Archive for the ‘renaming SPJ’ Category

Wearing your emotions

Wanna change SPJ’s name? Get a change of clothes.

This cotton T-shirt is available FREE in small, medium, large, and extra-large, while supplies last. Hat and cigar not included.

Terms and conditions…

You must attend the Excellence in Journalism convention in Nashville, specifically the session called Should SPJ Change Its Name — and Mission? It’s Saturday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m. in Ryman Studios H.

 I’d love for you to wear it that same afternoon, although once it leaves my grubby hands and gets into yours, I have no way to enforce that.

• Delegates will receive shirts before the mewling masses do – as long as they promise to wear their new shirts to the closing business session. Can’t enforce that, either, though.

You can get a shirt even if you hate the idea of changing SPJ’s name. As long as you don it that Saturday, you can wear it ironically.

Got no idea what I’m talking about? Here’s some bathroom reading…

More than a name change
Old excuses for new name
Fly in the newsprint

If you want to reserve your shirt, email me at Include your desired size, then pick it up at the session in Nashville. If you’re a delegate, mention that. Questions? Holler. But don’t ask me why I’m doing this. Because I dunno.

Fly in the newsprint

Journalists should never shoot the messenger. Especially since the messenger is often one of them.

But when I proposed changing SPJ’s name to the Society for Professional Journalism, some SPJers took to heart the expression, “Consider the source.” Here’s my favorite example.

Phil Rudell, the treasurer of the Central Ohio chapter, described my effort to his constituents like this

A poorly worded proposal to change the name of the organization to the Society for Professional Journalism. This came from Region 3 Director (and all-around gadfly) Michael Koretzky, which undoubtedly contributed to its defeat.

…which raises three questions:

  1. How was it poorly worded? I thought I was pretty damned articulate.
  2. Am I really such an asshole that any idea of mine instantly sucks?
  3. Isn’t being a gadfly a good thing? The dictionary definition is, “a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism.” Which sounds a lot like a journalist.

SPJ name change

Luckily, changing SPJ’s name – and mission – has avid support from less gadfly-ish SPJers than me.

Younger, too.

I’m 48 years old and served on SPJ’s Name Change Task Force. Last month, we turned in our report, which recommended (over my objection) SPJ keep its name the same.

But this paragraph was key…

The majority of those surveyed indicated an opposition to the name change, but we note that the vast majority of those who participated in our focus groups represented members 30 and older. Thus the very group that we are aiming to reach was the least represented.

…and in fact, no one on the task force was under 30. Phil Rudell, the gadfly-hating guy I mentioned above? He’s retired.

Old-time SPJers across the country told the task force the name change was “unnecessary” (Georgia), “goofy” (Washington State), and will “accomplish nothing” (Massachusetts). My favorite comment came from a retired professor who joined SPJ in 1954…

I can’t see any compelling reason to take any more time than necessary to dispose of this suggestion and get on about our business. Continued dedication to the goals of the society in turbulent media times is what’s needed.

Right. Stay the course. Because that always works.

Thankfully, many SPJers both younger and wiser than me favor a name change and all that comes with it.

SPJ rename

Here’s a half-dozen of them in their own words – a youth movement vs. no movement…

Monica Guzman

Monica GuzmanShe’s the lifestyle tech columnist for The Seattle Times and sits on the advisory board for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. In SPJ, she’s vice president of the Western Washington chapter and was one of Quill magazine’s “20 Journalists to Follow on Twitter”…

Anyone can commit acts of journalism. Anyone. The witness with an iPhone, the stakeholder with a passion, the person who tells her side of a critical story and the guy who broadcasts a rumor without taking steps to see if it’s true. Our democracy turns on the information that’s out there, and the information that’s out there is not shared exclusively – sometimes not even primarily – by people who would call themselves professional journalists.

If we believe that journalism is essential for democracy, why would we serve and inspire only some of the people who practice it? There should be a Society for Professional Journalism. It’s what this world demands.

