Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Wednesday, April 12, 2016
National Press Club
Present: President Julie Asher; Vice President Kathy Burns; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; and board members Al Leeds, Jonathan Make, Gideon Grudo, Daniel Young and James Plante.
Excused absences: Treasurer Amy Fickling;
CALL TO ORDER
At 7:10 p.m. President Julie Asher called the meeting to order.
Asher called for approval of the minutes for the March 23 board meeting. Jonathan Make moved the minutes be approved as submitted and vice president Kathleen Burns seconded the motion. The minutes were approved as submitted.
In the absence of treasurer Amy Fickling, Asher called for discussion of the treasurer’s report, which Fickling had emailed to the board members earlier. Jonathan Make moved and Joe Starrs seconded the motion that the report be approved. The report was approved as submitted.
Asher and Kathryn Foxhall reported on the SPJ Region 2 conference which was held in Richmond, Virginia, April 8-9. Asher noted the interest in the keynote speaker, the young Washington Post reporter T. Rees Shapiro. He did the major expose of the problems with the Rolling Stone coverage of the alleged sexual assault at the University of Virginia.
Foxhall discussed a session on new technologies, including a description of a screen in a news room updating in real time the number of clicks on a story. She said she had asked, “is this making us stupider?” She referred to the intense attention to what is attracting readers.
Asher said Al Leeds, Maureen Beasley, and Jim Plante will be on the audit committee for the chapter. She said Fickling will gather the financial files and the committee will meet to examine them for two hours.
She also said the board is ahead of the game in getting candidates for the election of board members for the 2016-2017 terms and in getting the ballot out. There will have to be a paper ballot for people not on email. Balloting will be over a seven to 10-day period beginning shortly
Asher also said we will be doing an annual report to describe all the things we have been doing during the year.
She also noted Foxhall and Daniel Young will go to the Scripps Leadership Institute sponsored by the SPJ national organization in Baltimore on May 13-15.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Vice president Kathleen Burns reported she had talked to Dan Kubiske and Elizabeth Grisham on ways to improve the chapter programs and media plans. She noted when Make organized the outstanding program on drones there were more people on the panel than in the audience.
She said after organizing events for the chapter over three years she has encountered a number of daunting issues including finding top-notch speakers who don’t expect a fee, locating a venue that doesn’t charge, and keeping entrance fees reasonable.
Make noted the chapter would host a panel of reporters discussing local journalism’s challenges and resources on May 4 at the Fund for American Studies.
He also indicated we may have a summer session on the new media and the Newseum may host it.
Make said he also asked the Newseum if they would put our events on their calendar.
Asher noted we could do a happy hour with the groups we do the job fair with. She also said we need to think about a place for the summer picnic.
Burns noted that the big problem we have with doing programs is publicizing them and she urged we need to publicize events earlier.
According to discussion at the meeting and to Burns’ written report, Kubiske has stepped up to become the official webmaster and Grisham has volunteered to be the newsletter editor. But both of them need copy provided well ahead of time.
Burns indicated copy for the newsletter should be sent to Gresham by June 21 and include things such as the HOF awards and coverage of the board election.
She also brought up the need to pick a location and date for a summer picnic or other event and possibly an event at the Kennedy Center. Kubiske would like to send out Mail Chimp reminders listing several events for ahead of time.
Burns also reported Kubiske said there are “holes” in the information on the website.
For example, it was noted that the minutes have not been posted on the website recently. Foxhall is to start catching up on that. Kubiske will also be reaching out for information on topics including: groups within the chapter; the Dateline Awards and the Hall of Fame Awards; and an application for SPJ national/local membership.
Kubiske and Grisham feel there should be at last two announcements of every event, with the first being a “save the date” possibly six weeks ahead.
Burns said she is working on an event to close out the 2015-2016 program year with a commanding speaker.
She also noted we should decide in May on a venue for the holiday party because reservations fill up quickly.
Foxhall reported that about three event announcements had gone out through the email list created from the Hudson’s contact directory which has about 1700 valid emails on it. One was the early press release of the Hall of Fame dinner, with a link to the registration.
Grudo brought up the question of whether emails from the Hudson’s list should be done by Mailchimp given that sending it out from Foxhall’s email address might cause problems, including suspicions that it is spam.
Burns reported we now have a printer in Baltimore for the Hall of Fame dinner invitations. She said we need to make a list of people we want to invite beyond those on the current list.
Asher indicated a letter will go the Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, inviting him to the dinner. Baron is a journalist of great interest now because he was Boston Globe editor in the era of the investigation that is the subject of this year’s Academy Award winning movie, Spotlight.
The board decided this year we will set a price for which publications and others may buy whole tables at the awards dinner. The board has done that in the past but did not do so last year. It set the price this year at $900 per table. Board members indicated the awards coordinator can tell publications this when she calls to inform them about the awards.
Asher reported that the committee the board had named to update the bylaws is on hold after it was discovered that both the bylaws and the constitution for the chapter would have to be updated.
She also noted that the awards contest coordinator could not be at the meeting, but that the judging for the contest, being done by the Fort Lauderdale SPJ chapter in an exchange with our chapter, was due to be finished April 11.
Foxhall and Daniel Young confirmed they will attend the SPJ Scripps Leadership Training, May 13-15 in Baltimore.
Foxhall had provided the board with an Excel sheet with a model/draft of a proposed project on all kinds of news coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency during the seven months when staff members knew about the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan before residents were warned not to drink the water.
The questions would be whether there was much coverage beyond the agency “hand-outs” and whether there is evidence reporters got beyond the on-going controls on reporting. The barriers have long been in place. But showing the actual inability of reporters to talk to people (or talk without oversight), while this specific toxic situation might have been halted by a tip to a reporter, would illustrate the extreme hazard of the restrictions.
One question was whether the chapter could fund some of the work to be done by students or journalists.
The board members advised Foxhall and Grudo to confer on the project and seek the input of people who have done analysis of journalism, including Carolyn Carlson, who led the seven SPJ surveys on public information officer controls over reporting.
The idea is to create academic-based evidence so journalists and others will take it seriously.
Al Leeds noted that the SDX spring meeting in New Orleans would include discussion of whether to accept a donation from Stephen Glass, a former reporter who fabricated stories in the 1990s that were published in major publications. He has written checks to publications to compensate them for the money he earned from the stories. He offered SDX funds equivalent to his earnings from the now defunct George magazine.
A motion to adjourn was approved unanimously at 8.34 p.m.