Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016
The Game Room
National Press Club
Present: President Julie Asher; Vice President Kathy Burns; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; and board members Al Leeds, Jonathan Make, Gideon Grudo, and James Plante.
Excused absences: Treasurer Amy Fickling; Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; Daniel Young
CALL TO ORDER
At 7:07 p.m. President Julie Asher called the meeting to order.
Asher welcomed the chapter’s Bylaws Committee members Stephenie Overman and Maurine Beasley to the meeting. She also welcomed Robert Becker, head of the chapter’s FOI committee, and Steve Taylor, the Hall of Fame committee chair.
Asher called for any corrections to the submitted draft of the minutes of the December chapter meeting. As there were none, Gideon Grudo moved that the minutes be approved as submitted; Kathy Burns seconded; all voted in favor.
The January meeting was not held due to bad weather.
Treasurer Amy Fickling submitted two months’ treasurer’s reports, for January and February, via email to the board ahead of the meeting. Make moved that the reports be accepted; Jim Plante seconded; all voted in favor.
The board held a confidential discussion on the nominees for the 2016 D.C. Chapter Hall of Fame.
Jonathan Make indicated the board had previously discussed the possibility of having only three Hall of Fame winners in addition to the Dateline Award winners so there would be more emphasis on the contest winners at the dinner.
Plante said there is a question of what the financial impact would be. Steve Taylor said it is very hard to predict.
Make moved that the chapter induct three into the Hall of Fame this year. Grudo seconded the motion. The motion passed.
The board also held confidential discussion on the Distinguished Service Award nominees.
The board had a short discussion with the bylaws committee made up of Stephenie Overman and Maurine Beasley.
Asher noted that two things related to bylaws had emerged from the Oct. 24 retreat. The first was a possible change up of the board officer posts including going to the model which the national SPJ uses. That would include having a president and president-elect, rather than a vice president. It would also include having a just treasurer and a recording secretary and eliminating the corresponding secretary office. Asher said this would not be for the 2016-2017chapter year.
Another possibility is having term limits for the officers. Asher also said that although these are merely suggestions at this point, there was such an interest in updating our bylaws at last year’s retreat she felt charged with appointing a Bylaws Committee and did so.
She noted the board would have to approve whatever changes we would want to present to our members and the changes must be voted on by the members. Our board elections, by current bylaws, are in April and the slate for the 2016-2017 chapter year would fill the officer and director slots we currently have.
Another idea, Asher said, is to have term limits for the board members. When the board asks members to vote for board members, we could also ask them to approve any bylaws changes. The changes would go into effect for the 2017-2018 chapter year.
She expressed her thanks to Grudo for creating the voting mechanism.
Overman said she thought there should be term limits for officers. Becker noted, however, that the chapter does not have members breaking down doors to serve as officers and Make agreed. But Make indicated that officers whose terms ended could run again at some point.
Overman also said she liked the idea of linking officers to committees. That would mean each officer would be expected to head a committee.
Burns noted that the audit committee had suggested in particular that there be a term limit on the office of treasurer and that many boards have that limitation.
Overman said that sometimes when someone has been treasurer a long time, other people can’t figure out what they did.
She indicated these are all topics that the committee needs to discuss.
Beasley indicated it may be important to bring the bylaws in line with the national SPJ’s bylaws.
Grudo asked whether the board would consider having nonvoting student members on the board at some point.
Plante indicated maybe the board could create a separate board for students as a way of getting them engaged.
The chapter could invite students to do a program, Overman suggested.
She also noted there is a set of model bylaws on the national SPJ website.
It’s possible we could put proposed bylaws on a Google document to work on it, Grudo noted.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
In relation to chapter events, FOI committee chair Robert Becker told the board that on March 15, the DC Open Government Coalition will hold a summit at the National Press Club as part of Sunshine Week. It will include discussion of the D.C. mayor’s open data policy. There will also be discussion by people who have used the FOI system in the District of Columbia, including a person who sold cupcakes to pay for the fees on her FOI request.
Becker noted the cost of the summit, including the cost of the National Press Club room, will be $2400 and the SPJ chapter has made a contribution in the past.
Asher noted the Chapter has given $500 toward the summit in the past and it would be a good way to get publicity for the chapter.
Becker said there will be a table in the lobby with information from the sponsors.
Plante indicated it’s a good activity for the chapter, saying local news coverage is abysmal and nobody holds local government’s feet to the fire. He said he did not know what role the chapter could play but local government is a closed door system with nickel and dime corruption.
Grudo moved the chapter give $500 to co-sponsor the session. Make seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously agreed to.
Other upcoming programs the chapter has are:
— Feb. 24: “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: How to Use Numbers in Your Reporting, ” without having your readers doze off. It will be at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The speaker is Jeannine Aversa, chief of public relations for the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce.
— Annual Job Fair March 19, 2016, at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Education.
— March 22: John Norris, author of “Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism,” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. It will be hosted by the American Newspaper Women’s Club.
— April 8-9: SPJ Region 2 conference will be held in Richmond, Va.
— Programs in the works: For April, a panel on new media covering politics, to be moderated by ThinkProgress political reporter Alice Ollstein; a panel on local media.
Asher noted that if anyone can volunteer at the job fair it would help.
Recording secretary Kathryn Foxhall spoke about having used a version of the Hudson’s Media list we created last fall. There have been issues with getting mailings out quickly, but it is getting better. A report from the awards coordinator Joyce Wang had said that after clean up the Hudson’s list was down to 250 usable addresses. That would indicate an approximate 90 percent bounce back rate. Foxhall said she was getting about a 10 percent bounce back rate. She will work with Joyce and Andy Schotz to clear up that issue.
Foxhall also updated the board on work on the obstructions of the press through public information officers, including mandates from agencies that reporters go through PIOs before speaking to anyone on staff. The national SPJ led a delegation of six people who went to the White House on December 15 to speak to Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary, about the issue. The delegation also included representatives from the American Society of News Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. A press release on the SPJ site covered the issue.
Asher noted the board could talk about this being a signature issue for the chapter.
On another topic Grudo noted we may need about $30 on occasion to update and maintain our newly redeveloped website. He moved that funds be made available. Make seconded the motion. The board approved the motion.
Grudo also said that several people have said they are interested in mentoring students in working on the Street Sense newspaper that is produced so that homeless people can sell it. A previous round of such sessions worked out well.
Grudo also indicated that he would be speaking at the College Media Association at a meeting in New York City in March. He requested up to $300 for travel expenses.
Plante moved and Make seconded the Board approve up to $400 for such expenses.
Asher noted the chapter has not raised the price of the Hall of Fame Dinner for several years and the National Press Club has raised the price of each meal by $3 for 2016. She suggested the price be increased from last year’s $80 for members to $85 this year, and from $110 to $115 for others.
Grudo moved the price be increased to those levels. Plante seconded the motion. The board approved the motion
A motion to adjourn was approved unanimously at 9.01 p.m.