SPJ Florida

SPJ name changeTwo weeks ago, the chapter’s board voted unanimously to support changing SPJ’s name and expanding its mission. All of the chapter’s officers graduated from college within the past seven years. (And lest you think they’re too young to excel, they won Large Chapter of the Year when they were even younger – in 2010.)

Says chapter president Jason Parsley (class of 2007)…

SPJ Florida understands the need to evolve. There are far more people in this country that support journalism versus journalists. Those people are potential members. Those people are our future.

The definition of journalist has devolved into an almost meaningless term. With the rise of blogs and social media, anybody can practice journalism. That’s why it’s so important to expand our mission and broaden our base. It’s time for our organization to grow – not shrink.

Gideon Grudo

SPJ renameHe’s special projects manager for Air Force Magazine and was previously managing editor of Florida’s largest gay publication. He’s a former SPJ national student board member, former vice president of SPJ Florida, and a current D.C. Pro member…

This organization by any other name would remain just as diverse. Thing is: SPJ already IS the Society for Professional Journalism. It’s just in denial about it – probably the same it was when it opened its doors to women five years after the Civil Rights Act.

Let’s be loving parents who are empathetic and attempt to teach, instead of being embittered aunts who are self-pitying and self-destructive. We have a great opportunity to be a beacon of education and light for a confused media and its more confused laborers.

Lindsey Cook

She’s the only computer science and journalism double major at the University of Georgia, interned at The Washington Post, and won a coveted AP-Google scholarship. She’s a student member of SPJ’s national board and Region 3’s assistant director.

In my short life as a coder – journalist? journo-supporter? – I’ve already had people claim I wasn’t a journalist. I’ve operated teleprompters and screened calls for Voice of America, and I’ve designed maps for The Washington Post. In which functions would I be able to call myself a journalist?

I’ve watched my coder/storyteller friends land jobs at the Texas Tribune and Google. These are people trained in storytelling who have chosen different tools with which to tell stories. They believe in the power of journaliSM. They support journaliSM.

Most likely, these coder journalists’ careers – just like most others entering the workforce – will look more like a jungle gym than a ladder. We’ll jump from a newspaper to a PR firm to a tech start-up and back again. We still love journalism. We’re still telling stories. Others may not consider us journalists.

In an organization struggling to maintain relevancy with a younger population with a more diverse skill set, do we really want to say to these people, “Come back when you work for a traditional newspaper”? No matter what you’re writing or where, if you support journalism, I’d like you to join the Society for Professional Journalism. Because practicing and supporting journalism is about more than what’s on your business card.

Lynn Walsh

walshA few months ago, she helped launch a new National Digital Content Desk for Scripps in Cincinnati, creating content for more than 30 newspapers and TV stations. In SPJ, she served as chairman of the Gen J committee and is now a member of the FOI Committee.

Deciding whether someone is a “journalist” is becoming more and more difficult – and that’s exciting. Why? For one, a group of white men huddled at a table in a small room with typewriters are not the only people determining what is “news.”

If something isn’t covered on the local news, it doesn’t mean a community isn’t talking about it. That’s exciting. It also can be frustrating for those trying to define what is journalism and who is journalism. For me, the questions should focus on how we can make obtaining information and telling important stories easier for everyone who wants to do so.

I also think that, while SPJ does participate in possible solutions to these questions, it can do more. To do that, SPJ needs to shift it’s priorities and reach out to people and organizations they traditionally haven’t. I think this can be done without changing a name, but if changing the name of SPJ means that it will do more for journalism and the people who care about it and the people fighting for it, then I’m all for it.

April Dudash

She covers Duke University for The Durham Herald-Sun. Before that, she was a military reporter. And before that, she interned in SPJ’s national headquarters, researching and reporting on freedom of information. She’s president of the North Carolina chapter.

I’m imagining myself at an awkward 16 years old, having just joined the high school newspaper – and wondering if I would have felt comfortable joining an organization titled, “Society of Professional Journalists.”

At that age, I had found a strong force in my life, one that would guide my passions and my early career. But as that fledgling journalist who barely knew what AP Style was, I wouldn’t have felt like I fit in with an organization dedicated specifically to “professional journalists.” I still needed to hatch, and SPJ could have been the incubator I desperately needed.

