Minutes of the
SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Monday, Dec. 7, 2015
National Press Club
Present: President Julie Asher; Vice President Kathy Burns; Treasurer Amy Fickling; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; and board members Al Leeds, Jonathan Make, Gideon Grudo, James Plante and Daniel Young.
Excused absences: Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs and board member Nafisa Safarova
CALL TO ORDER
At 7:02 p.m. President Julie Asher called the meeting to order.
Asher called for any corrections to the submitted draft of the minutes and retreat notes for the October board meeting and board retreat, held the same day. As there were none, Jonathan Make moved that the minutes be approved as submitted; Gideon Grudo seconded; all voted in favor.
Asher also called for further corrections on the corrected minutes from the June board meeting. As there were none, Daniel Young moved that the minutes from the June board meeting be approved; Kathryn Foxhall seconded; all voted in favor.
Treasurer Amy Fickling emailed her report to the board ahead of the meeting. Make moved that the report be accepted; Young seconded; all voted in favor.
Fickling reported that she had received a reimbursement request from chapter member Bill McCloskey, who volunteers for the task of checking the chapter’s PO Box. His request covered postage costs to forward some of the mail to various recipients — who are either chapter members or associated with the SDX Foundation of Washington, the chapter’s education arm — and for first-class stamps sent to SDX board President Reginald Stuart for use in Foundation mailings. The chapter board has been covering administrative expenses for the foundation, so that all contributions to the foundation are directed toward its journalism scholarship awards. Fickling noted that against best financial practices, McCloskey’s tally included some items more than two years old. She explained that most items were under a dollar and infrequent. Of the $70.99 in the request for postage reimbursement, $55.46 was for stamps for SDX. She asked that the board approve the request, despite some of the items being past the 90-day limit.
Grudo moved that the board approve reimbursing Bill McCloskey $70.99 for postage associated with chapter and SDX Foundation of Washington mailing expenses; all voted in favor.
Asher noted that she had circulated a biography of Toni Coleman, who has been nominated and endorsed by the SDX Foundation of Washington to a seat on the foundation’s board of directors. Ms. Coleman is deputy editor of Washington, D.C.-based Currents, an international trade magazine for college and university fundraising, alumni relations and communications officers. Reginald Stuart, SDX Foundation board president, requested that the chapter board approve the nomination. Asher recommended that the board approve the Coleman nomination.
James Plante moved that the board approve the nomination of Toni Coleman to the board of directors of the SDX Foundation of Washington, D.C.; Kathy Burns seconded; all voted in favor.
Asher also reported that Mr. Stuart asked the chapter board to vote to extend by six months the terms of four currently serving on the SDX Foundation board, but whose terms expire on Dec. 31, 2015. At the November meeting of the SDX Foundation board, Stuart failed to bring the nominations for re-election of the four to a vote of that board; SDX will not meet again until May, the earliest an official election at that level can occur. Once that happens, the chapter board will again be asked to approve the selections made at that time. The four are: Frank Quine, treasurer; Joel Whitaker, secretary; and Lesley Israel and Bill McCloskey, board members.
Make moved that the board approve extending the expiring terms by six months of the following members of the SDX Foundation of Washington board of directors: Frank Quine, Joel Whitaker, Bill McCloskey and Lesley Israel. Young seconded; all voted in favor.
Make asked that the chapter board members get notice before the SDX chapter board meets.
Asher noted that not all members of the SDX Foundation board belong to the national or local chapter of SPJ. Plante noted that one factor in appointing people to the SDX Foundation board is their ability to raise funds.
Asher reported that she has appointed a Bylaws Committee to recommend revisions to the current chapter bylaws. The board has discussed this previously. A committee should help streamline the process. She said she has appointed past chapter presidents Maurine Beasley and Stephenie Overman to the committee.
Make asked if the committee will request suggestions from the board. Asher said she thinks they will.
She intends to appoint a Nominations Committee soon, so it can meet the deadlines detailed for the election process in the bylaws.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
In an update on the December 10 holiday party at Gordon Biersch, Young noted that about eight people have signed up so far through EventBrite. Asher said there are about 15 people who are getting “year” pins for 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 or 45 years of membership in SPJ (not all the milestones get a pin, so the list is a sample, not definitive). In fact, there is one member – Henry Wieland – will be getting a 50-year pin. Asher said she told him the chapter would comp his cover charge to attend the event. She said five of the others have said they will not attend, but there are some she hasn’t heard from yet.
The board discussed the possibility of doing interviews of some of those long-time members for Dateline and/or the website; Make said he would be happy to do an interview.
Burns noted that the panel that had been planned for mid-November on local news outlets did not happen. She said that it might be moved to February.
Make noted someone had suggested the chapter organize a panel on the upcoming presidential election. However, he has so far found that major news outlets are not interested in participating in one. However, Erik Wemple, a Washington Post blogger, has agreed to participate. Asher suggested we might do a program with just Mr. Wemple as the speaker. Make agreed with the suggestion, saying maybe Wemple could just talk about the media coverage of the election.
Grudo reported that the first round of chapter members serving as mentors for students working with the Street Sense newspaper went well. Michelle Goldchain, Make, Young, and Grudo participated. Grudo said, however, that the process of doing the mentoring had not been worked out before chapter members arrived and that some structure is needed. He said with the upcoming session the leaders will let the students do one story before they have a mentor.
He said, overall, Street Sense needs help and the board members who participated helped to get stories published. Now, he said, it’s time to get some chapter members who are not on the board involved, indicating we can do a session again in February.
In a discussion on program possibilities, Fickling suggested that the chapter could host a “News Schmooze” – having an interesting person to come talk informally over a drink in a bar somewhere – with the editor of Street Sense. That would give more chapter members a chance to interact with him, before or instead of committing to hands-on work of mentoring young journalists.
