Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Retreat
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The Conference Room
Present: President Kathy Burns; Vice President Jonathan Make; Immediate Past President, Julie Asher; Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; and Directors Al Leeds, Elizabeth Grisham, Eric Falquero, and Alice Ollstein
Special guest and facilitator: Region 2 Director Andy Schotz.
Excused absences: Treasurer Amy Fickling and board member Daniel Young
The board opened the informal retreat about 10:18 a.m. with regional director Andy Schotz facilitating.
After introductions of new and old members of the board, each member told a story about a moment when they really enjoyed doing journalism.
Schotz gave an overview of a few things board members should know about SPJ.
Included in that was the fact that the headquarters is in Indianapolis. SPJ now has about 6700 members, having lost a number of members over recent years. A few years ago the membership had been in the 12,000 to 13,000 range. So there is a major focus in the organization on membership.
He said the SPJ board gets an update on the membership numbers monthly.
The membership fee is $75 for professional level. And there are separate local membership fees for most chapters. However, some chapters don’t have separate dues.
Schotz said there are strong reasons to have dues, including the fact that some SDX Foundation funding comes out of the dues.
SDX does have a variety of means for raising funds for the scholarships it gives journalism students, which total about $10,000 a year.
It was noted that the Kiplinger Foundation plans to decrease its giving to the SDX foundation in upcoming years, making it even more important that SDX funding be raised from other sources.
The SDX Foundation board meets twice a year. All five officers on the local chapter board can attend the meetings.
The members of the SDX Foundation Board are not required to be members of SPJ. They are chosen in part for their ability to raise funds for the foundation.
Schotz also explained the make-up of the national board. He explained that the national organization is currently looking at the structure of its board, with proposed changes to be discussed at the national convention in September.
Schotz noted that the members of the chapter board might want to look at the chapter’s own bylaws and the changes being proposed.
He said we currently have 13 committees.
He said among other things the office of corresponding secretary is not very well-defined. The chapter does not send out much correspondence at all anymore.
He noted also that the Bylaws/Constitution Committee has been looking at the possibility of having a president elect which would replace the office of vice-president.
He explained members of the board can go into the leadership area on the SPJ national webpage and look at the chapter directory which lists all the members.
And members of the board can contact people on the list directly.
He told the board that there are many people in the chapter who don’t participate within the chapter until they are asked.
He pointed out that within the national organization there are many avenues for networking. And there are some smaller groups within the national organization that relate to a variety of interests.
The members talked about the possibility of asking the national organization to create a listserv for members to communicate with each other across the nation.
Make noted that in the other journalism organizations he belongs to having a listserv is de rigueur.
Asher noted that one question is how chapters can share program ideas. She indicated one idea would be for each chapter to write up a description of a program it has done.
Schotz cautioned that bylaws for the chapter should be general, not calling for specific actions or configurations.
For example, they might say that the president may appoint committees as needed, rather than listing the committees the chapter will have.
Schotz encouraged the members to surf the SPJ national website, www.spj.org., to understand what is there and how they could use it.
He also described other aspects of the SPJ headquarters organization including the Journalism Forever Fund and the free job placement service.
Schotz emphasized we are all ambassadors for SPJ.
The board members also discussed the fact that the national SPJ has been doing some administrative work for other journalism associations, in part as a way of networking with other associations.
He explained that the regional SPJ meetings are held in the spring. Our chapter is part of Region 2 which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia
He said his interest in the regional meetings is having all chapters participate.
Schotz explained some of the basic rules of Roberts Rules of Order because most SPJ national meetings are conducted with those rules: they make for a more orderly meeting, and they allow people to speak who otherwise would not get to.
Make noted he thought that our meetings at the chapter are tending toward the Robert Rules of Order process.
Schotz said he would encourage the board to think about conducting the meetings with that process.
He said it was particularly important for people who are delegates to the SPJ national convention to understand Roberts Rules. There is an orientation session for delegates at the national meeting and there is a new focus on making these rules clear.
He noted that in the chapter or other organizations, the minutes should reflect, at minimum, the actions the board has taken. However, if there are particular comments minutes can include those also.
He noted minutes are supposed to be made public and we have not been doing that in recent times.
The goal is to archive them on the website.
Asher indicated we also need to look at the Mission Statement.
Foxhall said in terms of keeping the website up-to-date that former board member Gideon Grudo had said when he was getting the new website set up that it should allow anyone on the board to make changes. She said we should work on that so that several of us can work on it.