When I hear arguments about maintaining SPJ’s current name, a lot of times it’s about maintaining exclusiveness. It’s about being part of the it-crowd, maintaining the “club” atmosphere.

And yet we argue this as we keep accepting associate membership dues, for those who simply “support SPJ’s mission.”

Yes, the role of journalism is changing, as we experiment with online platforms and as more people pick up home video cameras and film a neighborhood segment that ends up on the 6 o’ clock news. Then there are the community activists who submit FOIA requests and crack down on city government, even though they haven’t received formal journalism training.

With waning public trust in the media nowadays, we need more people on our side, to defend us and who want to align themselves with our mission, for the benefit of their neighborhoods, their schools, their local government – to seek the truth and report it, sometimes no matter what the cost.

spj rename

Someday, SPJ will change its name and widen its reach.

These young SPJers will get elected to the national board, and more than one will become president. So the question isn’t, “When’s this gonna happen?”

It’s, “What’ll be left of SPJ when it does?”

And, “Will it be too late by then?”

What “for” looks like

SPJ name changeIf SPJ becomes the Society for Professional Journalism, what else changes, besides a letter and a preposition?

Let us count the ways.

First, though, let’s be clear about what doesn’t change.

With a new name, SPJ morphs into an advocacy group for good journalism. But it won’t shed its current mission of representing and training those who already do (or want to learn) good journalism.

Then again, if you keep adding items to the menu without dropping some, you end up big, bloated, and boring – just like Denny’s. And no one goes to Denny’s on purpose.

So here are three short, sharp examples of what change might look like…

What to cut…

SPJ’s Ethics Committee does a lot of hard work no one cares about. Position papers, for instance. The committee has posted eight online, from accountability (24 page views per month in 2013) to plagiarism (the most popular at 166 views per month last year).

And in this post-print era, the Ethics Committee published a book in 2011 called Journalism Ethics. So far, few have been sold. How few? SPJ doesn’t even track the number (which is a separate problem), but Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith said in a meeting last year that “several schools” use it as a textbook – which he thought was admirable because, “There are quite a few other good books out there.”

But if that’s so, why are we wasting precious time competing with something that’s already done well? And it did take time. I sat through Ethics Committee and SDX meetings where this consumed hours and calories better spent elsewhere, much less the time and brainpower to write it. And now there’s talk of an update.

What to do instead…

The most popular page on SPJ’s website, besides the homepage, is its Code of Ethics. It got 4,725 views in one week in mid-December.

It’s common knowledge among SPJ leaders that the Code is also the most popular web page for non-journalists – it’s the No. 1 reason anyone outside of SPJ knows about us.

Yet when you visit that page, there’s precious little else besides the Code – just a small blue box with a link to an expanded explanation that’s long, gray, and dull. I’d rather our Ethics Committee write eight perky intro sentences about SPJ and the Code than eight ponderous position papers.

And instead of an ethics textbook for a handful of journalism students, I’d rather SPJ publish a public appeal for updating the Code. At its last annual convention in Anaheim, SPJ launched a conversation to edit the Code for the first time since 1996 – which was way before Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones.

But all the talk is amongst our members, mostly on a blog called Code Words that gets less than 20 page views per month. Why not solicit an opinion from anyone who visits the Code of Ethics page? A society for professional journalism would surely do that.

Finally, I’ll tout one of my own programs…

S.I.N. challenges college media outlets to break as many entries in the Code of Ethics as humanly possible in a single print or online issue. When a Florida university did this a couple years ago, it wasn’t just educational for the staff. That particular print edition had the lowest returns for the school year (save for the annual football issue) and a Student Affairs dean commented, “I liked it. I didn’t realize journalists had so many ethics!”

What to cut…

The Code of Ethics might be what SPJ is best known for, but Freedom of Information is the best thing it does.

For the past few years, SPJ’s has been obsessed with a Federal Shield Law. It’s certainly a noble and sexy cause. But SPJ’s time-consuming lobbying efforts have accomplished nothing tangible. SPJ has swayed no member of Congress, and I’ve heard of no media outlet taking up SPJ’s plea to “Talk about it. Write about it. Editorialize about it.”