On other topics for a News Schmooze or program, Plante suggested having someone in public affairs at The Census Bureau talk on using its data in reporting.
Make said a session on niche reporting could be of interest, noting the recent Pew report that said the number of niche reporters with credentials in Congress had increased.
Fickling tossed out the idea of a program on legacy media editors going to companies not traditionally in the news content provider business to help create content for them. Make said perhaps we could have a brown bag lunch at one of these new media offices.
On the job fair coming up in the spring, Asher asked that if members know anyone who might want to be a recruiter in the fair, to please refer them.
Make noted the chapter FOI chair Bob Becker has been active in the police body cam discussion and the D.C. Open Government Coalition has helped spearhead the effort to get public access to the tapes from the body cams. He said that could be a topic for a panel discussion, and maybe Becker could plan it. Another idea was that the chapter work with the National Press Club on a program on Open Government, in view of the body cam issues surrounding it. Asher said she’d met the incoming president of the Press Club, Thomas Burr, in the bar this evening and he’d said he was very interested in having the Club work with SPJ on journalism programs.
Foxhall said she had talked with Becker regarding an SPJ survey coming up on covering the police.
Burns noted Andy Schotz, Region 2 director, needs help with the regional conference, to be held in Richmond, Va., this spring. Young volunteered to help.
Young reported that he and Burns had worked on getting ready for a survey of the membership using SurveyMonkey. The software limits surveys to 10 questions without payment of the monthly subscription, which is about $26. Young said he thinks you can pay on a month-to month basis, so if we don’t put out a survey one month, we aren’t locked into a long-term contract with SurveyMonkey. Young and Burns condensed the questions so that the 10 questions fit, but think having more flexibility on the number of questions is a benefit.
Foxhall said the chapter should supply the $26 to allow more questions.
Plante noted that some commenters on organizations say the leadership should have communication with the membership at least once a week.
Grudo moved that the board approve a $26 a month subscription to SurveyMonkey; Foxhall seconded; all voted in favor.
Asher announced that the chapter does have a newsletter and that it has gone out to the membership.
Grudo asked if there were stories in the newsletter that should go on the website. He said he and Dan Kubiske will be putting content onto the website for now.
He said the website is now done, although it took 12 months to get it to this point. The website has a Mail Chimp account and it is in the WordPress software. He said we need to coordinate email addresses. He said that WordPress is really easy to use and everyone should be able to do it.
On the Dateline Awards contest, board members have been discussing Andy Schotz’s recommendations for companies to move to an online format. He has been researching services for newspaper contests and has recommended the service Better Newspaper Contests (BNC). Asher said a question is whether we need a coordinator for the contest this year since we do have an online version in the works. After some discussion Grudo moved that the board approve spending up to $4,000 for moving to the online contest through BNC and up to $2,500 for the contest coordinator’s fee; Al Leeds seconded; all voted in favor.
Asher asked on behalf of Schotz whether SPJ members should get one free entry in the contest this year. The board was not warm to the idea so it didn’t get traction.
Foxhall reported that she is within two hours of finishing the media list she has been creating by downloading a list of 3000 publications from Hudson’s media directory and copying the email listings, where there are email addresses. The list now contains over 2000 email addresses of journalists in the DC region.
Asher also reminded the board of the task list that Andy Schotz proposed for the chapter and suggested that board members choose a task.
The suggested tasks are:
- Hall of Fame dinner
- Dateline Awards (Andy said he continue with this for now, working with the coordinator.)
- Programming (should be a committee – maybe 4 people, with each planning 2 or 3 events per year – find 3 other chapter volunteers)
- Social media (Dan and Andy informally work on this now.)
- Publicity (including Evites)
- Connecting to other journalism organizations in the area (could be the “corresponding” role of the corresponding secretary, which has no other duties)
- Maintaining our membership list & records/sending notes to people whose membership is expiring/welcome notes to new members
- Building a media list (for membership recruitment and for publicizing our events – Kathryn seems to be on this track with the new database)
- FOI/open government (Bob Becker has retained the title of FOI chair. It’s probably good to let that continue because Bob represents the chapter in the open government coalition, but we might consider a separate watchdog role, too – press freedom at local schools, government abuses. The chapter should speak out on these topics when it’s needed; one person can watch for them and draft possible responses)
- Connecting to student chapters/campus journalism programs
- Connecting to the foreign press
- Volunteer recruitment
- Candidate recruitment
Grudo volunteered to do a Doodle Poll to determine the best dates for board meetings over the next two months.
The board discussed sending members to the Scripps Leadership Institute, sponsored by the SPJ national organization and held at different spots around the nation. Asher said the chapter should pay for travel for members to go to the training, with the Scripps scholarship covering other expenses. The next session will be in Memphis and there will be another one somewhere in Region 2 in June.
A number of the possible delegates were disinclined to travel to Memphis. A general plan was made to send four members to the June Scripps leadership session. The board agreed the chapter should provide up to $250 for each person for travel expenses to the training workshop in June; each individual will be responsible for their other expenses not paid for by national SPJ.
Burns said that chapter member Steve Taylor has asked for names for possible honorees for the Hall of Fame dinner. He will attend the January meeting for more interaction with the board on selecting the final recipients.
Asher said board member Nafisa Safarova has said she will have to step down due to work obligations, although she has not officially resigned yet.
Foxhall reported that a delegation of six people, to be led by SPJ President Paul Fletcher, will go to the White House December 15 to talk about restrictions on journalists, such as the mandate to go through public information officers to talk to staff at agencies, etc. The meeting will be with Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary.
A motion to adjourn was approved unanimously at 8:53 p.m.