Schotz indicated we should know how the automatic feeds go on to Facebook and onto Twitter.
After lunch, Schotz discussed the draft bylaws changes that the Bylaws Committee had put together. Those include term limits for some offices, changes for the recording secretary office, and creating a president-elect office instead of a vice president office.
He noted that the audit committee had recommended term limits for the office of treasurer.
Schotz discussed the fact that at the recent Scripps session for SPJ Leadership the participants took the DISC personality test. It is something that can promote learning and discussion about different personality types and how groups interact.
He indicated the test shows, for example, that some people need certain kinds of praise while others do not.
He said in some office situations people are texting each other all the time and in others they do not. But a person can grow to expect it, and so much of what we do involves different personalities.
And there are lots of different opportunities for personalities to clash.
Schotz said you have to figure who the other person is and focus on their strengths.
Each member of the board took a moment to discuss what they thought some of the characteristics of their own personalities are.
Board members also talked about what SPJ goals they want to do in the next year.
Grisham talked about the board taking action to get more members involved and Schotz said we have talked about that, including getting members involved in programming needs.
Schotz indicated, for example, that some people want to do judging for SPJ national and local contests.
Ollstein noted, for example, that she would like to be able to be involved in some issues once in a while and not be expected to do one thing forever.
Schotz listed all the goals the board had set for itself this time last year. Most of the goals had been achieved.
Schotz said he is in touch with the other SPJ chapters around the country.
Falquero said that one important goal would be increasing average attendance at programs the chapter has.
Make indicated we do have a methodological way of publicizing programs. Burns indicated we still need more publicity.
Leeds said one of the programs should be particularly youth-oriented.
Grisham indicated one goal would be to have a firm publishing date for the newsletter.
Schotz’s notes on the discussion at the retreat are appended.
Andrew Schotz Notes on the Retreat.
Possible committees for the D.C. Pro chapter (a starting point for the board — can be more/less/different)
- Communication — newsletter and social media
- Reaching local newsrooms —> could be a media list/publicity committee; would need to create a media list for sending press press releases or calendar listings of D.C. Pro events
- Awards/contest (Andy works with contest coordinator)
- FOI and ethics — together? separate?
- Programs — including one person who handles the picnic and the holiday party
What committees should be in the bylaws? (the national bylaws don’t list any; it’s up to the president each year)
Last year’s goals (2015)
Daniel Young: We need a central location for our various passwords.
Andrew Mullen Scott: That could be done in a Google Doc. Maybe set up a code that alters what’s listed in a way that everyone understands it.
Julie Asher: Contact local journalism groups and stay in touch.
Kathy Burns : Find three science writers for our May 8 program.
Gideon Grudo: Make our new website live by the end of April.
Andy Schotz: Post approved meeting minutes on the new website.
Kathryn Foxhall: Contact a foundation on freedom-of-press issues.
Nafisa Safarova: Finish video interviews and post them on the website.
Jonathan Make: Finalize a panel on drones.
Andrew Mullen Scott: Create a new newsletter and send it out. Please send me ideas for names for the newsletter.
Amy Fickling: Do an audit for the annual report.
This year’s goals (2016):
Jonathan: This is highly aspirational: Get more membership and publicity; more buzz.
Joe: More young members, just out of college. I already pitch my program at local college campuses. I could use a few minutes of the presentation to pitch SPJ.
(Eric: The rest of the board is willing to help with those pitches.)
Kathryn: Ask HQ to help chapters acquire press lists.
Could we ask Meltwater to to help? Maybe offer chapters one local list per year?
Alice: The board should talk to local students about SPJ.
Eric: Increase attendance at programs.
Work with other journalism groups.[Kathy: To work on improving attendance, everyone on the board should give Elizabeth three contacts to add to our publicity list.]
Kathy: By Oct. 1, target chapter members who need to renew their membership.
We also should go back several years and try to bring back former members whose dues expired.
Al: Have a program that is aimed at younger people — maybe even for high school students.
Julie: I have a renewal letter. I will share that with the board. It would be sent by U.S. mail.
- Consider an “Each One Get One” recruitment program like the literacy motto of “Each One Teach One”
- Plan a happy hour with other journalism groups
Elizabeth: Have a firm publication deadline for the newsletter. Improve content to increase the open rate (percentage of people who open the email with the newsletter).
(Julie: The newsletter needs to be archived on the website.)
The board adjourned just before 3 p.m.