And in fact, how many of SPJ’s 8,000 members will ever need a federal shield law? Or a state one?

I’m not suggesting SPJ ignore the issue. I’m proposing we transfer some of the many hours we burn on it. The sad fact is, for all the Shield Law effort, SPJ’s web page on the topic has attracted less traffic than SPJ’s high school essay contest page.

What to do instead…

If we want to push a federal shield law, Congress doesn’t care about journalists. It cares about voters. Let’s convince the public why it’s crucial. Educating the public about journalism is what a for organization would do.

Freedom of Information shouldn’t be reserved just for journalists. SPJ should train the public on the topic. For instance, the FOI page has a nifty little box that sends you to a couple of FAQs with helpful links – one for students and one for pros. Why not add a third for the public? SPJ should train everyone to use journalism tactics, even if they aren’t journalists.

And once again, I’ll pimp one of my own programs. The First Amendment Free Food Festival feeds college students a free lunch in exchange for signing away their Constitutional rights.

While organized by SPJ college chapters and other student journalists, the event is aimed squarely at the public. That’s why it’s garnered more media coverage than the shield law efforts, even getting SPJ chapter leaders uncomfortably interviewed on FOX News.

What to cut…

SPJ offers solid onsite training, both at its national convention and with traveling workshops called JournCamps.

SPJ also hosts regional conferences, which almost universally suck. I can say this without reservation or accusation, because I’m a regional director who’s had to host them.

SPJ requires its RDs to organize regional conferences each spring. But with a budget of only $500 from SPJ National, these things end up being held on college campuses. With a couple of rare and wonderful exceptions, a majority of regional conferences attract 100 or so attendees, mostly college students. And no one leaves exclaiming, “Wow, that was awesome!”

What to do instead…

Remove the requirement for regional conferences. Keep the good ones and take the lame ones off life support. Use that free time and small sums to train “citizen journalists.” Teach the public how our skills, when ethically and professionally executed, can improve their lives – not just by reading and watching our coverage, but also by doing it themselves.

DIY journalism.

This is the only way out of the wilderness I see for SPJ. It’s scary for long-time members, who grew up in an SPJ that was insular and traditional and static. But ever since the recession, SPJ has had a new tradition: Losing hundreds of members a year.

The real question is: If changing SPJ’s name and expanding SPJ’s mission is too drastic, do you really think our current incremental efforts are going to bring us back more than 1,000 members?

SPJ: salads, sloths, snails

In 50 days, you can grow your own salad.

Most varieties of lettuce and the smallest varieties of tomatoes (like cherry or grape) and carrots (like Thumbelina or Paris Market) mature in 50 days – as do onions, if you plant them from bulb sets.

Radishes takes as little as three weeks. Want to add goat cheese? You can make it yourself, and it’ll age perfectly within 2-3 weeks. Arugala? Ready to eat after 30-40 days in the ground.

But in 50 days, SPJ can’t even set the table to talk about a name change.

On Aug. 26, SPJ’s delegates – the 104-year-old organization’s “supreme legislative body” – planted the idea of becoming the Society for Professional Journalism. They ordered the board of directors to discuss it.

The next day, SPJ president Dave Cuillier announced…

I am creating a task force to look into it further and provide recommendations to the executive committee and then the full board, which could make a recommendation to the delegates at a future convention.

Wow, that sounds like a long time to harvest. Better get started, right?

But the task force has yet to meet. Last Wednesday, former SPJ president (and make no mistake, all-around great guy) John Ennslin emailed me his formal introduction as chairman of the task force. And yesterday, I learned from Cuillier who else is on it…

Fellow national board members Carl Corry, Paul Davis, Sue Katcef, and David Sheets, along with past president Hagit Limor and former Membership Committee chairwoman Holly Edgell.

Fine folks all. But as of today, nothing has germinated. Which isn’t a surprise, because…

SPJ moves slower than a three-toed sloth with a broken foot and a Xanax addiction.

