SPJ board promises more transparency after SA, other chapters protest handling of exec director resignation

All 450 members on SPJ Region 8’s membership roll should have received an email from me  the day before the SPJ national board met on Monday, May 6, to discuss next steps after Alison Bethel McKenzie resigned as executive director. (If you didn’t receive it, please let me know at kathrynjones1956@gmail.com; some member emails bounced back.)

I apologize for not giving members and chapter leaders more time to comment, but I did not learn of the resignation directly from the national office. I found out when a regional director emailed the other regional directors and coordinators with the news.

You may have missed the original two-sentence announcement of Bethel McKenzie’s resignation on the SPJ website: https://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1645

Many members also didn’t see SPJ President Alex Tarquinio’s post about Bethel McKenzie’s departure on her blog:

https://blogs.spjnetwork.org/president/2019/05/01/the-departure-of-spjs-executive-director/

The national office’s handling of the resignation prompted the Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter to draft a letter criticizing the board for lack of transparency. Other SPJ chapters– including the San Antonio Pro Chapter — also signed the letter.

I heard from two other Region 8 members who wanted their names included on the letter — John Brewer, president and publisher of The Examiner in Hugo, Oklahoma, and Wayne DeSmoot, an attorney and journalist in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I also signed as an individual since I didn’t have time to poll the entire region. You can read the letter here: http://spjdc.org/2019/05/spj-dc-letter-national-transparency-concerns/

My reason for joining the protest boiled down to this: how can SPJ members expect to hold others accountable if our own professional organization is not fully transparent? That violates SPJ’s own Code of Ethics. We are supposed to be examples and practice what we preach.

During the board meeting, Tarquinio pledged that the national office would do a better job of keeping members informed. Here’s the D.C. Pro Chapter’s summary of the meeting: http://spjdc.org/2019/05/recapping-yesterdays-contentious-national-spj-board-meeting/

The search is on now for a new executive director. We’ll post updates on the Red River Report as they become available.


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