SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
July 15, 2015
Present: President Julie Asher; Vice President Kathy Burns; Treasurer Amy Fickling; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; board members Gideon Grudo, Al Leeds, Jonathan Make, Nafisa Safarova, Andrew Mullen Scott, Daniel Young; and ex-officio members James Plante and Region 2 Director Andy Schotz
Absent: Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs
President Julie Asher called the meeting to order at 7:31 p.m.
Approval of the minutes from the June 1 meeting was tabled pending an updated version that includes revisions to the draft.
Asher called for a final decision on who will be the chapter’s delegates to the national SPJ convention in September in Orlando. The board agreed with designating Kathryn Foxhall, Andrew Schotz, Amy Fickling and James Plante as the chapter’s allotted four delegates. Daniel Young said he cannot attend, so that moved one of the original alternates, Plante, up to delegate status. Hazel Becker will be the alternate delegate.
Each delegate will be reimbursed up to $300, for early bird registration (up to $220) and for the President’s Installation dinner ($80). Proper receipt from national SPJ must be submitted, along with each delegate’s article for Dateline that shares an aspect of the convention with the chapter membership.
Jonathan Make raised the issue of whether more of the expenses each delegate incurs to attend the annual convention could be reimbursed. He also wondered whether chapter board members could be reimbursed for their dinner costs to meet with the national SPJ Executive Committee when it is in town each year.
Asher reported that some board members did have dinner with the current national SPJ Executive Committee on Saturday, June 27, at the Press Club, after the committee had a meeting in town that day. She indicated that the event is a good opportunity to get to know the Executive Committee members when they are in town each year, usually for the SDX Awards Dinner held at the Press Club.
Gideon Grudo volunteered to send out a Doodle poll to determine the preference of the board members on when to hold the upcoming several meetings.
Make offered to determine if the new rules the Press Club has issued on members’ use of meeting rooms for a reduced rate will affect the board holding its monthly meetings at the Club, as it has for several years. The new rules stipulate a minimum amount spent on food and beverage in exchange for rent-free use of the room, and say that use of some rooms may be restricted during lunch and dinner.
Grudo offered to make an area in his employer’s offices available for the meetings.
Fickling provided a written report to the board in advance. She said she is looking into whether the chapter could get a business investment account to park the reserves funds in, with a little higher rate of return on investment.
She said one of the chapter checking accounts has earned $44 worth of “rewards,” but it’s not clear how to cash in on the rewards.
She said she could shift some money into an existing savings account.
Make moved that the treasurer’s report be accepted. Schotz seconded. The motion was approved.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Kathy Burns noted the chapter will hold its picnic Saturday, Aug. 1, 1-4 p.m. at home of Ann Augherton and Chris Gunty in Arlington, Virginia. RSVPs stand at about 25.
The chapter will be having a group outing to see the play “Once” at the Kennedy Center, Aug. 9.
In September, the chapter will have a networking/social happy hour to kick off the new chapter year at the Front Page restaurant in Dupont Circle in D.C. (Chapter buys some appetizers; attendees pay for their own drinks.)
Also, chapter member Bill McCloskey has arranged for D.C. Pro chapter members to piggyback on a National Press Club event to attend a Nationals baseball game on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 4:05 p.m. — against the Phillies. Tickets will be in the 300 level at $25 each; NPC hopes to arrange a pre- or post-game meeting with some of the Nationals broadcasters. Details are to come on the ordering mechanism for tickets.
For an October panel, some chapter members have been talking about a session on covering local news with personnel from radio stations WAMU and WTOP and someone from a local TV station. We may get RTDNA as a co-sponsor.
Burns noted if we want a party around the holidays we need to decide now and we need a place close to the Metro stops. The members discussed reserving a room and the costs of doing something special that might bring out more people.
Suggestions were for Gordon Biersch downtown and a talk by the Spy Museum director, who is a business contact of Al Leeds, who said he will approach him.