From salads to sloths. I do enjoy mixing my metaphors.

Since SPJ moves with bradypodidae-like speed at a national level, I’m hoping its chapters possess a little more agility.

I’m asking each SPJ chapter to debate changing the name and mission of their parent organization. Last Thursday, SPJ Florida did just that at its bimonthly board meeting. Chapter president Jason Parsley says he’ll put it to a board vote at the next meeting.

If you or your chapter wants to do the same, email me and I’ll assist in any way you desire. And I’ll list your chapter and its results on this blog.

I don’t care if you vote to support or oppose a name change. As long as you take a stand quicker than SPJ’s national leadership, which is slower than a snail crawling across a stack of pancakes soaked in maple syrup.

There I go again.

If you fancy yourself an amusingly descriptive writer, send me your slowest SPJ metaphors and I’ll cheesily illustrate them. You can remain anonymous in this blog, but I’ll send you a $10 Amazon gift certificate if I use your words. And don’t worry, I protect my sources.

SPJ is an important organization, but until it starts moving at the same pace as the industry it represents, it’ll never be a compelling one. And I’m not just talking about a name change. I’m talking about everything.

Old excuses for new name

I’ve mentioned five reasons to change SPJ’s name. Here are five excuses not to.

1. It’ll cost too much.

2. It won’t lure new members and will scare off existing ones.

3. That’ll dilute our commitment to journalism.

4. It’ll be PR/branding nightmare.

5. Even contemplating a name change will devolve into a bloody battle, pitting SPJ brother against SPJ sister.

I’ve heard all these concerns since I proposed changing our name to the Society for Professional Journalism. So last week, I asked Mike Cavender about them.


Another journalism group has already been through this, and it has zero regrets.

Mike Cavender is executive director of RTDNA – which stands for the Radio Television Digital News Association.

But four years ago, it was RTNDA – the Radio-Television News Directors Association. Cavender, who had previously served as chairman of the RTNDA board, helped lead the name change.

Here’s how it went…

1. It didn’t cost a lot.

Cavender concedes, “You got everything from stationery to the website that’s gotta be changed.” But those don’t consume a lot of calories and cash.

(Indeed, SPJ webmaster Bill O’Keefe told me last week that updating the website “wouldn’t really cost anything.” He said, “Barring any rude surprises or unexplained phenomena, it would take a day of combing all our sites and networks for every instance of the name and switching out the ones that apply.”)

The big expense is legally changing the name, from IRS documents to the Articles of Incorporation. So Cavender just didn’t do it.

Instead, he used a DBA. That’s short for doing business as.

“We’re the Radio and Television News Directors Association dba RTDNA,” he says. “Many companies out there are DBAs, and their real corporate names are totally different. You just never see it. It’s totally acceptable and totally legal.”

And totally easy and totally cheap.

2. It may have boosted membership – or maybe not.

Cavender says the name change kicked off a new mission…

“We have become, over the last few years, far more inclusive in terms of members who are reporters and multimedia journalists. Did our name change have anything to do with that? Maybe, maybe not. But we’ve been able to communicate that we’re more inclusive.”

Has RTDNA lost members because of the name change? No. Cavender says some old-timers still aren’t pleased – “anybody who’s been there for awhile might not get used to the new name” – but they haven’t fled in a huff, either.

3. It changed the membership, not the leadership.

One question I’ve heard several times…

What if hundreds of non-journalists join SPJ and nominate one of their own for  president? They’ll take over the organization!

To which I say: Outstanding!

The past four SPJ presidents have run unopposed. In fact, since 2008, only a handful of races have been contested – and there are 23 positions.

If “non-journalists” run for office and so offend the journalists, then perhaps the latter will start voting. The last national election three weeks ago turned out less than 700 of SPJ’s 7,800 members – and the voting was online.

So I question SPJ’s commitment now.

But if anyone frets SPJ’s board will be seized in a bloodless coup, consider RTDNA’s board. It’s been four years since it expanded beyond TV and radio directors to everyone in those fields, plus digital journalists.

