SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015
National Press Club — Games Room
Present: President Julie Asher; Treasurer Amy Fickling; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; board members Al Leeds and Jonathan Make; and ex-officio member Region 2 Director Andy Schotz
Absent: Vice President Kathy Burns; board members Gideon Grudo, Nafisa Safarova, Andrew Mullen Scott and Daniel Young; and James Plante, ex-officio member
President Julie Asher called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m.
Approval of the minutes from the July 15, 2015, board meeting was tabled pending corrections suggested by Amy Fickling.
Asher indicated five board members have excused absences from the meeting tonight: Jim Plante, Kathy Burns, Gideon Grudo, Daniel Young and Andy Scott.
Asher reported there was a good turnout for the August 1 picnic held at the home of chapter members Ann Augherton and Chris Gunty in Arlington, Virginia.
The chapter’s delegates to the SPJ national convention coming up September 17-21 in Orlando now include Kathryn Foxhall, Andrew Schotz, Bill McCloskey and James Plante. They need to decide among themselves about convention coverage before going, and each should write a 500-word story for the Dateline newsletter.
By a Doodle poll the board selected October 7, 2015, for the next board meeting.
Fickling emailed the latest Treasurer’s Report to board members earlier in the day. Joe Starrs moved that the board accept the report as submitted; Al Leeds seconded. The motion was approved.
VICE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Asher, standing in for Burns, noted the chapter’s Media Mixer and Networking Happy Hour is set for 5:30-8 p.m. September 24 at The Front Page restaurant off Dupont Circle in Washington. With the Pope in town, we may need a date change.
Asher said she has sent an email out about the Nationals baseball game Saturday, September 26, for which National Press Club members and SPJ D.C. Pro chapter members are invited to purchase tickets.
It was noted that a program Burns had suggested in October is on the same date as an event of the Society of Business Editors and Writers. The board discussed whether it might be best to hold off on that event until later. Are there other ideas?
Discussion noted the previously considered October panel on covering local news with someone from WAMU, WTOP and someone from a local TV station would be a good idea. The thought was to get the local RTDNA chapter as co-sponsor.
Asher reported that the collaboration with Street Sense, the newspaper published for homeless people to sell on the street, is moving forward. We have five members, including several board members, who have volunteered to mentor student interns on the newspaper.
The idea of holding a holiday party in conjunction with a tour of the Spy Museum fell through. Al Leeds said his contact at the museum never returned his call.
The board discussed the possibility of holding a holiday gathering at Gordon Biersch, located across the street from the Spy Museum, since the holiday event held there a couple of years ago was well attended. It might cost $20 for members, and we have proposed December 3 for the date.
Another idea was to hold a panel on diversity in journalism, perhaps organized with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) and maybe other organizations. The president of the National Press Club has proposed such an event, but our chapter can take the lead on this if NPC doesn’t help organize.
Starrs volunteered to put together the local news panel. He said it might be used as a recruiting tool for the local news outlets. Bob Marbourg could be asked to speak.
Asher said any further ideas on programing would be appreciated.
Jonathan Make reported he had a couple of email exchanges with the principal of Wilson High School in Northwest D.C. The school has been in the news because student editors had protested the new principal’s move to personally do prior review of all articles for the newspaper. Make tried to weigh in quickly for SPJ.
The chapter has backed up the students by saying such policies are unacceptable.
There was also a proposal at the school to have people who are quoted in articles review the quotes.
Make noted that some of the policies that were in place previously at the high school were not acceptable either.
He said he would continue to try to engage the school officials and with the D.C. Public School System. After one response, the principal has not been in contact.
He said Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center indicated that according to District of Columbia law, schools can’t hinder student newspapers.
Kathryn Foxhall brought up the Association of Health Care Journalists’ listserv, used to discuss similar prior review/restraint in mainstream media cases, and wonders if SPJ should start a listserv on that order for the Wilson HS discussion. She would like to see national SPJ start one on prior review in general.
Andy Schotz, arriving around 8:20 p.m. during this discussion, said it would be hard to get such a listserv started since there already is a lot of communication out of national SPJ headquarters.
At 8:25 p.m., Andy Scott called in to the meeting to discuss the newsletter redesign for electronic delivery. Asher noted there are things about the new website that could be written up in the newsletter. Delegates to the convention are to each write a short article about a session or aspect of the convention, so that is fresh material to put in the next issue. We should aim for a week after the convention to publish.
On the subject of putting the Dateline Contest online, Asher said the Louisville Chapter uses OmniContests and she has contacted a representative of that platform provider and was offered a demonstration. Schotz said the costs for BNC are about $4,000 up front. He said we may still need a contest coordinator if we go online.
And he indicated we should make a decision soon because the timeline for hiring a coordinator and starting promotions is coming up. There may be a long lead time on getting the platform set up for our contest, too.
Make suggested asking the previous contest coordinator, Joyce Wang, if she would do it again, to avoid the long process of advertising for a new one.
Kathryn Foxhall brought up the idea of having a meeting with leaders from major news outlets about the obstruction of reporting through public information officers. She said the Society of Environmental Journalists is excited to be on board with it.
“We want to do our best to make this a historic moment,” Foxhall said about her efforts to get a meeting with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. The meeting would be a followup to the letter SPJ and the other media organizations sent President Barack Obama expressing concerns about censorship by PIOs.
She reported that she went to New York last week and talked to the vice president of The Associated Press, who turned out to be saying the same things about this issue that Foxhall has been saying. She meets with the White House Correspondents Association on the issue on Friday.
Asher asked the board to look at the items she has suggested for the October 24 retreat at Warren Communications offices. Among the items were:
—The Audit Committee report from the spring and voting on the recommendations.
—The possible need to form program, communications and membership committees.
—The question of how to get chapter membership up to its former levels: Would one way be to reduce our dues?
—The process of setting a budget and considering how the chapter can better use its money. For example, we might commit funds to cover a dinner with SPJ national board and our board members like the one we had June 27 at the National Press Club. Or we might cover a great portion on the convention expenses for board members who are delegates to the national SPJ meeting.
—On our annual Hall of Fame/Dateline dinner: we can discuss whether the vice president should oversee it and whether the format should be reconsidered.
—A critique of this year’s HOF/Dateline dinner.
Foxhall said she is working with the Hudson’s Media List, which the chapter recently purchased a one-year subscription to, to have contacts for reaching out to more journalists in the Washington area when we have an event, announcement or other reason. She said the process of making the Excel spreadsheet from the Hudson’s list will be time-consuming but when it is done it can be used repeatedly. And the entire board will have a copy.
At the suggestion of Fickling, the board agreed that the October board meeting will be held in conjunction with the board retreat on the Oct. 24, so there will be no Oct. 7 board meeting.
There being no further business to conduct, Starrs moved that the meeting be adjourned at 8:58 p.m.; Schotz seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.