SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting Minutes
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015
Warren Communications News
2115 Ward Court NW
Present: President Julie Asher; Vice President Kathy Burns; Treasurer Amy Fickling; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; board members Al Leeds and Jonathan Make; and ex-officio members James Plante and Region 2 Director Andy Schotz
Excused absences: Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; and board members Gideon Grudo, Nafisa Safarova and Daniel Young. Board member Andrew Mullen Scott submitted his resignation from the board before the meeting.
CALL TO ORDER
At 12:45 p.m. President Julie Asher called the meeting to order. (In addition to the meeting, the board also held a retreat in the hours before the board meeting.)
Asher noted the board had received by email the resignation of board member Andrew Mullen Scott that cited, among other things, his increased work responsibilities which made it difficult for him to continue serving on the board.
Andy Schotz moved that ex-officio board member Jim Plante be appointed to the board seat left vacant by Scott’s resignation, serving for the remainder of the second year of Scott’s unexpired two-year term and until the next election. At the June 1, 2015 board meeting the board authorized President Asher to appoint Plante to a one-year term as an ex-officio member of the board; he had finished in a tie for the third open board seat in the 2015 spring election, with Daniel Young being declared the winner of that two-year board seat.
Vice President Kathy Burns seconded the motion. The motion was approved.
Scott had been working on a redesign of Dateline for an online format. Asher reported she has enlisted the help of member Dan Kubiske to take that over.
Asher reported the chapter’s happy hour mixer at the Front Page off Dupont Circle October 15 had a good turnout. Students from Georgetown University and its SPJ chapter were among attendees. The $50 gift card drawing wasn’t held at the event, as planned, but Asher will do a drawing from the names of those who RSVP’d.
Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall provided draft minutes for the July and September meetings to the board via email ahead of this meeting. During brief discussion, there were no further corrections to either set of minutes, which had been revised by several board members before they were sent to the whole board.
Plante moved that the minutes of the July and September meetings be approved as presented. Schotz seconded the motion. The motion was approved.
Schotz will look into revisions sent to him for the June meeting minutes, which have not yet been approved.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
A good portion of the retreat preceding the board meeting was devoted to talking about future programs, with a look back to successful programs in the recent past. By the chapter bylaws, the vice president is chair of the Program Committee.
In the immediate future, the following programs are in the works:
—A panel on local news, which Joe Starrs had taken the lead on organizing, and which he said can be held at his office, The Fund for American Studies, off Dupont Circle. He had suggested November 11 as the date, but since he was unable to attend this meeting, it was not clear how far along the planning was. Amy Fickling noted that November 11 is Veterans Day, and a holiday for many companies — that could impact panelist availability as well as chapter participation. Burns will be in touch with Starrs, today’s suggestions for panelists in hand.
—The holiday mixer will be at Gordon Biersch on December 10, 6 to 8 p.m. Details are being worked out as to the cover charge for members and non-members, but a contract for a minimum food spend has been signed. Fickling and Asher are working on details before an announcement is made to the membership.
Following up on a suggestion made by Fickling during the morning retreat session, Burns said she will work on creating a survey of the chapter membership to seek detailed responses about the types of programs they would be interested in having the chapter put on. Suggestions for questions should go to Burns by November 15.
—Dateline Awards contest: The question about taking it online lingers.
Schotz said almost all of the other SPJ chapters are conducting their contests online. Most of the judging is online and submitting entries is easier that way.
Asher and Schotz have been researching an online contest platform each.
Asher talked to OmniContests, which would charge $3,000 for the first year and $1,800 per year after that.
Schotz said Better Newspaper Contests (BNC) would charge $2,875 per year. There would be a start-up fee of $1,120 for the first year, bringing the first year total to $3,995.
Schotz said he had talked to another company, Open Water, and their fee is $3,900.
He also said he is trying to find out if we can pool our resources with other chapters that use the same online platform. He said Open Water would do that. Open Water is willing to charge $3,900 for the first chapter using the service and $1,000 for each additional chapter, so the chapters participating could divide up the total costs evenly based on the overall fee for all participating. He talked to OmniContests about such an arrangement but the representative said he had to talk to his manager about how much they would charge.
Schotz also said he would approach BNC about this type arrangement, but since it seems they have almost a monopoly on contest platforms for many different types of organizations, they may not be interested.
There is another company that national SPJ uses, with a proprietary platform for each user, Schotz said, but Executive Director Joe Skeel does not recommend it.
Schotz also said Michael Koretzy, Region 3 director, has done some work on this. One advantage is that Omni and Open Water would not require all the chapters in a shared-service arrangement to have the same categories and deadlines.
Schotz said even with an online contest, a contest coordinator would be needed. The chapter has paid up to $2,500 a year for a coordinator in recent years, without having the contest online. The question, he said, is whether the amount of work involved for the coordinator would be reduced with an online platform. He said we don’t know how many hours last year’s coordinator devoted to the contest.
Plante noted when he had done something like this, the first year was almost worse than doing it the old way.
Schotz said that at this point, the decision is not just a yes or no proposition. He is still gathering information; depending on the amount of lead time needed for setting up an online contest, we may not be able to do it this year after all.
Make commented that an online arrangement would make it easier for people to participate.