Yet the RTDNA chairman, chairwoman-elect, past chairman, treasurer,  secretary, and its nine regional directors are all still directors, managers, or even vice presidents. So no coup there.

4. It helped the PR and branding.

Recalls Cavender…

Five years ago, we began to look at the rise in digital journalism, which was pretty young at that time. But clearly, that was where the electronic media was going to gain strength. We wanted to be perceived as an organization that represented all electronic media –not just TV and radio.

So how’d it go? Cavender says the new name was perfect PR: “I would absolutely do it again.”

For SPJ, I fail to see how a similar discussion reflects poorly on our goals of an ethical and free press. After all, I’m not proposing we rename ourselves the Society for Pedophilia Jokes.

5. It didn’t descend into open warfare.

But it wasn’t a walk in the park, either.

“I recall board meetings that were very much contentious,” Cavender says. “We probably considered this issue for the better part of a year before we were able to make a sufficient case.”

The final vote “was convincing but not unanimous.” Still, there were no lingering animosities, and Cavender says everyone got over themselves pretty quick.

Many SPJ old-timers recall the 1988 fight that got us the name we have now. Back then, it was SPJ-SDX, and before that, just Sigma Delta Chi. (SPJ started as an all-white, all-male fraternity.)

Of course, that was the pre-Internet era, when it was hard as hell to scrutinize an issue in advance. As RTDNA learned, you can muse online and defuse emotions.

I’m hoping SPJ will learn from RTDNA’s experience and follow its path. Alas, I’m skeptical because…

SPJ moves with all the speed and grace of an oil tanker executing a three-point turn.

On Aug. 26, SPJ’s delegates ordered the board of directors to discuss a name change.

The next morning, SPJ president Dave Cuillier announced he’d appoint a task force to study it.

But as of today, still no task force. How long does it take to task such a force? When does a task force become a tardy force?

All I know for sure is that I’m on this force. Cuillier emailed me Sept. 6 to confirm it. Maybe he’s just having a hard time finding anyone to serve on the damn thing when they learn I’m already on it.

Still, if RTDNA can change its name within a year, SPJ should be able to do the same. So damn the torpedos, full steam ahead.

More than a name change

Even though I have a penis, I can join the National Organization for Women.

And even though I have very little pigment, I can join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

So why can’t fans of ethical and responsible media join the Society for Professional Journalism? Because it doesn’t exist. Yet.

Last week, I officially asked SPJ to change its name. At its annual convention in Anaheim, I submitted a resolution called Renaming SPJ the Society for Professional Journalism.

SPJ is, at its core, a quaint and cumbersome direct democracy. It reminds me of both ancient Greece and my high school’s Student Council…

Each SPJ chapter is awarded delegates based on its membership ranks, and they vote on resolutions once a year by holding up numbered cards. A sergeant-at-arms and his assistants count them, and resolutions pass or fail.

And so last week, delegates gravely pondered such weighty issues as Thanking SPJ Staff and Recognizing Past Leaders.

But here’s what I compelled them to contemplate…

Journalism is changing, and SPJ needs to change with it.

SPJ is more than a century old, but it took until 1969 to allow women to join. It just doesn’t like the word “change.”

(Seriously, try this: Go to the SPJ website, type the word change into the search box, then hit enter. It stubbornly defaults to change password. You literally can’t ask SPJ about change.)

So why do I want to change SPJ’s name? Five good reasons…

1. SPJ membership has fallen 20 percent since the mediapocalypse.

That’s actually not as bad as other journalism organizations, some of whom went out of business. But the sad fact is, for all of its 103 years, most SPJ members worked in traditional print newsrooms. From where are we going to replace those people?

A name change is not enough. We need to evolve from a trade organization to an advocacy group. Anyone should be able to pay dues and vote for officers, as long as they endorse and defend professional journalism – from SPJ’s vaunted Code of Ethics to its staunch support of a free press.

2. SPJ sucks at lobbying.

If you search the SPJ website for shield law, it’ll let you do that. You’ll land on an entire microsite called Struggling to Report: The Fight for a Federal Shield Law. SPJ has burned a lot of kilobytes and calories lobbying Congress on this topic.

