SPJ search committee hears comments about exec director search; membership discounts to be explored

In case you didn’t get a chance to participate in today’s SPJ national executive committee meeting, here’s a recap.

The committee gave its approval for SPJ’s membership committee to explore launching a membership drive during the first part of August aimed at attracting new members. The drive tentatively will go from Aug. 1 to 15. New members will be able to join at a discounted rate.

What that exact rate will be for professionals and students will be decided by the membership committee headed by Colin DeVries (I’m also on the committee). Also yet to be determined is whether the discount would apply only to new members or to renewing members as well.

The Red River Report will post that information as it becomes available.

Hagit Limor, the search committee head, today also announced a timetable for choosing a new national executive director to replace Alison Bethel McKenzie, who resigned in April.

The search consultant, Talbott Talent, is in the process of compiling a survey that will be distributed to the SPJ staff later this month. Any member who wants to contribute suggestions about the desirable qualities in a new ED also may do so.

Talbott will present to the committee its findings about what members and staff want in a new ED by the end of July. The committee will complete a position profile by Aug. 2.

Recruiting for the position will begin Aug. 6. Anyone who is interested in applying may submit a cover letter and resume to spj@talbotttalent.com. Suggestions for candidates may be sent to the same email address.

Talbott then will begin actively recruiting candidates. A recommendation to the board is due no later than Oct. 18. Ideally, the new ED would begin work a month after accepting the position.

As for the cost of using Talbott Talent in the search, the committee said SPJ’s contract with the firm “expressly forbids that disclosure” because it is “proprietary information from a private company.”

More than 40 people listened to the public comment portion of the meeting, either on the Zoom app or by phone. Each speaker was allotted two minutes to speak, although that time limit was not announced ahead of time.

Hazel Becker with the SPJ DC Pro Chapter told the committee she is looking for two qualities in an ED: “Somebody who really knows journalism and not just an experienced association director,” and someone who is strong enough to stand up “when a board goes rogue,” as has happened in the past.

Other participants expressed concern about the confidentiality agreement with Talbott Talent over the cost of its consulting services.

“We owe the members to be fully transparent,” Forrest Gossett said. “You are managing their resources.”

Jonathan Make, also with the DC Chapter and the leader of an ad hoc group of concerned chapter presidents and SPJ members pushing for more transparency (I’m involved in the group as an individual), read a list of suggestions about the next ED:

  • Someone committed to journalism and who puts the practice of journalism above their own self-interest. While fundraising ability is great, that should be entirely secondary. Journalism and leadership should come first.
  • Someone who has a track record as a manager. And beyond that, shows leadership. A servant-leader. A consensus builder and seeker.
  • Someone who is committed to transparency, even when the news is bad; especially when the news is bad.
  • Someone who wants to do this for the long term; defined as at least five years.
  • Someone who does not abuse alcohol or drugs, had not ever been accused of sexual harassment or who places inappropriate demands on staff or volunteers.

Veteran TV reporter and Region 8 member Rebecca Aguilar, chair of SPJ’s Diversity Committee, said it is “crucial” for members to show respect to the SPJ leadership even when disagreeing over issues. She cited a video posted by board member Michael Koretzky – a snippet of a committee meeting – in which he used incendiary words to describe SPJ President Alex Tarquinio’s handling of the meeting.

Aguilar said such “drama” and “derogatory name calling” was inappropriate and hurts SPJ’s image and ability to recruit new members.

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.

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