Grudo reported he had discussed with the editor of the Street Sense newspaper a possible collaboration with that publication and the chapter. Street Sense is a newspaper made available for homeless people to sell on the streets.
One idea was to have journalism students profile homeless people who are coming to eat at Miriam’s Kitchen.
One issue brought up was possible liability problems with bringing students into that type of situation. The chapter may talk to attorney Bob Becker about that.
Make discussed the idea of the chapter taking the lead on a panel of diversity in media. The Press Club has made diversity a theme for this year. The panel might be organized with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) and maybe other organizations.
Andy Schotz noted that the Region 2 conference will be in Richmond next year, on April 9, 2016, and it will be coordinated by the Virginia Pro Chapter with the Virginia Press Association.
Burns also brought up the idea of paying for a one-year SPJ national and local chapter membership for this year’s four Hall of Fame inductees. Fickling clarified that when this has been done in the recent past, it was for Hall of Fame inductees who are not already SPJ members. The inductees also should be asked if they want a membership and fill out the membership applications themselves.
Andrew Scott moved that the chapter pay for a year’s membership in SPJ national and the D.C. Pro Chapter for all of the current year’s Hall of Fame inductees who are not already members and who wish to become a member. Fickling seconded. The motion was approved.
Burns will send the applications to the Hall of Famers who are not already members and have them return them to Fickling, who will forward them with payment to national SPJ.
Plante discussed the possibility of holding an event to help journalists and journalism students use data in reporting, like from the federal economic agencies.
Grudo noted that despite the fact the Dateline Awards contest this year was set up with divisions and categories, to expand the pool of entries, the contest was actually judged with no divisions.
Schotz indicated the dropping of the divisions resulted from a misunderstanding by the contest coordinator. He indicated that more than in any other year applicants did not understand the process for entering. There were 140 entries total.
He said we should look at how much we expanded the awards. But, he said, there have been other types of problems with coordinators in the past and those problems were not the case with this year’s coordinator.
He said Dateline Award winner attendees at the dinner were glad that the process of giving out the awards at the dinner went faster, and he noted ours is one of the few chapters that give out Hall of Fame-type awards.
Asher indicated that it may be time to separate the two functions — moving to a separate ceremony for the Hall of Fame and one for the Dateline Awards.
Al Leeds commented that the Pulitzer Prize committee moves entries from one category to another if it sees fit, suggesting the same could be done for Dateline.
Schotz responded that the award process was not flawed just because it did not happen the way it was planned.
Discussion of whether to put the Dateline Awards application and judging process online continued. It was noted it will be expensive, relative to the number of entries it has been attracting, but the question has become whether the chapter can afford not to go online eventually.
Grudo, Schotz, and Make said they would ask the Louisville, Florida and New York chapters about their online platforms.
Make said the New York chapter reported getting a two-thirds increase in entries after taking the contest online.
Make also raised the question of putting more focus on the Dateline Award winners and their winning articles and perhaps less on the Hall of Fame inductees, if the same format for honoring both at one event continues.
Grudo indicated the process of working with the vendor on the chapter’s new website has been delayed. He said the vendor has sent a long email on what can and can’t be done with the site.
He also said many of the things board members have suggested doing with the site are good, but right now he and the vendor are working on the basics.
Schotz said we are committed to having everyone on the board working with the site.
Scott said he is working on a layout for MailChimp delivery and he will give an update on doing the Dateline Online newsletter by the coming weekend.
Foxhall said the planned letter to President Barack Obama coordinated by SPJ headquarters is now out for signatures from journalism and other groups. The hope is to get more than the 32 that signed last year. She suggested that the chapter may want to send a letter to national SPJ congratulating them on the Obama letter and indicating our support, an action which might raise the chapter’s profile.
She noted the chapter had paid for the subscription to the Hudson’s Media List for the Washington area in the previous few days and she will begin exploring it to see how quickly names and emails can be downloaded.
There being no further business to conduct, and no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10 p.m.