freedom of Information Act

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

• Criticizing excessive information control by public information officers

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

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

Tech upgrade for SPJ

The SPJ national board agreed on Tuesday (Nov. 18) to spend some money – $32,000 to improve the society’s technology systems.

As a memo on the project described, SPJ’s technology has three parts – an in-house database (called iMIS), a hosting provider and a website.

The database and the website were launched at around the same time in the mid-1990s and were not integrated.

“Because our database wasn’t set up correctly in the first place, upgrades and web integration proved more difficult,” the memo from HQ says. “Over the years, those upgrades and integrations have led to a tangled web that complicate[s] day to day operations.”

One specific example is registrations for SPJ’s national conference, which have to be entered manually.

The project that the national board approved will create “one cohesive platform for almost everything we do,” the memo says.

This will lead to enhanced features on the website and more efficient, improved use of the database (this is boiling down the explanation greatly).

The project will happen in three parts. The first part will take four to six weeks. The second part will take six to nine weeks. If all goes according to plan, the improved member website will be available in late 2015.

This was the second time the national board has met by Skype. The meeting lasted about 13 minutes.

Sixteen of the 23 members of the national board participated in the call.

The vote in favor of the project and expenditure was 13-0. Those voting in favor were: me, Paul Fletcher, Lynn Walsh, Sue Kopen Katcef, Bill McCloskey, Alex Tarquinio, Jordan Gass-Poore’, Brett Hall, Becky Tallent, Michael Koretzky, Joseph Radske, Rob McLean, and Tom Johnson.

Mike Reilley and Patricia Gallagher Newberry were on the call, but didn’t vote. As president, Dana Neuts also didn’t vote. The president typically votes only to break a tie.

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