Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
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, and James Plante.
Excused absences: Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; Daniel Young
CALL TO ORDER
At about 7:00 p.m. President Julie Asher called the meeting to order.
Asher called for approval of the minutes for the February 11 board meeting. There was a correction on the prices for Hall of Fame awards dinner. The minutes were approved with that correction.
Treasurer Amy Fickling had emailed the current treasurer’s report to the board earlier. After a call for discussion Plante moved and Gideon Grudo seconded the motion that the report be approved. The report was approved as submitted.
Noting that the SPJ Region 2 meeting is coming up, Asher said that the chapter holds the money for the region.
Asher reported that the Annual Job Fair held March 19, 2016, at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Education, was a success in great part to the cooperative work done with the other journalism groups that co-sponsor the fair.
Member Steve Taylor had reported to the board in an email earlier that there is now a full slate of Hall of Fame and Distinguished Service Awards for the Hall of Fame Dinner on June 11.
CBS News Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, longtime New Yorker magazine Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew and Washington Post columnist Jonetta Rose Barras will be inducted into the Hall of Fame
The chapter’s 2016 Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity and several other journalism organizations. Lewis also will speak.
Asher said that Taylor is now gathering the photos and biographies of the awardees. The next step will be getting the program printed at a company in Thurmont.
She said the menu for the dinner has been settled with the Press Club.
Plans were made to send out the press release on the awards and the dinner, including sending it out through the list of emails built from the Hudson’s database.
Asher noted that the chapter’s contest award coordinator has reported that we now have a total 118 entries which is down from the 140 entries we received last year. All checks have been received. She said that some different types of news groups had applied this year. Wang said most contestants are happy with the online platform and she is happy with the technical support. The chapter had the contest online for the first time this year, with Better Newspaper Contests.
Wang said the only major complaint is that there is no online payment option and she thought if we have that next year it will draw more entries. She said the judging, which the Fort Worth SPJ chapter is doing for us, should begin soon. Our chapter now has judges looking at the Fort Worth entries.
Jonathan Make asked for a breakdown of the nominees and the categories. Make said that he did not agree that the electronic system had worked well. Gideon Grudo said he did not agree, but that this is something we can work on later. Asher said maybe there needs to be a separate meeting on it.
Asher said we are in the process of setting up an audit committee.
Grudo asked whether candidates for the chapter board can send emails to chapter members about why they are running for office. Make said that the National Press Club and other groups let candidates send out such statements.
Someone noted that 18 chapter members voted in last year’s election.
Asher said she would determine what the rules in the bylaws are about sending statements to the members.
Kathleen Burns moved that we approve the slate of candidates for the election as presented by the nominating coming. Make seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Burns noted that Jeannine Aversa, chief of public relations for the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce, was great at the February 24 event, “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: How to Use Numbers in Your Reporting, ” at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She estimated that there were about 30 people there, with a significant number of students.
The March 22 planned event with John Norris, author of “Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism,” had to be cancelled when he was hospitalized with pneumonia shortly before it was to begin. However, the organizers raffled off nine of the books and the meeting turned out to be a networking event at the historic American Newspaper Women’s Club.
Burns noted that we are planning something on local coverage for May and there are three or four panelists lined up.
Make said he will make further arrangements on this when we have the facility nailed down.
Asher said she is also thinking about possibly having a happy hour event with the Asian journalists’ chapter, possibly at the Bus Boys and Poets in the NOMA area.
Plante indicated he would like to see a program perhaps doing a post mortem on the news coverage of the national election, indicating it had been pretty bad in his view.
Asher also noted that the chapter’s co-sponsorship of the DC Open Government Summit during Sunshine Week, at which DC Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke, had gone well. Asher had a few moments to speak about the chapter and our agenda at the event.
Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall updated the board on SPJ work on the issue of obstruction of reporters through public information officers, including the fact that the national SPJ office is still waiting for an answer from the Press Secretary Josh Earnest about the questions raised at the December meeting with him.
One idea for the chapter work on this, she said, would be a survey of news coverage of major outlets of the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether there is any evidence of contact with staff people without PIO controls.
Make noted that national SPA had sponsored a number of surveys on the issue by Carolyn Carlson. Although the surveys illustrated the controls, they had not gotten enough publicity, he said.
He said that he had done a survey of communications from several federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, on information controls.
Board members indicated there might be several projects the chapter could do on the issue, including letters to the editors, reporting projects, and approaching a university’s investigative unit.
Foxhall also reported that the use of the media list compiled from the Hudson’s Media Guide database is working better as she learns how to avoid going over the limits on sending out too many emails at once and she cleans up glitches. It has been used to announce the McGrory event, the Open Government Summit and the extension of the time to enter the awards contest to about 1700 journalists.
Grudo reported that his presentations at the College Media Association meeting in New York City went well. His trip was sponsored by the chapter. He said that in one session he spoke about Reddit and how journalists should cover sub Reddits. He was surprised that even though many in the audience were young, they did not understand Reddit.
He said many of the sessions were about something like getting your first job or something similar.
Asher said that the chapter needs to do an annual report soon.
Grudo said the chapter now has four stories for the Street Sense publication that will have chapter members mentoring students writing.
Asher noted we are still in the discovery phase for the committee charged with rewriting the bylaws. She said the committee is somewhat stymied because we have both a bylaws and a constitution.
There was discussion on the chapter newsletter, how it relates to the website, and whether there is a need for a newsletter.
The date of the next board meeting was set for April 12.
A motion to adjourn was approved unanimously.