Alas, Congress doesn’t care about SPJ. Why should lawmakers fear the nation’s largest organization for the nation’s fastest-shrinking profession? If SPJ represented everyone who’d benefit from a shield law – from reporters to readers – it might get more office visits on Capitol Hill.

3. SPJ should define journalism, not journalists.

The major intestinal blockage to easy passage of a federal shield law is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who’s constipated the process with her demand to define a journalist as a “salaried employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information.”

At the same Anaheim meeting where I proposed the name change, delegates voted unanimously for a resolution called Defining journalist. It concludes…

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists strongly rejects any attempts to define a journalist in any way other than as someone who commits acts of journalism and admonishes Congress for stalling long overdue protection for journalists.

So why is SPJ defining “journalist” in its own name? I like the phrase, commits acts of journalism. If I thought it would fly, I would’ve proposed, “The Society for Committing Acts of Journalism.”

4. SPJ should treat its members like it treats its board of directors.

The elected leader of SPJ is not a professional journalist.

SPJ’s current board of directors is led by a college professor (an awesome one) and has six other profs on it – plus two students and a retired PR guy. The last board had a full-fledged media relations dude serving on its executive committee.

I wouldn’t trade our board members for anyone – well, honestly, a few I would – because they’re seriously committed to good journalism. I don’t care what it says under their names on their LinkedIn profiles.

5. We should train everyone to be journalists.

SPJ spends a lot of time teaching journalists how to blog. But it spends almost no time teaching bloggers how to be journalists.

SPJ can embark upon an entirely new and noble mission. A name change would welcome hundreds of amateur journalists who strive to be professional in their pursuits, whatever the hell those might be – from mommy blogging to city council watchdogging.

So I’m not just talking about changing SPJ’s name. I’m talking about changing its purpose.

And I wasn’t expecting that to happen in Anaheim last week. If I’ve learned anything from serving three years on SPJ’s national board, it’s this…

SPJ is as nimble as a school bus running a slalom course.

I submitted the name-change resolution to start a conversation. So it was hilarious and pathetic that the conversation lasted only a few minutes.

First, one delegate moved to limit debate to 15 minutes. Then, before those few minutes expired, another made a motion to “call the question” – cutting off debate to vote right away.

The reason? “This is a big decision with a lot of implications, and it requires further discussion.”

Yeah, well, that’s why I submitted the damn thing. Instead, delegates spent more time on a resolution called Thanking SPJ President Sonny Albarado.

I’m thankful for Monica Guzman, a young tech-savvy journalist who has almost as many Twitter followers (19,735) as all of SPJ (20,604).

At the end of the meeting, when the resolutions chairman asked if delegates had any other business to bring forth, Guzman raised her hand and admitted she was confused.

“I’m new at this, and I’m not sure what just happened,” she said. Turns out, SPJ doesn’t prep delegates in its arcane parliamentary procedure, and Guzman wanted to talk more about the name change.

You know the psychology: Once one person admits they didn’t understand something, others feel comfortable chiming in. A grassroots groundswell ensued, and an eccentric (and terrific) SPJ veteran named Mark Scarp informed and opined…

The delegates are the supreme legislative body of SPJ. If they choose, they can order the board of directors to discuss this issue and report back to this body when it reconvenes next year.

And that’s exactly what the delegates decided to do on a second vote. But at our board meeting the next day, SPJ president Dave Cuillier simply announced he was appointing a task force. I had to raise my hand and ask that we actually discuss it – for 15 minutes.

We went around the room, and I was pleasantly surprised how the reaction split three ways, in this order: mostly ambivalent, somewhat supportive, only a few steadfastly opposed.

I usually loathe task forces, project teams, and ad hoc committees. In SPJ, they’re the gulags where good ideas are sent to slowly die. But I’ll reserve judgment on Cuillier’s New Name Task Force until I see who he puts on it. Because if it doesn’t include me, the guy who wrote the resolution, I’ll be seriously pissed off.


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