Schotz said he hopes to have all these questions resolved in about two weeks.
Complaints about last year’s contest: The complaints centered on the confusion about the categories and divisions for entries. They were both expanded greatly over previous years. To make matters worse, the contest coordinator did not understand how the divisions worked under the categories and may have contributed to the confusion among entrants or potential entrants.
Schotz said we would have a better contest if we had more than the 140 entries we had this year. He also noted that some chapters allow the first entry to be free, as a way to garner more entries, theorizing entrants would submit more than one. He also said some other chapters are stunned that our contest attracts so few entries compared to other contests.
Plante said we need to be clear about the duties of the coordinator.
Asher asked if we want to advertise again for a coordinator. She said another important duty of the contest coordinator is the marketing of the contest.
Asher will contact the contest coordinator for this year’s contest to ask if she would be interested in coordinating the next contest. Board members agreed we were well enough satisfied with her work, and it would save the time of trying to vet other candidates if she would agree to be coordinator for next year.
—Hall of Fame Dinner and Dateline Awards Ceremony: split them into 2 events?
There was some feeling that during the ceremony this year the Dateline Award winners did not get enough recognition, with the evening slanted in favor of the Hall of Fame inductions. We have talked about changing the format, or having a separate Hall of Fame induction and a Dateline Awards dinner or lunch.
Jonathan Make suggested maybe having only two Hall of Fame winners, leaving more time in the program to focus on Dateline Award winning entries.
Al Leeds asked whether we have ever considered having the program at a venue other than the National Press Club. Schotz said we used Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights for two years. After that — and it was not an ideal setup for our type of program — the Press Club gave us a better price and we returned there.
Make suggested announcing one Hall of Fame winner at a time and then announcing some of the Dateline Awards in between, thus mixing up the program.
There were ideas floated about using AV equipment to flash the titles of the winning entries, making it easier for the audience to understand which stories and coverage are winning awards. Foxhall asked if we have ever put the URLs for the winning stories on our webpage. She suggested we might follow up and do a program with some of the winners on “How I Got That Story.”
Schotz indicated that the contest makes money for the chapter, as does the dinner, and that is, in a way, a conflict of interest for us. He said we made $1100 on the contest.
Selecting the Hall of Fame inductees is, in part, based on making sure they will be a draw for the dinner. So there are factors to be weighed in that regard before changing the dinner arrangement and the recognized the award winners, many of whom buy tickets. The contest netted $1,159.86 this year.
It’s possible a new format would attract even more attendees.
Make said we need to collapse some of the categories.
Treasurer Amy Fickling had emailed the October Treasurer’s Report to board members in advance of the meeting. In discussing the report at the meeting, she said she had a conversation with a financial adviser at Capital One Bank about an investment account that might make more interest than regular savings or a CD. The adviser said the investment account was not the way to go for the small business account for our 501(c)6 organization. She said she will look into some longer-term CDs with higher yields for the reserve funds.
Leeds thanked Fickling for the detailed report, then moved that the board accept the Treasurer’s Report. Plante seconded the motion. The motion was approved.
Fickling asked Schotz to explain a dues check that was reissued by SPJ headquarters. Schotz said he was cleaning out papers recently and found a 2011 check for chapter dues made out to the chapter, in the amount of $1,525. He said headquarters agreed to re-issue the check. Fickling has deposited it.
Fickling asked for a board determination on the amount from the deposit to remit to the SDX Foundation of Washington. The list of dues payments accompanying the check is not available, so it will be hard to determine how many paid and what amount they paid, as some pay for three years at a time. The chapter contributes $8.50 of each $25 annual dues payment to the SDX scholarship fund.
Foxhall moved that the board authorize one-third of the $1,525 local dues check recently received from headquarters be given to the SDX Foundation Washington as an approximation of the normal deduction from local dues for the chapter’s contribution to the foundation scholarship fund. Leeds seconded the motion. The motion was approved.
Fickling brought enough stamps bought with the chapter credit card for Asher to use for three mailings to chapter members who still want to receive Dateline and other correspondence by mail. The 48 stamps should cover mailing of the next Dateline, a separate mailing about the holiday party, if needed, and the ballot and self-addressed, stamped return envelope for the next election — for 12 members who want snail mail.
Fickling provided a draft budget for the rest of the chapter year. She thinks the chapter should set aside $50,000 in a reserve account, which would represent about two years of operating funds. Board members remaining at the meeting were asked to look it over and offer suggestions before the next meeting.
Fickling said chapter officers, who are ex-officio members of the SDX Foundation of Washington, should have gotten a mailing from SDX Foundation President Reggie Stuart recently. It included the bio of a person who will be nominated for a position on the SDX board when the Foundation Board meets in early November. If approved, the name will be forwarded for final approval to the chapter board. Since some board members complained last year that there was little information on the candidates they were expected to approve, Fickling read the bio of the candidate, reminding that the foundation board has not yet made the nomination.
The board agreed that since the previously determined date of November 4 for the November board meeting is less than two weeks ago, and since a lot was accomplished at this meeting, the board will not meet in November. The next meeting will be December 7.
There being no further business to conduct, and upon a call for adjournment, Leeds moved at approximately 2:45 p.m. that the meeting be adjourned. Plante seconded the motion. The motion was approved.