Posts Tagged ‘Tom McKee’


SPJ correctly decides on neutral ballots

On Dec. 11, the SPJ national board approved a neutral process for future elections. There will be no “seal of approval” or stars, check marks or other symbols on the ballot indicating the preferences of a Nominating Committee.

This is a victory for keeping SPJ elections more fair and pure.

Advocates who wanted to have a Nominating Committee nudge voters toward certain candidates had good intentions — trying to get the most qualified and capable people in office.

But it was an unnecessary step. Voters can make good choices if they have sufficient information; they don’t need to be protected from themselves. The better approach for SPJ elections is to provide thorough information about candidates through Quill, online forums, Twitter chats, podcast, questionnaires and more. That will be our philosophy for future elections.

The debate about the Nominating Committee is tied into a new governance structure for SPJ. Over a two-year period, the national board will shrink from 23 people to nine people.

We will get away from the idea that regional directors are needed to represent the thoughts of each of the 12 regions, which is a fallacy, since differences of opinion in SPJ never align or divide by geography. We will move toward a system of smart, competent board members representing everyone, with a streamlined, more efficient way of discussing and making decisions. I fully support the new approach.

The lone remaining detail for the transition was forming a Nominating Committee and what work it should do. The committee will find and recruit strong candidates to run for national board seats (also an excellent change).

But it will not issue opinions on who the best candidates are (a proposal that was up for debate). There will be no “seal of approval” for committee-preferred candidates on the ballot (a bad idea that would have tilted elections) or anywhere else.

The board voted 10-3 in an electronic meeting on Dec. 11 (with 10 absences) in favor of a plan to limit the Nominating Committee’s work to finding candidates and making sure they meet the basic qualifications spelled out in the SPJ bylaws. Here are the requirements to be eligible to serve as SPJ’s president or president-elect:

   To serve as president or president-elect a person must be a member in good standing of the Society and must previously have served as a member of the board of directors, or the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, or been the chair of a national committee, a professional chapter or community president who also has been or is a member of a national committee.

The 10 board members voting in favor of the Nominating Committee limit were: me, Alex Tarquinio, Lynn Walsh, Patti Gallagher Newberry, Rebecca Baker, Tom McKee, Jane Primerano, Michael Koretzky, Matthew Hall and Michele Day.

Those opposed were: Joe Radske, Lauren Bartlett and Sue Kopen Katcef.

As a compromise idea before the vote, Bartlett suggested a point system, in which each qualification that a candidate met (board member, SDX board member, committee chair and so on) earned a point. I opposed this idea. This would be the first time that SPJ would tell candidates that hitting every item on the list would be seen as better than meeting the minimum qualifications. That’s an unfair change to impose right before someone runs for office, and I don’t agree that checking every box makes the candidate more qualified.

Overall, the board had a good debate and made the right choice.

A new regional director, a nomination process debate and more

A recap of the SPJ national board’s electronic meeting on Nov. 4:

• The board chose Tom McKee to be the next Region 4 director, out of six applications. McKee will take over for Patti Gallagher Newberry, who vacated the position when she was elected national secretary-treasurer at EIJ 17 in September.

McKee’s credentials are excellent. For five years, he has been the president of the Cincinnati Pro chapter, a three-time winner of Small Chapter of the Year. McKee has worked for WCPO-TV for 28 years, including the last as a reporter and multimedia journalist.

After a debate about which candidate to select, two members of the board voted no — Lynn Walsh and Joe Radske.

• President Rebecca Baker said SPJ received about 70 applications for the executive director job. Joe Skeel is scheduled to leave the position on Dec. 1. A committee is reviewing the applications and will interview finalists.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Associate Executive Director Tara Puckey as interim executive director for the period between Skeel’s departure and when the next executive director takes over.

• The board reviewed feedback about EIJ 17 that was collected in surveys through an email and on the conference app. There are too many comments to capture here, but SPJ’s staff and board are talking about the feedback.

• The board debated part of the process tied to the new governance structure that delegates approved at EIJ 17 (shrinking the national board from 23 to 9 over a two-year period). There will be a seven-member Nominating Committee, an improvement on the current informal process of the past president having to find and recruit candidates.

A sticking point on the nominations process is whether the committee should be able to “recommend” candidates to voters, or designate some as “qualified,” or some other indication of preference.

I argue against that approach. I don’t mind a committee recruiting good candidates, and making sure they meet minimum objective criteria (i.e., a member in good standing, a former chapter president), but I think voters should be trusted to make sound choices, without being told which way to vote. I suspect that voters who don’t pay attention to the campaigns will defer to the Nominating Committee’s “recommendations,” turning an election into more of a ratification.

The best way to ensure good choices is to examine the candidates and their positions on issues as much as we can. I would like us to do candidate events – online forums, Twitter chats, questionnaires, podcasts and even an EIJ session. Endorsements are OK, but they should not appear on a ballot.

Board member Matt Hall also suggested adding a “cooling-off” period. Someone would have to wait a certain period between serving on the Nominating Committee and running for the board. (I favor this idea.)

• The board voted in favor of moving the bylaws governing Quill magazine from SPJ to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, which funds and oversees Quill. Skeel said the transfer clarifies the roles of SDX and SPJ.

Walsh cast the only vote against the move.

 

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